A new Friends of Sri Lanka Association events schedule for 2020 will appear here soon. If you have suggestions of topics or indeed authors from whom you would like to hear, please email Miss Chamali Fernando at Chamali.FoSLA@gmail.com Wishing you all a joyous festive season.
Photograph from Annual Lunch on 3rd September 2019 at the London Scottish Regiment Headquarters.
From Left to Right: Ranil Perera (Treasurer), Lt. Col. Peter Cameron MC, RM, (Hon. Committee Member), John Field CMG (former British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka 1991 - 1996 and Comm Member), Her Excellency Manisha Gunasekera, Peter Gregory-Hood (former Deputy High Commissioner to SL and Comm Member), Friends of SL Chairman Sir Peter Heap KCMG (former first officer in Sri Lanka 1963-66, later British Ambassador to Brazil and the Bahamas), Linda Duffield CMG (former High Commissioner to SL 1999-2002 and Comm Member), Mike Bunston OBE (Hon. Ambassador Sri Lanka Tea Board and Comm Member), James Dauris (British High Commissioner to SL 2015 - 2019), Chamali Fernando (Events, FoSLA), Bruce Rawlings (Membership Secretary, FoSLA) and Amal Abeyawardena (Committee Member, FoSLA).
On 3rd July 2019, we held a peer-to peer Summer Soirée at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London. The weather was perfect to spill out into the garden at the High Commission where we tasted cocktails infused with Colombo No. 7 Gin and Ceylon Arrack, produced by Rockland Distilleries and enjoyed some delicious Sri Lankan food. We learnt a little more about the Rockland Story and new opportunities for tourism and trade in Sri Lanka.
From Ceylon-tea tasting to talks about Sri Lankan architecture, history, culture, literature, music, wildlife, travel hotspots and more, you can be sure the Friends of Sri Lanka events team will have something to make you want to book your flights to the island of paradise.
In April 2019, Susannah Calderan, a leading marine mammal scientist spoke to us in Piccadily about ships clashing with Sri Lanka's precious blue whales. Professor David Robson and award winning architect Wendy De Silva spoke to us in March about Sri Lankan master architect Geoffrey Bawa who was born 100 years earlier and a hugely successful career. In February, we held a two part special on Jaffna covering life at St John's boarding school in the 1970s to trade, tourism and investment opportunities now.
11 September 2018 - Annual Lunch at the London Scottish Regiment Headquarters in Westminster
A truly delicious Sri Lankan meal in the prestigious surroundings of the London Scottish Regiment Club. This year, the lunch was organised by Chamali Fernando and Linda Duffield CMG. Over 100 people attended and to celebrate 70 years of Sri Lankan independence, there was an extra special musical performance by internationally recognised violinist Mandhira De Saram.
In June 2018, we held a Ceylon Tea Night in Kensington with a talk by Professor Angela McCarthy on Tea and Empire and James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon, followed by a tea-tasting session hosted by The Teamakers of London. Afterwards we were treated to wine and some delightful Sri Lankan canapes.
In April 2018, Professor Zoltan Bidermann of University College London presented Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History which is a collection of articles by literary, archeological and historical experts co-edited by him and Professor Alan Strachern of Oxford University.
In March 2018, Juliet Coombe spoke to us about Galle Fort, its history and secrets. Juliet married into one of the old families of the fort and her sons are the ninth generation to be born within its coral walls. Juliet is very involved with the annual Galle Literary Festival and author of a new children's book Donald Trunk: the story of a mischievous baby elephant born on a cinnamon plantation in Galle.
In February 2018, Romesh Gunesekera entertained us with an almost magical reading from his last book Noon Tide Toll. Romesh is one of Sri Lanka's most revered writers and lives in London, his novel Reef was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1994.
In 2017, FOSLA was hugely privileged to have a private performance with the world renowned cellist Rohan De Saram at the stunning Great Hall beside the River Thames. Fauré’s Elegie (accompanied by Paul Harrison on the piano) was just the beginning of a truly amazing performance by Rohan De Saram. Bach’s Prelude, Sarabande and Gigue from Suite no. 3 in C major for solo cello and Pietro Locatelli’s Labirinto armonico (transcribed for solo cello by Rohan de Saram from solo violin) followed.
The music shifted towards Sri Lanka with ‘Improvisations based on Sri Lankan folk tunes and drum rhythms’ when Rohan’s son Suren, a drummer with the well-known British indie-rock band, the Bombay Bicycle Club and a timpanist/percussionist with the recently formed Oberon Symphony Orchestra, joined him. The combination of eastern and western sounds rang out the musical mélanges. Photograph: Rohan De Saram with Her Excellency the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, Ms Amari Wijewardena [Extract from Spring Newsletter 2017].
We have taken several guided walking tours of parts of London with connections to Sri Lanka; most recently we enjoyed a walking tour of Wapping, where we saw the wharves where the tea “clippers” docked and the great warehouses where Ceylon tea was stored.
We have been delighted with talks from those who know Sri Lanka. Both Victoria Glendinning and Sir Christopher Ondaatje have spoken to us about their biographies of Leonard Woolf, we have learnt about research at the Natural History Museum by Professor Fred Naggs and Dr. Dinarzarde Raheem into the incidence of land snails in the Sinha Raja Forest and been shown behind the scenes at the Victoria and Albert Museum by Dr. Rosemary Crill, Senior Curator for South Asia. Most recently Daisy Perry spoke to us about the guidebooks to the country that she wrote with Juliet Coombe. Some 100 years since Leonard Woolf’s sister, Bella, wrote her How to see Ceylon, reckoned to be the first guidebook to the country, this was something of a celebration of British women’s delight in Sri Lanka.