Dawn Of The Festival Of Cricket
It is now established as the most popular event in the social calendar of the Sri Lankan community in the UK, offering everyone a day of fun and excitement.
Well, it all happened several years ago at a time when a dark cloud seemed to overshadow Sri Lanka. Civil war and ethnic unrest appeared to have spread from the North to the South and the words 'Unity' and 'Friendship' were at their lowest ebb. In the UK such feelings of unity and friendship were attempting to make a desperate entry into the expatriate community in the form of a sporting event, to enable us to work together in harmony, emerged as the 'Festival of Cricket'.
This concept was the result of an inspiration that dawned on an old Anandian cricketer while he was watching the Sri Lanka vs England International cricket match in London. Finally the thought developed into a constructive programme and with the approval and the support of his Ananda Old Boys' Association in the UK, GC Perera introduced his concept and the democratic framework for the 'Cricket Festival', to a few other Sri Lankan 0ld Boys' Associations in the UK.
The event first took off the ground on the Bank Holiday, 9th May 1989, at Maori Club in a suburb of London, Worcester Park, Surrey. The concept of the festival was based on the objectives of bringing together the expatriates, their friends and relations to enjoy a day of cricket in a festival atmosphere, i.e. similar to that of the inter-school rival 'Big Match' atmosphere in Sri Lanka. Six OBAs participated in the inaugural festival.
They were Ananda, Royal, St.Thomas', St.Peter's, Trinity and St Anthony's. Each OBA was allocated its own marquee where they displayed their college flags & colours, along with megawatt Sinhala and western music, with food and drink in abundance each marquee exhibited its own individual characteristics. Perhaps as a blessing to the good efforts by the Old Anandians, they went in to the history book of the festival as the champions of the tournament winning the 'OBA Challenge Trophy' donated by ACE Finance Services. It was indeed a very memorable day for all those who participated.
The following year, the Cricket Festival was renamed as the 'Festival of Cricket' in the UK and a formal constitution was introduced with a full membership of the OBAs. Over the past years the festival has gone from strength to strength. In 1995 the event moved from its birthplace, Maori Club, to Norman Park, Bromley in Kent to meet its ever-increasing demand for more spacious facilities. In 2002 the FOC committee decided to relocate the event to a picturesque venue at Shenley in Hertfordshire, but due to the increased number of participating OBAs, trade stalls etc since 2004, the event moved to more spacious locations such as 'Civil Service' Grounds in Chiswick and Winchmore Hill Cricket club in Middlesex.
In its Jubilee year 2013, with 28 participating schools, the FOC has moved yet again to an even more spacious and picturesque venue at the Merchant Taylor's school grounds, Northolt in Hertfordshire.
This has meant that, not only did the schools in Sri Lanka get additional funds from their old boys in England as a mark of respect for the education they received at home, but it has attracted many commercial enterprises such as S R Gent plc, Ceylinco Consolidated, Sam's Chicken, PCi, Tristar Apparels & Edmund Solicitors, Sri Lankan Airlines, Fast Cash, Clubworld Sports & Holiday, Bank of Ceylon, SM Call, Sri Lanka Tourism, Fairway Sky Gardens, Anything.lk and several others who have made a substantial contribution to make this event a success.
Towards the beginning of 1989, while the idea of organising the Festival Of Cricket was still on the drawing board, the FOC Charity raffle was but a sparkle of thought. However, having been given a conscientious 'kick start' at the very first festival as a Children's Charity, it has now become an integral part of the FOC celebrations and has matured into a major fund raising project, primarily for the benefit of Cancer patients at Maharagama Cancer Institute of Sri Lanka where it has enabled FOC to donate many valuable medical items over the years. FOC has also made substantial contributions of equipment to other National hospitals in Sri Lanka, the most recent being to Jaffna Hospital and Karapitiya Hospital. FOC also makes an annual contribution to Cancer research UK. In this Jubilee year, the proceeds of the Charity raffle will be donated to National Hospital Batticaloa in Sri Lanka, Cancer Research UK and Anthony Nolan Trust.
In 1991 the FOC hosted the first cricket match of the Sri Lankan national team during their single Test Match tour of England. Later, in 1994, a seven-a-side match between a team of Sri Lankan national players vs a team of international test players was introduced to the event.
During the past years so many have tirelessly and unselfishly given their precious time and effort towards the successful continuation of this most popular Sri Lankan social event in the UK, every one of them deserves our sincere thanks and no doubt, wins our admiration for their efforts, which has enabled us to keep this event alive.
Festival of Cricket Life Members
G C Perera
Kosala de Silva
Venue - Maori Club, Worcester Park, Surrey.
No. of Schools participated 6 - Ananda, Royal, St Thomas, St Peter's, St Anthony's, Trinity.
Chief Organiser - G C Perera - Ananda College.
Winners - Ananda College.
Runner up - St Peter's College.
Charity - Chief Organisers Mirani De Zoysa and Sonia Vitharana; Donated medical items to Childrens Ward, Maharagama Cancer Institute. Donated £250*
The Inaugural FoC Committee - GC Perera, Upul de Zoysa, Peri Perera, Kosala de Silva, Larry Jobsz, Tulsi Wallooppillai, Brian Ratnayake, Humphrey Solomons, Asitha Jayaweera, Sepala Munasinghe, Athula Unnanthanne, Chandana Senaviratne, Elmo Rajasooriya and Daya Panditha-Goonawardena.