My thirty-year journey with the British Council ranks among the most culturally enriching and fulfilling experiences of a long career as a school principal and passionate advocate of the arts. Having interacted closely with the British Council as an educator, a curator and a person with an abiding interest in the human capital of the Commonwealth connection, it has been my privilege and delight to witness its capacity to bring people together to celebrate, to explore and to promote the deep human capacity for creativity and communication.
My early visits to the British Council were often in the company of teaching colleagues and students, drawn to rich opportunities to experience the power of the written word through critically acclaimed writers with close personal ties to Sri Lanka: Romesh Gunasekera, Shyam Selvadurai and Michael Ondaatje are striking examples. As a teacher of English Literature and then as Principal of The British School in Colombo, these interactions were enormously exciting and enabling. Michael Ondaatje made a memorable impact upon impressionable young A-level students when, appearing rather suddenly in Sri Lanka on a family visit in 1993 - not long after he won the Booker Prize - he accepted the British Council’s spontaneous invitation to read for a very small group of pupils and teachers. Arundhati Roy’s reading from her novel The God of Small Things created a sensation, being one of the first such readings she gave outside India after winning the coveted Booker Prize.
The British Council is an organization committed to all that is best in our common human calling as creative beings, with the capacity to enable others and create opportunities.
Whenever culture has been shared between the UK and Sri Lanka, the British Council has been involved. Sri Lanka celebrated the milestone anniversary of 50 years of Independence on 4th February 1998 with Prince Charles as the Chief Guest invited by the Government of Sri Lanka. His Royal Highness contributed to the celebrations by bringing the European Chamber Orchestra, of which he is Patron. I recall with great pleasure the special commemorative performance of this wonderful orchestra, organized by the British Council.
In the late 1990s, The British Council took on more and more responsibility for the organization and conduct of international secondary school examinations, at the request of the Government of Sri Lanka - a clear mark of respect from the host country for the work of the British Council in promoting international qualifications.
In the late 1990s, The British Council took on more and more responsibility for the organization and conduct of international secondary school examinations, at the request of the Government of Sri Lanka - a clear mark of respect from the host country for the work of the British Council in promoting international qualifications. As a school principal, I wish to acknowledge the enormous effort of the British Council over many years, to ensure that young people are recognized for their academic achievements in the educational system that best suits their own individual aspirations and goals.
My appointment as Curator of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival of 2018 and 2019 brought about another opportunity for engagement with the British Council. For many years a cultural partner of the Festival, the British Council was uniquely poised to take on this role, having been involved over many, many years in facilitating interactions between writers and their readers.
In conclusion, my experience of the British Council over thirty years has evolved from an early engagement as a committed member of the audience at its literary events, to an interactive involvement with an increasingly dynamic and far-thinking exams team, to a fully collaborative relationship with the art team in my capacity as Curator of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival. The common thread binding these diverse experiences has been the powerful sense of an organization committed to all that is best in our common human calling as creative beings with the capacity to enable others and to create opportunities in the community, with one another.
Long may it last!