As I wandered unchecked into the Conway Hall last night I had to negotiate several girls wearing hanbok and a chap who was steering a large stepladder into the auditorium. Inside the hall, trestle tables were arranged lengthwise, from the front to the back of the hall, lined with seated students chatting and eating as they waited expectantly. I stood at the back of the hall as the ladder was heaved onto the stage and erected between the open curtains.
Loads of people were milling around, but it was not certain to what purpose.
I wandered back out into the foyer. As you entered from Red Lion Square, stacks of bento boxes were piled up, available for all to feast on. There were posters from the Korean tourist office who presumbably were generously sponsoring the evening. Maybe there would be a video presentation later on showing the rapeseed fields of Cheju Island.
On another table there was a pile of the Diamond Sutra group’s book on King Sejong, and several piles of folded A4 photocopied sheets of paper which looked something like programmes. Each of them had a tiny corner torn from the back page.
I picked one up, intrigued as to what was going to happen in the coming evening. Last year, apparently, there had been taekwondo displays, traditional music, and all sorts of stuff.
It was the annual University of London Korean Society Korean night. I missed it last year because I didn’t hear about it in time. This year I’d had a tip-off from Jase, and had checked the ULKS website for details. I also asked a friend at the Korean Professionals in London organisation whether they were intending to go to the Conway Hall on Thursday. “Why, what’s going on?” they asked. “It’s the ULKS Korean evening, I think” I replied. “Probably not then” came the reply. Nice to know that they all stick together.
“Do you have a ticket?” the girl behind the desk asked. I looked around for somewhere that they might be selling tickets. In vain. “No” I say, bewildered. “That’ll be five pounds then,” I was told. It was clearly a mistake to show any interest in anything. If I had stayed at the back of the hall rather than coming back out into the foyer I could probably have enjoyed whatever was on offer that night for free. I was not even allowed to peruse the programme without forking out a fiver.
But I was feeling tired and fragile, and didn’t feel like putting in any effort into understanding the process for engaging with this particular Korean occasion. As it had only been a two minute detour from my usual trip home from my office, I decided to carry on homewards. I probably missed a treat. But I had a great curry at my local Indian.