Mount Lavinia Hotel celebrates its 210th Year with A Literary Feast

Dewi Hewamanna with Shevanthie Gooneskera, courtesy of The Daily News, 4 March 2016, where the title reads “Countdown Celebrations to 210 years: Words on the Mount “


The iconic Mount Lavinia Hotel holds a story like no other Heritage property in the country. Settled on top of a rock with the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing on its private beach, this was once the residence of the second Governor of the Old Ceylon, Sir Thomas Maitland in 1805.

Event Curator Shevanthie Goonesekera addressing the media as Business Development & Corporate Communications Group Director Lakmini Raymond and Mount Lavinia Hotel Group General Manager Bazeer Cassim look on

As the story goes, Sir Thomas fell in love with a local gypsy girl Lovinia and to carry their secret affair, he got a tunnel dug up from his wine cellar to her house which was quite nearby. Yes the tunnel still exists but sadly it does not lead to her house – but it’s there for those cozy and very intimate dinners for you and your partner.

Two Hundred and Ten years later, this residence reformed itself to one of Sri Lanka’s iconic hotels – the Mount Lavinia Hotel. It has been home to VIP guests such as King Leopold of Belgium, Yuri Gagarin, Somerset Maugham and actors Vivien Leigh, Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck. People from around the world make this their second home whenever they visit the island.

This July, in the countdown to 210 years, their first of many events to celebrate this momentous occasion will be “Words on the Mount”, where they plan to host an authors’ event talking about the hotel’s history.

“We have come up with an intimate two day event called Words on the Mount, a festival of words to be held on the 8th and 9th of July. It holds this celebratory event with four British writers, all of whom have a connection with Sri Lanka”, author of ‘Mount Lavinia, The Governor’s Palace’ Shevanthi Goonesekera stated at a press conference held to announce this celebrations. Shevanthi will also be the curator of the upcoming event and launching the Second Edition of ‘Mount Lavinia, The Governor’s Palace’.

The author’s lined up for this event are Louis de Bernières, Peter Grimsdale , Stephanie Calman and Rohan Candappa.

Louis is a well-known international writer and winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Novel in 1994, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. He will also unveil his new novel, The Dust That Falls From Dreams which is a part of a trilogy, set during the First World War where Part 1 of the book ends in Sri Lanka. Louis has a very special connection to the island which he will reveal during his visit to Mount Lavinia.

Books of the authors that will be down in July

Peter Grimsdale is a Thriller writer and a multi-award-winning television producer. He will introduce his novel Perfect Night, also set in Sri Lanka and will explain how the book was inspired through his visit to the island.

Writer, broadcaster and author of six books Stephanie Calman will also grace the event. Some of her witty books include Confessions of a Bad Mother, How Not to Murder Your Husband and Gentlemen Prefer My Sister.

Rohan Candappa is an author of 16 books. He grew up in London with his Ceylonese father and Burmese mother and is known to be UK’s most successful humour writers and author of the acclaimed Picklehead. Rohan’s most recent book is called ‘Rules Britannia, the 101 essential questions on Britishness answered’. “We are trying to do something really different, the writers have a connection with the island in some way; Louis has set his novel in Ceylon, Peter Grimsdale was on the island in 1984 and based his novel on his diary, Stephanie whose favourite book is ‘Running in the Family’ by Michael Ondaatje, will be producing a specially written piece for Mount Lavinia and Rohan will do a unique performance piece for the grand finale celebrating what is it to be ‘quintessentially British'”, Shevanthie added.

Bazeer Cassim with Shevanthie

“We are delighted to be hosting some notable names from the literary world, who love Sri Lanka. This groundbreaking event bringing writers to Mount Lavinia enhances our proud literary history as we create a space for local writers and the public to explore culture through a celebration of literature, history and the arts,” Mount Lavinia Hotel Group General Manager Bazeer Cassim said in a press release issued.

“The first day will be on Invitation and for the second we will send out a registeration form for people who are interested to participate in this. The reason to send out these forms is so that we know you will be there to participate and we are not going charge any fee”, Business Development and Corporate Communications Group Director Lakmini Raymond stressed.

The two-day event will celebrate the Hotel’s ‘wonderful colonial building’ and promises to be visually and theatrically invigorating inspiring a literary discovery that ‘will be great fun’. 

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Filed under British colonialism, cultural transmission, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, landscape wondrous, sri lankan society, world affairs

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