Tuesday 9 May 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 9/5/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Singing praises

For my eighth Eurovision Song Contest as Monocle’s designated Eurovision correspondent, instead of flying to Tel Aviv or Malmö, today I’m heading a little closer to home: the northern English city of Liverpool. It’s clearly going to be a thrilling show (although, admittedly, I say that every year) with a strong line-up of entries, from a Finnish cha-cha-cha to an Austrian duo that uses the name of writer Edgar Allan Poe as the catchy chorus of the song “Who The Hell Is Edgar?”.

Although the UK is happy to host the contest for the first time since 1998 (when the contest was held in Birmingham), it is also good to see that last year’s winning nation, Ukraine, will also take centre stage. Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina will be a co-host and viewers should look out for a powerful performance from last year’s winner, Kalush Orchestra (pictured), who will play its winning song, “Stefania”. It’s not often that the contest happens at times of war but it’s an amazing cultural symbol to be able to show solidarity with Ukraine through pop music.

This year’s show also comes at a time of record interest in the Eurovision brand. Last year’s contest attracted a whopping 161 million viewers, making it the most-watched non-sporting event in the world. I’m not surprised by this; there simply is nothing on the world stage like Eurovision, which goes a long way to explaining its booming popularity.

For now, Sweden’s Loreen is the favourite to win this year’s contest with the catchy “Tattoo”. But the competition is by no means a done deal with Finland’s Käärijä also in the running with the mad but delicious “Cha Cha Cha”. I’m still deciding on my favourite to win but, to be honest, I’m just happy to be at the party.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle Radio's senior correspondent. Tune in for more Eurovision analysis, including interviews with contestants, on Monocle Radio this week.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Switzerland

Call to arms

Today marks the end of Switzerland’s nine-day military exercise, LUX 23, designed to test its army in a scenario in which separatist militias from a fictitious region of Europe threaten the neutral nation. For the exercise, nearly 4,000 reservists and professional soldiers from 23 battalions gathered in four cantons in the west of the country. A French military outfit also joined to test out how cross-border cooperation would work.

According to the Swiss department of defence, these exercises were not a direct response to the war in Ukraine. But it’s also clear that the Swiss are paying close attention to the warzone. The biggest military exercise since 1989 was carried out in the German-speaking part of the country last year. Overall, Switzerland still spends less on its military than most European countries (0.76 per cent of GDP in 2022, compared to 1.94 per cent in France). But clearly being neutral doesn’t mean not being ready.

Image: Reuters

Business / Chile

State power

Chile’s left-wing president, Gabriel Boric, intends to increase state involvement in the nation’s lithium projects. The aim is to boost the local economy after two decades of private-sector domination. Chile is the world’s second largest producer of lithium, which is used in batteries for electric cars and mobile phones. But concerns have been raised over state involvement diminishing the attractiveness of the country as a place for foreign investment.

“Considering the relevance of lithium for the green-energy transition, there’s no doubt that the announcement is earth-shattering for investors and international markets,” Martin Reich, head of the geology department at Universidad de Chile, tells The Monocle Minute. A similar situation has already seen investors shunning Mexico and Bolivia, where there is tight state control, in favour of Argentina, Brazil and Australia. But not all international players are spooked: China’s BYD is planning to build a $290m (€263m) battery materials plant in Chile, part of its growing influence in the region.

Image: Reuters

Politics / Russia

No time to cheer

Russia celebrates Victory Day today, its annual holiday commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. Last year’s Victory Day saw thousands of people paraded around Moscow carrying portraits of relatives who died fighting against the Nazis. But this year the mood is drastically different. The Kremlin is concerned about pro-Ukrainian saboteurs targeting festivities, which has led to the cancellation of events around the country.

While some analysts have said that the dampener on festivities is another dent to Russia’s hard power following the shooting down of two drones last Wednesday – only after they had reached the Kremlin – there are other more cynical interpretations. The US-based Institute for the Study of War suggests that the drone incident was likely a way for the Russian leadership to justify the annulment of the Victory Day parades by stoking up fear among the country’s population. Whatever the case, Russia’s offensive in Ukraine isn’t providing much reason to celebrate.

Image: Alamy

Architecture / USA

Building hope

The thick walls and projecting beams of adobe buildings are a staple of New Mexican design, one of America’s richest architectural patrimonies. But these centuries-old buildings in the US’s southwest are under threat of collapse due to factors including depopulation and poverty, meaning that there are few resources for restoration. It has led members of the community to try and save some of the state’s beautiful churches, many of which are located in rural areas and blend Spanish and American Indian influences.

Established in 2019, the Nuevo Mexico Profundo foundation has led the charge, organising tours and events around key adobe structures to pay for their maintenance. “New Mexicans are deeply moved by visits to these churches and these emotions maintain the passion for preservation and inspire subsequent donations,” foundation co-founder Frank Graziano tells The Monocle Minute. Although challenges remain, seeing New Mexicans coming together is an inspiring display of grassroots strength.

Monocle Radio / Entrepreneurs

PerfectTed and Ocean Bottle

Marisa Poster, co-founder of PerfectTed, shares the story of the creation of a new kind of energy drink. She tells us how Europe’s first matcha green tea energy drink secured a £50,000 investment from Steven Bartlett and Peter Jones on Dragons’ Den. Plus: we meet the creators of Ocean Bottle, a brand that aims to combat the issue of marine plastic pollution with its sleek, reusable water bottles.

Monocle Films / London

Glassblowing with Michael Ruh

Nature is a key source of inspiration for glass artist Michael Ruh, who has hand-crafted pieces for leading architects and brands, such as Fortnum & Mason. We visited his south London studio as production was underway for a new commission for The Birch Hotel to hear about his design process.


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