The United Nations Association Bexhill and Hastings Branch

“A COMMUNIST nation led by a dynasty” was one of the ways musician and UN Association activist Catherine Pluygers described North Korea when she spoke to Bexhill and Hastings branch in cafe no 48, Bexhill, on July 2.

Others included a ‘basket case with biblical famines, almost impossible to get to, unique and beautiful’.

Ms Pluygers was recalling her 2004 visit to the secretive country as an oboe player in the April Spring Arts Festival. This was held in the capital Pyongyang. In notes given to all her listeners, she wrote of the festival: “All participants were treated extremely well and experienced a highly-organised schedule of visits and sight-seeing. Chances to meet the local population were none but chances to experience the bizarre and incredible were aplenty. My most memorable experience was witnessing the mass displays - amazing spectacles of sound and colour which, after the collapse of socialism worldwide, must be unique to this country. You can be forgiven if sometimes when in Pyongyang you think you are on a film set.”

Ms Pluygers did not deal with North Korea’s human rights record on this occasion. But she did play seven short classical solos, five on the oboe, then two on the cor Anglais (English horn). She ended with the familiar slow movement from Dvorak’s New World symphony.