Editor-in-Chief Marino Unger-Verna reviews the KCLSU’s One Last Roar event series, designed to celebrate the end of an academic year fraught by the Covid-19 pandemic.
When I spoke with outgoing KCLSU President Salma Hussain about her plans for the Union’s One Last Roar event series, two main points stood out for me: the recognition that King’s students deserved a week of fun to “make this year a little less terrible”, and the core goal of bringing the entire community together, from first-year undergrads to postgrad students. After five days of events spread across London, did One Last Roar manage to fulfil expectations and bring the community together at the tail-end of a year like no other?
Our paper was one of many KCLSU student groups that applied for a grant to host its own One Last Roar event – and the timing couldn’t have been worse. When Boris Johnson announced that lockdown restrictions would be extended through July just a week before events were scheduled to go ahead, we had our concerns. How would our event, planned to host up to a hundred attendees, be able to go ahead under the rule of thirty? Thankfully, and in stark contrast to every presumption, the KCLSU offered us comprehensive support in tackling this issue. In the end, we were able to split our event across two days, welcoming sixty students to Victoria Park for pizza, drinks, and the chance to meet new people from across the King’s community.
Our team has been wanting to host a new social for over a year. Despite our staff more than doubling since the pandemic began, very few of us have had the chance to meet one another in person. One Last Roar funding gave our team the chance to interact with the people they’ve been working with for months. Moreover, it allowed us to invite fellow student journalists from other publications such as Strand Magazine and ScienceMind and others students interested in getting involved, fostering a joint sense of community that student media groups at King’s have not experienced in quite some time.
I only realised how sorely I had missed that sense of community when I was once again able to sit with a group of fellow student journos and chat about shared interests over snacks and a beer. The fact that we were given the opportunity to achieve this safely in the midst of a pandemic cannot be understated, either. Reunions and introductions which would otherwise have been delayed until next year, or which might even have been impossible following graduations, were at long last able to go ahead.
Beyond our own event, the first four days of One Last Roar saw many other student group-hosted activities, including other pizza picnics at parks across the city, a scavenger hunt on campus, and quiz socials. The true “last roar”, however, was Friday’s blowout at Fulham Beach. This event was split into two groups – a morning, non-alcoholic session, and an afternoon session, with entry costing £10 and £15 respectively.
Attendees were given food tokens worth the same amount as their tickets, allowing them to get a meal free of charge. My only complaint with Fulham’s refreshments was their prohibitively high cost once your food token was spent. £10 for a single cocktail is more than I’d be willing to dish out even after I’ve had a few, though these prices are often a necessary evil when procuring venues for such large events. Thankfully, this issue was partially alleviated by free drink tokens which were handed out by KCLSU staff throughout the event.
In many ways, the Fulham events felt analogous to the Freshers’ events I attended way back when, before Covid-19 upended the university experience and sent us all to our virtual seminars and Zoom socials. Students who would otherwise never have come into contact with one another found common ground in the fact that they were able to socialise again. At the same time, other students – myself included – were able to meet some of the people they had gotten to know online, finally putting faces to the names behind Teams initials and Instagram handles. New and old friends alike could mess around in Fulham’s photobooth or try their best to stay balanced on a mechanised faux-surfboard (I lasted 11 seconds – not my finest moment).
More than once, I caught myself thinking about the numerous complaints often levied against the KCLSU, rightly critiquing how out-of-touch the organisation often feels with the types of events students actually want. One Last Roar felt like a refreshing exception to this rule. Quite frankly, One Last Roar was utterly overwhelming – in the best possible way. I went into the week afraid that I had forgotten how to socialise at events; I ended the week exhausted and wanting to do it all over again. I can only hope that when the UK eventually recovers from Covid-19 and our university is able to resume normal operations, the KCLSU remembers that this is how to foster a student community.