by Thilak S. Fernando

By Tilak S Fernando in London Since the demise of the Œ Ceylon Students Centreš nearly two decades ago a new rendezvous for the Sri Lankan community will emerge on 2nd December 2000, with the name of ŗ The Sri Lanka Centre.˛ The grand inauguration will take place at the Palace Suite at Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Way, Wood Green, London N22 7AY. H. E. Managla Moonasinghe, High Commissioner will be the chief guest on this occasion.

Almost every ethnic community in the UK has its own welfare/Student/women centres today to cater for their own community needs. The vacuum left by the Œ Ceylon Studentsš Centreš since its closure in late 1970s has been felt by the Sri Lankan expatriate community ever since, and more so in the latter years with the increase of more and more Sri Lankans becoming residents in the UK, and London particularly.

London today has become a beehive of activities for the Sri Lankan community, with numerous associations and alma maters, becoming involved with many aspects of activities ranging from cultural & entertainment to those of a serious nature with a single pointed aim to maintain, uphold and propagate the Sri Lankan culture and also to train the young who are born and bred here to imbibe their parental customs, attitudes and cultures. In these circumstances, Sri Lankans have always had to depend on other rented community halls so far. Except temples and church halls in London there is no other public rendezvous for Lankans at present where they could relax and meet and intermingle with their other fellow Lankans who are here.

It is unfortunate that when the Sri Lankan community in London is business and trade oriented today that they have not been able to organise themselves to buy/rent or mortgage a property and utilise such a place for the services of their own kind. Every dark cloud has a silver lining though, and it is admirable in this instance to see that a single person is taking the responsibility on his shoulders to give a kick-start at least by hiring the Alexandra Palace.

Under the present financial constraints, The Sri Lanka Centre will be a Œ mobileš unit created once a month. This means that activities organised by this organiser will be held in London on once a month basis.

On 2nd December 2000 there will be a programme-packed schedule, commencing at 10 a.m. entrance is free of charge for the day time session and, once inside there will be no limit to onešs social intercourse as there will be Sri Lankan trade stalls, mini advisory centres, a reading room, club-house, teas shop, snacks and needless to say great will be the opportunity to meet with onešs old friends and school mates which one may have not seen or heard for decades! Undoubtedly this would be the ideal venue to meet new friends as much as to build up new friendships. On an educational aspect for the children, a special mini unit will function to cater for GCSE Œ Oš level and Œ Aš level students. Board games, videos shows will also be at the guestsš disposal at the Sri Lanka Centre. A variety entertainment will take place between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

To feed the hungry stomachs as much as to taking every Sri Lankan back on a memory lane to their roots there will be palatet blasting authentic Sri Lanka gastronomy offered by Indi Appa/ Appa Kade.

H. E. The High Commissioner will ceremonially open the centre at 7. p.m and the eveningšs activities of a different nature will dawn with a cultural show and a dinner dance and Disco where the old can do a tango while the young will be able to get their energies out in disco, baila, twist, bump and bangara dancing to the rhythmic music of Sunset band and the golden voice of Mariazell Gunatillakešs singing.

A special feature with the Sri Lanka Centre would be the collection of gifts to be sent to the poor and needy in Sri Lanka

The concept behind the operation is to give a jump-start to have in the future our own Sri Lankan centre which every Sri Lankan could be proud of. With orientation programmes such as this at the beginning, the organiser is confident that the penny will drop soon and the concept will be sieved into many a Sri Lankan mind when not only everyone can enjoy themselves but Sri Lankans, as a community living abroad, can be brought together and promote a sense of unity among themselves.