Monday. 10/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Louis Harnett O’Meara

Rave reviews

It was on my third attempt that I was waved into Berghain. The infamous Berlin nightclub (pictured) had been described to me, in slightly cringeworthy terms, as a “cathedral for techno”. But as I entered I was struck by a fact that had been obscured by the former power station’s extensive mythology: ultimately, it’s just a club. Not even a cavernous warehouse but a two-rooms-for-dancing affair with a couple of bars, a reasonably sized smoking area, a few hidey-holes for unsavoury acts (it is a fetish club, after all) and a healthy number of wide-eyed revellers. Not much else.

Of course, it isn’t just the space that makes a venue special; it’s the identity of it. Besides the people you might imagine being there (statuesque men and women wearing sunglasses and little else) Berghain, like many of Berlin’s nightclubs, is home to a world of waifs and strays who come from abroad to exercise freedoms they do not have at home, staying up until 10.00 the following morning to dance to the club’s propulsive music, often on their own. The bouncers are famous for their monosyllabic rejections but it’s not because someone is or isn’t “cool enough” – it’s because the bouncers are gatekeepers of a cultural haven.

In 2016, Berghain received its licence as a venue for high culture rather than mere “entertainment”, protecting it from unwelcome developers and hefty taxes. It seems that the ruling set a precedent. Last week Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, agreed that all of the country’s clubs could apply for cultural licences, provided they demonstrably focus on nurturing the arts. It’s an overdue acknowledgement of this countercultural world’s importance and assures that a healthy undercurrent of anti-authoritarian irreverence will continue, safeguarded, in Germany. Just don’t be sore if, when you pay one of these clubs a visit, the bouncer’s quick response is “nein”.

Diplomacy / India & EU

Off topic

This weekend’s summit between the EU’s 27 leaders and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (who joined virtually) was ostensibly held to relaunch stalled negotiations on a free-trade deal. Such plans were at least partly overtaken by events; European leaders expressed solidarity with India’s deadly fight against the pandemic and they promised aid. Modi no doubt made use of such a rare opportunity to detail the kind of help he needs and push for a relaxing of vaccine patents, but the longer-term discussions about deepening ties matter too. For one thing, EU leaders underlined the importance of India protecting human rights and civil society, just as Modi’s government is cracking down on dissent against his handling of the pandemic. The EU is also seeking India’s support for a global pandemic treaty that would enhance future co-operation and strengthen the World Health Organisation. As with much government policy, diplomacy is at its best when crisis talks can help foster long-term change.

Tune in to today’s ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24 for a discussion of the summit with Shruti Kapila of Cambridge University and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama of the European Centre for International Political Economy.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Canada

Voice of the people

Radio Canada International (RCI) has been an important part of Canada’s soft-power offering since its founding in 1945. But its future is now increasingly in doubt. Already operating only online, RCI cut the number of its newsroom staff in half last month as part of a broader restructuring process at national broadcaster CBC, which operates the international arm. And RCI is hardly the only government-funded global radio broadcaster that’s under pressure: in the US, former president Donald Trump was accused of politicising Voice of America last year by firing journalists who asked questions that were critical of his administration.

The BBC World Service on the other hand is, according to the UK government earlier this month, going to receive £8m (€9.2m) to target misinformation in the countries that it broadcasts in. While some view services like these as colonial holdouts or mouthpieces for government propaganda, their value as impartial reporters of international news – particularly in countries with a media landscape in flux – shouldn’t be underestimated.

Image: Alexandre Guirkinger

Travel / UK

Lights of passage

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps on Friday announced a list of “green light” destinations to which people in England can travel from next Monday (17 May) without having to quarantine on their return. Long a source of speculation among vitamin D-deprived Brits, the 12-country list is quite stingy, focused on countries with very low case rates and high vaccination uptake. While Portugal is the only EU country given the green light, Israel and Iceland both feature, along with a smattering of small islands including the Faroe Islands (pictured). Also included are a few nations (including Singapore, Australia and New Zealand) that are unlikely to reciprocate for the time being. Nor does the list, which will be reviewed every three weeks, include the US, despite repeated calls for a corridor from airline execs and its strong record on vaccinations. “[Quote TK Friday evening],” travel journalist Simon Calder, whose traffic-light bingo awarded points for every country’s “colour” correctly guessed, told the Monocle Minute.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / USA

Apple service

New York City is slowly beginning to wake from its pandemic-induced slumber with restaurants, retail, theatres and museums all opening at full capacity in the coming weeks. And its 24-hour subway service is set to return from next Monday too. That’s particularly significant for New Yorkers, given that more than 50 per cent of the city’s households don’t own cars and rely on the network to move across its boroughs. But it’s also important for a metropolis whose economic and creative appeal has long been built on its reputation as the “city that never sleeps”. And while a return to an all-night service won’t be without challenges after hitting snooze for more than a year (the Metropolitan Transportation Authority cut more than 4,000 jobs over the course of the pandemic, leaving it understaffed) it’s an early sign of a city beginning to bounce back to its best.

M24 / The Menu

The roots of Australian cooking

A look into the rich and varied influences on what we consider to be Australian food today; a pioneer of Burmese cooking in Hong Kong; and the week’s top food and drink headlines.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: May issue, 2021

Monocle’s May issue lifts the lid on our picks of the world’s best-designed buildings and products in our inaugural Design Awards. From big names such as David Chipperfield to small pleasures like electric switches, we celebrate the makers refining our lives. Elsewhere, there’s custom dog food and glamorous grannies – what more could you want? Available now at The Monocle Shop

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