Events

UPCOMING EVENTS

Tea & Gin Soirée, 25 April 2024, Sri Lanka High Commission in London

Embark on a sensory journey at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London for an enchanting evening filled with the essence of Sri Lankan culture. Hosted by the Friends of Sri Lanka Association, the Tea and Gin Soirée promises an exclusive peer to peer evening in the company of His Excellency the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to London Mr Rohitha Boggallagama. As twilight descends, guests will be greeted with the tantalizing aroma of Ceylon Tea, followed by gin cocktails infused with the rich flavours of Sri Lanka.

Prepare to be captivated by the story of The English Tea Shop, a tale woven with the passion of 3,100 small-scale Sri Lankan farmers dedicated to cultivating the finest organic teas and botanical infusions. Dive into the heart of community essence as you indulge in a symphony of flavours with signature hot and cold brews by The English Tea Shop. Meanwhile, award-winning Chef Chanaka Fernando will tantalize your taste buds with meticulously crafted canapés, transforming the soirée into a feast for the senses. It is an evening not to be missed, promising discovery, indulgence, and the celebration of Sri Lankan heritage in every sip and bite. Tickets available: https://teaandginsoiree.eventbrite.co.uk

Sri Lankan Art - ARTRA Unveiled, 14 May 2024, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

Step into the dynamic world of ARTRA at the Linnean Society, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly for an afternoon filled with boundless creativity and artistic exploration. Founded in 2012, ARTRA Magazine has emerged as a powerhouse in Sri Lanka's Modern and Contemporary Art scene, curating exhilarating Art Experiential Festivals that transcend traditional exhibitions. Join Editor-in-Chief, Azara Jaleel and art connoisseur David Robson as they delve into the soul of ARTRA, unveiling its profound impact on Sri Lanka's evolving art landscape. Tickets: https://srilankanart.eventbrite.co.uk

Discover the magic behind over 65 spell-binding editions of ARTRA Magazine, pulsating with the heartbeat of Sri Lankan creativity, providing fascinating interviews with art luminaries to in-depth essays and critique. Learn about recent Art Experiential Festivals, from enchanting works by Aubrey Collette to the masterpieces of Laki Senanayake, as you anticipate upcoming festivals showcasing emerging talents and ground-breaking developments. With ARTRA, the pulse of Sri Lankan art beats vibrantly, promising to ignite your passion for art like never before. Mark your calendars for an afternoon of artistic revelation and prepare to be dazzled by the power of ARTRA!

Veins of Influence, 13 June 2024, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

Join us at the Linnean Society, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly for a momentous afternoon, as Shalini Amerasinghe Ganendra presents "Veins of Influence," to our Association members before its official launch at the British Council in Colombo this September. A distinguished figure in the art world, Shalini Amerasinghe Ganendra brings her expertise as a Chevening Fellow and Academic Associate at the University of Oxford's History of Art Department to the forefront, presenting a captivating exploration of Colonial Sri Lanka (Ceylon) through rare early photographs and collections.

Ganendra's book uncovers over 450 unseen images from esteemed collections such as the Royal Collection Trust and Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, weaving together a narrative that transcends time and place. Each photograph is accompanied by insightful commentary, offering a glimpse into Sri Lanka's rich history and the stories of the collectors behind these precious artifacts. Do not miss this rare opportunity to engage with a leading scholar as she bridges the past with the present, shedding light on a vital aspect of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage. Though tea at the Linnean Society is no longer available, the Summer Show will be in full swing at the Royal Academy and we can continue the conversation over tea and cake in one of the many RA Cafés amidst the vibrant atmosphere of artistic expression. Tickets: https://veinsofinfluence.eventbrite.co.uk

PAST EVENTS

Unearthing the Treasures of Sri Lankan Arts and Crafts, 20 March 2024

Sarah Baldwin, visionary behind Serendip Crafts, intertwined personal anecdotes of decade long journey from setting up her business, with a profound passion for traditional Sri Lankan handicrafts. Illustrated with a map, she painted a vivid picture of her family's deep-rooted ties to the island, forged during her father's tenure as a civil engineer on the Mahaweli project. It was a time of exploration and discovery, where young Sarah and her siblings found themselves immersed in the island’s cultural treasures. Sarah reminisced about exploring roadside shops to marvelling at the specialised crafts of different villages. Experiences which instilled a reverence for Sri Lanka’s artistic heritage and sustainability and fuelled the foundation for Serendip Crafts.

Sarah has remained steadfast in fostering meaningful partnerships with local artisans; traversing jungles in search of stunning lacquer pots; navigating bureaucracy including fluctuating shipping regulations - every twist and turn paving the way for newfound discoveries. Her unwavering dedication to authenticity, quality and sound ethical practices shines through. From coconut wood bowls to intricately woven Dumbara cushion covers, each product bears the hallmark of Sri Lanka's artisanal craftsmanship, see more at https://serendipcrafts.co.uk Sarah's collaboration with iconic brands like Barefoot further enriches her repertoire.

Monkey Business - 2nd December 2023 via Zoom

Wolfgang Dittus, the world's leading expert on toques macaques provided a detailed account of the organised social structure of these intelligent brownish-red coloured old world monkeys that are endemic to Sri Lanka. Their name is derived from the whorl of hair at the crown of their head which resembles a toque cap. We learnt they communicate with gestures and facials expressions in addition to sounds. These special monkeys are considered endangered. Wolfgang shared tips on how we can protect the monkeys, and in response to audience questions how we can better protect farms and crops and our rooftops from damage by the monkeys.

Annual Lunch - 29th November 2023 at Westminster Hall

Following the popularity of our Support Sri Lanka, Buy Sri Lankan Campaign in 2022, we decided to host again with Serendip Crafts, a Bookstall, Ruci Foods, Secrets of Ceylon and JNL Limited all providing a colourful and buzzing atmosphere to the day. With a free bar running from the morning, we gathered to share good times, enjoy a superb rice and curry lunch by Golden Platter and extend our support for Sri Lanka by purchasing goods that benefit farmers, individuals, charities, businesses, arts and craftsmen in Sri Lanka. Here are a few pics:

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17th October 2023 from 2pm - 7.30pm Selfridges Food Hall - Ruci Foods Demo

FoSLA Member Thana Sivasambu who appeared last year on James Martin's cookery show Saturday Morning showcased her line of Ruci Foods chutneys and sambols in Selfridges.

25th September 2023 - Andrew Lownie - British Biographer and Historian - The Mountbattens, their Lives and Loves

An intriguing afternoon as FoSLA Member, Andrew Lownie, shared stories from his biography of the Mountbattens, their time in East Asia and the many affairs that each were having at the time. Our Guest of Honour was Deputy High Commissioner Mrs Mallikaratchy who took up her post earlier this year. Afterwards we had tea on the 5th Floor at the View Café which proved a lovely opportunity to reconnect.

16th May 2023 - Clara Kraft and Bawa's Garden

A spectacular evening in plush surroundings at the Charlotte Street Hotel in Bloomsbury, the former stomping ground of Geoffrey Bawa who like Clara Kraft studied architecture at the Architectual Association around the corner. Inspired by a book in the library about Lunuganga, Clara went on to create a beautiful docu-film capturing stories about Bawa from those who worked with him in a film that really is a love letter to Sri Lanka. We thank our Patron Sir Christopher Ondaatje for his generous sponsorship of the reception after the film.

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2nd May 2023 Nicholas Brookes - Book Launch at Mount Lavinia Hotel in Sri Lanka

We recently collaborated with Sri Lanka Travel and the Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau on an event at the beautiful Mount Lavinia Hotel in Sri Lanka. British High Commissioner, Sarah Hulton (in blue) was invited as the Chief Guest and an invitation was also extended to New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Appleton. Here you can watch and listen to Nicholas's 14-minute speech about why he chose Sri Lanka, what he loves about the island and watching cricket there. The clip includes some presentations at the beginning with some background noise until Nicholas starts speaking at 40 seconds in to the clip. Below we have an image which some of you may recall of the ocean view from the poolside terrace bar at Mount Lavinia.... Enjoy.

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Copies of the book were presented to some of Ceylon /Sri Lanka's cricketing legends, including Arjuna Ranatunga (on the panel), front row of the audience LR Goonetilleke (red shirt), Ranjit Fernando (to LRG's right), Michael Tissera (plain blue shirt on the front row). It was certainly a unique book launch with Kandyan Dancers, a Drinks Reception on the Terrace and Dinner afterwards for all guests.

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28th March 2023 - In Conversation With Lord Naseby, at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London

Our Chairman Sir Peter Heap KCMG interviewed our Patron Lord Naseby PC at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London. The fondness for Sri Lanka formed early on in their careers during their first trips to the island. Copies of Lord Naseby's books, The Few Who Flew and Sri Lanka - Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained are available on Amazon.

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30th January 2023 - The History of Ceylon Cinnamon at the Linnean Society, Piccadilly

Miles Young, former CEO Of Ogilvy & Mather, the global advertising giant, describes himself as an "accidental cinnamon farmer." He took us on a history tour of one of the world's most precious spices and treated all guests to boxes of pure Ceylon Cinnamon scrolls from his cinnamon estate in Sri Lanka and Ceylon Cinnamon Tea from his neighbour's estate in Sri Lanka. Miles has built the world's first cinnamon museum to showcase this iconic spice.

Gala Fundraiser at Leicestershire County Cricket Club on 5th November 2022

Members and guests enjoyed our first event ouside London, as we traveled to Leicestershire County Cricket Club for a Gala Fundraiser that included a Christmas Fair, Lunch and Talk. The fair formed part of our Campaign to Support Sri Lanka, Buy Sri Lankan. A sumptuous 3-Course Sri Lankan Lunch with Lion Lager followed.

Coming into bat after lunch, was journalist and historian, Nicholas Brookes - author of An Island's Eleven: The Story of Sri Lankan Cricket. Nicholas's book charts the island's journey to sporting fame from the days of WG Grace and Bradman arriving on the shores of Sri Lanka, through the 1996 World Cup victory and beyond.

Leicestershire County Cricket Club has strong ties with Sri Lanka. The first-ever cricketer from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to play for an English County Cricket Club is Stanley Jayasinghe. He played for Leicestershire from 1960 to 1965, scoring over 1000 runs in each season. Stanley is 92 years old and lives in Sri Lanka. Below, Nicholas showed us a photograph taken in 1961 (black and white image) when Stanley Jayasinghe and Clive Inman, both from Sri Lanka received their caps for Leicestershire. more recently the Sri Lanka U19 faced England's U19 in September 2022 at LCCC. Signed copies of Nicholas's new book were available to purchase at a discount on the day.

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We were fortunate to have the entire cricket ground to ourselves. Leicestershire County Cricket Club's Fox Bar and Charles Palmer Suite proved the perfect setting for our day out of London.

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Our stall-holders included Jean-Marc Flambert of Secrets of Ceylon selling luxury beauty skin and haircare products from Aroma Bliss and Ayurvedic Ceylon Teas by Ayubó Tea promoting health benefits. The Sri Lankan High Commission had a stunningly colourful stall with notebooks, palmyrah producs and coconut shell ornaments for sale. Dr Lakmini Mendis (Trade Secretary, Sri Lanka High Commission) and Mrs Gaya Senaratne (Third Secretary) were on-hand to talk to members and guests about the Support Sri Lanka, Buy Sri Lankan Campaign and provide information on tourism/travel to Sri Lanka.

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inventor Bharaj Serin showcased his latest creation - a machine to improve hand-eye co-ordination. Ex-England Cricketer, James Taylor (pictured below with his autobiography "Cut Short"), and former South African player Claude Henderson (sporting a light blue jumper and navy blazer) are both huge fans of Sri Lanka. They were among the distinguished guests. Both James and Claude put their cricket skills to the test on Bharaj's creation. Cricket fans will know James's career as an England cricketer was Cut Short due to a rare heart condition, which can affect elite athletes.

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Mike Bunston OBE, Honorary Ambassador for the Sri Lankan Tea Board (2016 - 2021) and FoSLA Committee Member arranged beautiful packs of loose leaf Ceylon Tea from the seven tea growing regions of Sri Lanka for all guests to take home. Mike reconnected with Ranjan Dandeniya who ran the Tea Centre in Piccadilly after 35 years. FoSLA Committee Member Peter Gregory-Hood, Former Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka met Kannan Sivanathan of Peacock Travels. Below, Chanaka Fernando (Global Ambassador of Taste representing Sri Lanka and the UK) is pictured outside with his friend Sanath Perera in front of the cricket ground.

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Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Promotion Bureau, pictured below with James Taylor, invited the audience to visit Sri Lanka again, describing the island as the "ultimate all-in-one-capsule" holiday destination. Leanne Bonner-Cooke OBE who is a member of the Board of Directors at LCCC was presented with flowers as a gesture of the FoSLA's appreciation for her assistance in helping to make this event a reality.

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RAFFLE PRIZE WINNERS

It all became very serious as our Chairman, Sir Peter Heap, donned his spectacles to draw the Raffle in reverse order.

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3rd Prize: The Ruci Foods Hopper Hamper - Winner Mrs Irene Yorke - above is Irene's winning moment.

2nd Prize: 3 Nights for 2 People at Amba Estate in Uva Province - Winner Miss Dushani De Silva - above the moment Peter congratulated our winner and joked that whilst she had her accommodation sorted, Dushani now needed to spend more money to get there!!

1st Prize: 10 Night Jetwing Hotel Holiday for 2 with Breakfast and 2 Return Flights on Sri Lankan Airlines - Winner: Mr Sanjaya Perera

Recent Events

From a Summer Soirée in the garden of the Sri Lankan High Commission in London sponsored by Rocklands Distillery serving cocktails with Ceylon Arrack and Colombo No. 7 Gin 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. This year we enjoyed Rum produced by a Dutch Distillery and infused with botanicals from Sri Lanka.

July 2022 - Post AGM Drinks Reception in the Garden at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London and Curry Supper

A beautiful evening to be out in the garden enjoying drinks after our AGM and then we headed over to The Bombay Palace which we are renaming "Cinnamon Gardens" as they were most accommodating.

June 2022 - Rum Away With Me To Undiscovered Sri Lanka An evening of Rum Cocktails infused with botanicals from Sri Lanka and produced by a Dutch Distillery, after a talk on the road less travelled in Sri Lanka followed by a sumptuous Rice and Curry Supper.

May 2022 - Tea Country Hiking Trail, Spaniard, Miguel Cunat shared with us the creation of the new tea country hiking trails hoping to make Sri Lanka one of the best hiking trails in the world. Covering nearly 300km split into 22 different routes of varying distances, this trail is designed for people of all ages.

Feb 2022 - Pioneers of Sri Lankan Design Minette De Silva (1918-1998) was the first female Asian architect to register with the RIBA and the first to practise in post-independent Ceylon. Minette was internationally recognised and mixed with the greats: Le Corbusier and Pablo Picasso. Laki Senanayake (1936-2021) was a famous artist and designer who sadly passed last year. We learnt about Minette and Laki's lives and work.

Sept 2021 - An Audience with Ashok Ferrey, featured in The Sunday Times (LK), a star studded line up joined us for an amusing afternoon in Piccadilly as Ashok launched his new book The Unmarriageable Man in London, read more here.

Sept 2021 - The X-Press Pearl Shipwreck - What Really Happened? MEPA Chair Dr Dharshani Lahandapura provided a detailed update on the aftermath of the X-Press Pearl Disaster and the actions taken in response by Government and the Marine Environment Protection Agency to seek redress and to prevent disasters of this level in the future.

June 2021 - Sri Lanka's Artisanal Tea Sector We escaped to the luscious green hills of Uva Province for a truly spectacular, fascinating and hugely entertaining tour of Amba Estate with their Master of Tea Ceremonies, Neethanjana Senadheera. His tea tour and tasting session is well worth doing in-person when you next visit Sri Lanka. Estate owner Simon Bell spoke to us about the new techniques of plucking and processing artisanal teas. Amba had posted out samples of tea to participants in advance so that we could taste their extremely well-balance spicy chai together. The Commercial Secretary at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London also provided an overview of the Ceylon Tea industry.

APRIL 2021 - Manjusri - Sri Lanka Artist and Scholar,Dr Shamil David Wanigaratne a former lecturer of the University of King's College London told us about his new book, a Monograph of the artist L.T.P. Manjusri whose work was recently exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum in New York.

MARCH 2021 - Books On The Rocks Martini cocktail in hand, we tuned into Gabriel Subaga Zimmerer online to learn more about Taoism and Buddhism, whilst enjoying a few drinks together. Gabriel is half Sri Lankan half Swiss and applied the teachings of these ancient philosophies to the modern pandemic era to provide the perfect tonic to a national lockdown.

Feb 2021 - Sri Lanka's Underwater Gallery Artist and curator of the Galle Fort Gallery Janaka De Silva and his wife and partner in this ground-breaking project, Shalini Gamage amazed us with their phenomenal initiative which has coralled an ecosytem around them. Their objective to restore ocean habitats and create a new dimension to tourism in Sri Lanka. Deep-sea diving, snorkelling and glass-bottomed boat rides will allow you to marvel at art under the sea. Stable, resilient and marine enhancing materials are used to make sculptures which are beneficial to growing an artificial coral reef. Much of Sri Lanka's beautiful natural coral reefs were destroyed by the tsunami. This project is creating jobs and addresses key themes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity.

Jan 2021 - Donald Friend in Ceylon Professor David Robson talked to us about the works of the Austrialian Artist Donald Friend, showcasing Friend's paintings and images from his life and times in Sri Lanka. David shared 80 slides including sketches from Donald Friend's diary as well as other works of arts. Click on this link to view Donald Friend's restored mural at Brief Garden.

Nov 2020 - Return to Sri Lanka - Travels in a Paradoxical Island Professor Razeen Sally is a Sri Lankan-British writer and Visiting Associate Professor at National University of Singapore. He spoke to us about his new book, a travel memoir filled with spellbinding beauty and moving insight about reconnecting with Sri Lanka. His book is combines a deep understanding of the island’s cultural history with a semi autobiography creating an eye-opening travel memoir of the paradox of Paradise. His book is considered a must-read for anyone who hopes to understand the colourful complexity of Sri Lanka and is available at Waterstones.

Oct 2020 - Marine Life: Manta and Mobula Rays, Leading Marine Researcher and Conservationist, Daniel Fernando, enlightened us about the magnificent fish off the coast of Sri Lanka and the threats to their existence brought about by the use of their gills in Chinese Medicine. Daniel was a former Government Advisor to Sri Lanka's Wildlife and Ocean's Ministry. Daniel's work has been featured in documentaries broadcast in the UK and on the Al-Jazeera Network. Whilst the Maldives created a million-dollar industry around swimming with Manta Rays, Sri Lanka's story is a less happy situation.

Sept 2020 Cookery Class Rosyth Estate, Kegalle and the Surrounding Area – FoSLA Members Farzana and Neil Dobbs kick started our Sri Lankan travel in lockdown series. We enjoyed a mini-tour of their 62-acre Rosyth Estate steeped in history and originally part of the Ondaatje Family Estate. The estate continues to produce rubber and Orange Pekoe Tea. The Estate Head Chef taught us how to make egg hoppers and a fiery pol sambol.

Sept 2020 East Coast Road Trip – FoSLA Member, Len Porter owner of Kottukal Beach House managed by the Jetwing Hotel Group showcased the highlights of Sri Lanka’s East Coast through the Jetwing East Coast video clip. Len shared his East Coast insights with us including the attractions in the South-Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka in and around Pottuvil, from wildlife at Kumana, to surfing at Arugum Bay and the religious and archeological sites in-between. It was very easy to see why Len and his wife Vicki fell instantly in-love with Sri Lanka and he talked us through the fascinating journey of building a home there when the workmen had no industrial machinery at the time, just handmade tools.

August 2020 Endemic Birds and Big Game Safaris - FoSLA Member Gehan De Silva Wijeratne invited FoSLA members to attend his brilliant talk (with the Delhi Bird Foundation) on Endemic Birds of Sri Lanka and Big Game Safaris. Gehan’s talk was accompanied a stunning photographic journey through Sri Lanka showcasing key wildlife highlights and the places to see wildlife in Sri Lanka.

June 2020 Human Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka - Dr Prithiviraj Fernando, a leading elephant conservationist, recipient of the Whitley award from HRH Princess Anne and Sri Lankan Presidential Awards for Science, gave a truly fascinating talk about human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. He also offered strategies for mitigation of the conflict. The graphics for his talk were spectacular including stills and moving footage of elephants in their natural environment and detailed maps of the elephant corridors in Sri Lanka. Less than two months after the talk (a copy of which was shared with the then President of Sri Lanka), Dr Fernando was appointed to Chair a New Action Plan Committee on Human Elephant Conflict Mitigation.

Annual Lunch at the London Scottish Regiment HeadquartersAnnual Lunch

The Highlight of our Social Calendar is the Annual Lunch. Above, Manisha Gunasekera, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to London with our Committee. A truly delicious Sri Lankan meal in the prestigious surroundings of the London Scottish Regiment Club. The lunch is organised by Chamali Fernando and Linda Duffield CMG.

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.