Monday 4 September 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 4/9/2023

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Conversation starters

An Armenian and a Ukrainian walk into a bar. It’s not the beginning of a bad joke but the start of a real conversation that I found myself part of at an outdoor table in Schumann’s Bar, Munich, at the end of last week. The event in question was Monocle’s annual Quality of Life Conference, which just celebrated its eighth anniversary and wrapped up over the weekend in the Bavarian capital.

The conversation with my new-found Ukrainian and Armenian friends was indicative of what makes these shindigs so good: their ability to bring people together from around the world. With attendees everywhere from Nigeria to Andorra, what’s always so great to watch is the energy created by people from different professions and backgrounds in the same room, exchanging business cards and making new plans to work together. The conferences often prove to be fertile breeding ground for new collaborations.

Image: Manuel Nieberle
Image: Manuel Nieberle
Image: Manuel Nieberle

The Quality of Life events are, of course, also designed to get us to think about living better. At a fascinating panel on risk, for example, we were treated to a masterclass on how to rethink the world’s geopolitical crises, with a panel of experts comprising strategist Tina Fordham, Munich Security Conference vice-chairman and CEO Benedikt Franke and the Swiss Department of Defence’s Benno Zogg. A zoo-full of animal analogies were used to help explain what is happening around the world, from the canary in the midshaft to the elephant in the room. But it was Franke who said it best when he suggested that we need to start seeing fast-shifting geopolitical sands as “grey rhinos” – animals that you see and are prepared for before they charge – rather than “black swans” that take everyone by surprise.

With daily headlines often painting a depressing picture of what is happening around the planet, The Monocle Quality of Life Conference is always refreshing in its desire to seek out positive solutions. We’re not promising to wave a magic wand but we also know this is just the beginning of the conversation.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / China & India

Centre stage

Chinese president Xi Jinping (pictured, on right, with Modi) will likely miss a G20 summit in New Delhi, which begins this Saturday and ends the following day on Sunday. Experts believe that he might be taking a shot at India, which boasts one of the fastest-growing economies in the region. “It’s quite a big deal, particularly for Narendra Modi,” Paul Rogers, international security adviser at openDemocracy, tells The Monocle Minute.

“Modi sees the summit as a golden opportunity to become more prominent on the world stage. I think he was hoping that Xi would come.” Even so, the Chinese president rarely goes abroad so Rogers believes that some experts might be reading too much into the decision. “It will be a disappointment for Modi,” he says. “But it’s one that he will weather because he’s still got important figures such as Joe Biden coming and, in a way, [Xi’s absence] makes him feel even more important.”

Monocle Quality of Life Conference / Munich

Legacy building

“To build quality architecture that enhances quality of life, we need to ask philosophical questions,” says Manuel Cervantes (pictured, on left), who joined The Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Munich on Friday. As one of Mexico’s top contemporary architects, with a portfolio that spans the globe, he stressed that different cultures have different requirements and expectations about how architecture can make our lives happier, healthier and more enjoyable.

Despite this variability, Cervantes explains that there are common questions that each designer and client should ask throughout the build process of any project: “Who are we designing for, what are we leaving for the future, how are we designing and where are we building?” Doing so, Cervantes says, will help a development stay on track and should help to deliver quality-of-life-enhancing architecture.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Seattle

Life line

Tens of thousands of revellers gathered under Seattle’s Space Needle over the weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city’s Bumbershoot festival, one of North America’s oldest and most coveted city-centre cultural events. This year’s golden jubilee marked a triumphant return after the bubble burst in the oversaturated music festival market. Several high-profile brands were unable to survive the 2010s as rival entertainment conglomerates gobbled up events, raised ticket prices and homogenised line-ups.

Bumbershoot was one such casualty, suffering from five years of record-low attendance. But rather than fold entirely, Bumbershoot was reborn this year under the sharp curation of local arts entrepreneurs New Rising Sun. As the City of Seattle owns the Bumbershoot trademark, it was able to select the production partner, re-opening it to the public. “Bumbershoot is a resilient brand that can live beyond corporate operators,” Andrew J Lewis, city council member tells The Monocle Minute. “If it goes stale, we have the ability to yank it back.”

To learn more about Bumbershoot festival and the value of municipally owned cultural brands tune in to ‘The Globalist’, on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.

Image: Alamy

Film / Uganda

Making a screen

Bobi Wine: The People’s President is a new documentary directed by Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp and was released last weekend. It is a gripping record of Ugandan opposition leader and activist Bobi Wine’s political campaign against the country’s autocratic leader, Yoweri Museveni. Sharp is joined by philanthropist Barbie Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine’s partner) to tell Monocle about the new film.

When and why did you decide to make this film?
Christopher Sharp: I knew about Bobi’s music before I met him and Barbie in 2017. He had a pretty difficult time, having come up through the ghetto and becoming a huge star through his music. But when he met Barbie, a wonderful love story evolved. To listen to them both say that they were going to sacrifice everything to take an incredible risk against Museveni’s dictatorship was powerful. It seemed like a story that had to be told.

The cameramen were often in very dangerous situations. What were the logistics when filming?
CS: We filmed the documentary over five years and ended up with 4,000 hours of footage. What made our job a little bit easier was that there were just so many people filming Bobi all the time; on their iPhones and on cameras. It was very difficult for the authorities to know which people to target and which people to ignore.

What is the message that you wish to convey through the film?
Barbie Kyagulanyi: The main duty of the producers and editors was to show what is happening in Uganda, unfiltered, uncensored and unedited: just the way it is. We are hoping that this documentary will show the world the struggle that young people in Uganda have for freedom and democracy and also their hope that there will soon be an end to Museveni’s dictatorship.

For our full interview with Christopher Sharp and Barbie Kyagulanyi tune in to ‘The Monocle Daily’, on Monocle Radio at 18.00 London time.

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Spotlight on Munich

To mark Monocle’s Quality of Life Conference in Munich, we explore the best urban happenings in the city from experiments in pedestrianisation to regeneration projects.

Monocle Films / Design

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.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00