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May 04, 2018
The sun really shone, brightly, on the famous Kingsbury Bakmaha Ulela on Saturday 21 April 2018 - a Festival that broke all records. It was Sri Lanka wear too. For the first time, a President of Sri Lanka addressed a gathering come to witness a New Year festival abroad.

After the welcoming, the President was escorted to the Byron Hall where the New Year Cultural Extravaganza was taking place by Drummers and Dancers of the Sri Lanka Education Cultural and Welfare Foundation.

After exchanging pleasantries with Aggamahaspandita Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi, the Sangha Nayaka of the UK and President of the Sri Lanka Education, Cultural and Welfare Foundation, the Sri Lanka President addressed the gathering of approximately 4000. He said with the dawn of the New Year he came to London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and he was happy he got the opportunity to accept the invitation to this great New Year Celebration. The President further went on to say "You have been working diligently to earn a living in this country you are residing now.And it is obvious that your hearts and minds are with your motherland.Sri Lanka is the inheritor of a great civilisation, a great culture, second to none in the world. I really appreciate your valuable work to serve our country and bring honour to our country. I extend my warm good wishes for your continued success and prosperity." He went on to thank Aggamahapandita Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Sangha Nayaka Thero, the incumbent monks of the SSIBC, and the organising committee for inviting him and also the magnificent performances and arrangements.

The day-long programme began with the hoisting of the National Flag in the Byron Recreation Ground at 9.30 AM. Aggamahapandita Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Sangha Nayaka Thero, presiding, invited the Deputy Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Kareema Marikar to hoist the Sri Lanka Flag, to the sound of Rabban Playing. Then those gathered sang the National Anthem led by the youth choir of the Sri Saddhatissa Dhamma School. This was followed by the children offering betel leaves and worshipping the Sangha according to ancient custom. Then the Maha Sangh extended Blessings. And chanted Pirith. The Sri Lanka High Commission was represented by Mr Sam Cooray.

The sports and games that followed were compered by Wasantha Dukgannarala and the announcements were made by Maheshi Kokila and Gayan Mahawatta. The whole programme was professionally done, for the benefit of the participants and onlookers alike and were very much appreciated. Added attractions provided were the Bouncing Castle for the kids and the Ice Cream Van and the stall selling Kauvun and Kokis, typical New Year Delicacies. A surprise was the two Gami Natumas ( Folk Dances), typically performed in the KAMATHA of the Paddy Fields, by village damsels. Koha Koha and La Sanda Paya , three dancers trained by Olu Suraweera.

The Cultural Extravaganza began with the special guests accompanying Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Thero in a procession to the Byron Hall. These included Councillor Kareema Marikar, Deputy Mayor representing the Worshipful Mayor of Harrow; Councillor Bhagwanji Chohan, Worshipful Mayor of Brent; Councillor Brian Salinger, Worshipful Mayor of Barnet; Hon. Bob Blackman, Member of Parliament for Harrow East; Councillor Kana Naheerathan, former Mayor of Brent; Hon. Mei Sim Lai, OBE DL, Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Brent; Mr Nizam Ismail, former Mayor of Harrow; Dr Zimar Sivardeen, President/Chairman, British Sri Lanka Association Mr Victor Cherubin, President, Committee for Cultural Affairs of Tamils, Mr Alan Wahab, President Sri Lanka Muslim Council The special guests then inaugurated proceedings by lighting the candles in a specially designed structure created by Jayaratne Bandara, the renowned Master Craftsman. The Mayors of Harrow, Brent and Barnet also addressed the crowd.

The actual cultural programme began with a narrative and the live enactment on the stage of traditional Sri Lanka Customs and Rituals. The narrative was done by Professor Mudiyanse Dissanayake of the University of Visual and Performing Arts; Rohana Baddage and Wasantha Dukgannala. The performances that followed were amazing, the creations of Professor Mudiyanse Dissanayake with the able assistance of A.P. and Rasika Attanayake and Anju Dabare. The excellence of the programme was incomparable. The afternoon programme was compered by Ven. Nepali Sumana, Wasantha Dukganarala and Mahesh Kokila.

From 6.3.00 PM to 10.30 PM the Musical Show took place with Sri Lankan Artistes Saman De Silva, Kanchana Mendis, Piushan (Bobby) and Suresh Gamage, Rohana Baddage while the music was provided by EXCEED and the large crowd really enjoyed the show.

Photographs by Saman Kumara
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