The Coconut Grove and The Galle Face Hotel in Colombo

The Coconut Grove was Sri Lanka's premier entertainment venue at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. Vernon Corea has presented Radio Ceylon programmes here and introduced The Jetliners on stage. (Photo by Krankman)

The Coconut Grove at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo was THE premier entertainment venue in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. The Coconut Grove was owned by the Galle Face Hotel, the oldest hotel in South Asia.

People flocked to the Coconut Grove in the 1950s and 1960s to watch Radio Ceylon’s talent contests recorded at the night club. The radio station popularised the Coconut Grove on the air and the venue has been mentioned even in some of the popular songs of the day.

Vernon Corea has introduced Mignonne Fernando and The Jetliners at the Coconut Grove at the Galle Face Hotel.

Vernon Corea has presented Radio Ceylon programmes from the Coconut Grove. He also introduced Sri Lanka’s first ever superstar group Mignonne Fernando and The Jetliners on stage at the Coconut Grove in front of packed audiences. The Jetliners had a huge fan base at the time and they were mobbed at the venue.Mignonne Fernando has sung many of her hits including ‘My Boy Lollipop,’ and The Jetliners have played favourites such as ‘Foot Tapper,’ at the Coconut Grove, watched by their manager Tony Fernando.

Vernon together with other legendary Radio Ceylon broadcasters such as Livy Wijemanne have compered shows from the awe inspiring ballroom at the Galle Face Hotel. The hotel was the venue for many New Year’s Eve dances and Vernon Corea has wished the nation ‘Happy New Year’ behind the microphone at the Galle Face Hotel.

Information on the Galle Face Hotel on Wikipedia:

The Galle Face Hotel, founded in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1864, is the oldest hotel east of Suez . It is located at 2, Galle Road, Colombo 03. The Ceylon Hotels Corporation is now part of the Galle Face Hotel Group. The hotel is a member of Select Hotels and Resorts International. The current chairman of the hotel is Sanjeev Gardiner, since the demise of his father Cyril Gardiner in 1997 . It is listed as one of the “1000 Places to See Before You Die” in the book of the same name . It received the “Best Heritage Hotel 2010” title at the Presidential Awards for Travel and Tourism (of Sri Lanka), held in June 2010.

The hotel was originally built by four British entrepreneurs in 1864. Its name derives from the stretch of lawn which it faces, known as the Galle Face Green. It began as a Dutch villa called Galle Face House. Land for the hotel’s expansion was purchased between 1870 and 1894. In 1894, architect Thomas Skinner completed its current classic wing, its facade being largely intact until the present day, though with many refurbishments.

Mignonne Fernando and The Jetliners regularly entertained guests at the Coconut Grove, the night club attached to the hotel. The venue was even popularised in a song. Radio Ceylon recorded music programmes from the Coconut Grove as well as the Galle Face Hotel itself, presented by some of the popular Radio Ceylon announcers in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Livy Wijemanne and Vernon Corea. Thousands listened to the broadcasts, particularly ‘New Year’s Eve’ dances from the Galle Face Hotel.

D.G. William (known as ‘Galle Face William’), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party trade union leader, first worked and organised workers here. The Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke wrote the final chapters of 3001 – The Final Odyssey in the hotel.

The Regency, located in the restored southern wing of the hotel was completed in early 2006. It is marketed as the luxury wing of the hotel.

The hotel also employs the world’s oldest hospitality industry veteran and doorman, Kottarapattu Chattu (“K.C.”) Kuttan. Joining the hotel as a bell boy cum waiter in 1942, he continues to serve.

Celebrity Guests

Russia's Yuri Gargarin, the first man in space visited Ceylon and stayed at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.

Celebrity clients include the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, former British Prime minister Edward Heath, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, Prince Phillip, the journalist Eric Ellis and photographer Palani Mohan, Prince Sadruddhin Aga Khan, Rigger Bone Sconi, then-Prince Hirohito of Japan, Roger Moore, Carrie Fisher, Richard Nixon, Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

 

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