The erratic weather aside, it’s been a massively enjoyable summer so far with cultural highlights aplenty, including music festivals, exhibitions (you can still catch Isaac Julien at Tate Britain if you’re quick), books, streaming drama hits and, lest we forget, the whole Barbenheimer phenomenon.
Much has been written in recent weeks about the resurgence in live music and other in-person events, not just at annual boldface behemoths like Glastonbury and Wireless, but also when it comes to more niche obsessions (Iggy Pop supported by Blondie at Crystal Palace Park for me…)
It’s all about reconnecting, enjoying a shared experience again and hopefully finding a bit of emotional release, whether that’s down the front at a gig or watching the end credits roll in a crowded cinema. And yes, did someone mention sport?
Chief executive officer, Now
The pinnacle of BST: Wimbledon. A Sunday brilliantly spent on Centre Court with my dad. First up, the sheer power of Rublev and Bublik. The speed, the strength, the satisfying ball-thwack noise – for three hours 17 minutes (an actual marathon for some). And Bublik’s underarm serve? Mischief pays. Followed by the insane agility and foot-speed of Swiatek and Bencic; there was barely a shot they wouldn’t throw themselves across the court for. There must be a leadership analogy there… At times, the emotion coming off the court was palpable; Swiatek coming back to victory had me on the edge of my plastic seat. And there were consistently unforced errors, unsurprising given the pressure. So we could probably all do with reminding ourselves that even at the top of your game (quite literally for 22-year-old Swiatek), emotions, mistakes and a bit of mischief are par for the course.
Chief strategy officer, Ogilvy
Summer 2023: so far, so grey in the UK. Against a bleak backdrop, culture has exploded with bright colours, tiny shorts and life lessons about generosity, friendship and ambition. Barbie and Ken aren’t a patch on George and Andrew as far as any of that goes. As a 10-year-old at the height of Wham! fame, my memories of them extend to trying to do the dance and coveting the knock-off "Choose life” tee-shirts on Ashton Market. I was wholly oblivious to their counter-cultural narrative and the novelty of their partnership. Some things I took from the documentary: fortune does indeed favour the brave – their undeniable talent would have been lost without their equally undeniable pursuit of success. Generosity is a superpower – both Andrew and George knew what each other brought and that Wham! was only Wham! because of their alchemy. Working with your mates makes it all a hundred times better. I hope everyone gets to stand on stage (literal and figurative) and feel the same sense of kinship that Andrew and George experienced – and if it makes our work half as great, we’ll be doing OK.
Chief strategy officer, Starcom
It’s been a busy summer; the old summer lull seems to be a thing of the past, but one of my cultural highlights so far has been an end-of-school trip to the cinema with my 11-year-old daughter to see Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse. It is a genuine joy when your kids get to an age when they want to watch exactly the same thing that you do (but might be embarrassed to admit). This animated sequel looks like no other film you’ve ever seen (except the original). Its use of incredibly diverse visual styles made for an emotional depth of storytelling that captured the real heart of the story: fundamentally the relationship between fathers and their kids as they turn into adults. It captivated both of us.
Founder, The Barber Shop
It’s been a summer of a number of memorable cultural moments: Wimbledon, Barbie and the death of Twitter could all be noted. My highlight, however, would have to be something I was lucky enough to be there to witness in person—and that is Glastonbury. To be specific, it was Elton John. Yes, the legend didn’t let anyone down, but really it was the joy of the adoring crowd; there dressed up, waiting through everything that came before, and when he arrived, every word in every song was sung. Yes, the crowd at Glastonbury is the thing that sets it apart. Warm like the sun, as bright and cheerful as Barbie herself, and forever giving you hope of the abundance of joy in the life of the world.
Chief strategy office, McCann
Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park. It rained. The beer was expensive. The queues were massive. There was someone singing too loudly next to me. In other words, it was perfect. He belted out No Surrender and Glory Days like he was 21, serenaded absent friends and looked old age in the face and said: "Not today." But best of all, I was there with my parents—avid Bruce fans who have been to Florida, London and soon to be San Francisco on this tour alone... because they’re sure it’s his last big one. There was something magical about seeing them sing all the words and feel every lyric. I was suddenly transported back to my Bruce-filled childhood. Car journeys to France and trips across the M62 to see Nanny Arrow. But I definitely wasn’t crying… that was just some rain on my face…
Creative director of Proper Snacks and WARP Snacks
A key cultural moment this summer has been the release of Barbie The Movie. In an incredibly smart and savvy move by Warner Bros and Mattel, they unlocked countless brand collabs spanning everything from dating apps and popcorn to beauty and fashion, driving hype and visibility around the release. For me, there are two things that make a collab a cultural hit: one, a point of tension—without this, it’s vanilla; two, authenticity, bringing something to life in a way that is bang-on for both brands. It’s fair to say that some of the Barbie collabs delivered this better than others. But either way, it’s been a month of pink, and whether you were into it or not, you couldn’t miss it...
Head of creative technology at House 337
When Midjourney first opened up, it felt like when Pokémon Go launched or when the world started to use Twitter. Everyone started piling into generative AI and making the most creative, bizarre images. This exciting new tech was doing fabulous things, and people were trading tips like Pokémon cards and building a new pseudo community of "AI explorers" from scratch. We suddenly saw interest in AI worldwide, tapping into communities that hadn't been touched by it yet.
I remember almost dropping my laptop in the hot tub at my sister's house in my excitement to show her and her friends what was possible with AI. We came up with the most bizarre concepts (dog-shaped tree-grooming business?) to generate images. It felt like the world was at play and, before we started catching up with the implications, for a little while, it was a bit of pure fun and joy.
Nishma Patel Robb
Wacl president and senior director brand and reputation marketing, Google
This summer saw women-led content taking over popular culture, with the Barbie film, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift’s sell-out tours, and the Women’s World Cup. Greta Gerwig is now officially the first female director to make $1billion at the box office, and no movie in Warner Bros’ 100-year history has sold so many tickets so fast. Beyoncé and Taylor Swift also broke all records with their worldwide tours, and TV ratings for Women’s World Cup are beating longstanding records from the most popular men’s sporting events. All of which busts the myth that content made by women, starring women and aimed at women, is limited in its appeal—and demonstrates why we need more women at the top. This cultural phenomenon solidifies the commercial sense of prioritising women and ultimately proves lucrative and influential in shaping contemporary culture.