The story of Sunbeach Hikkaduwa

Sunbeach Hikkaduwa: The History

Sunbeach Hikkaduwa and I came together through a  serendipitous and therefore very Sri Lankan accident.  

Text and images in this post:

Neil Butler

I first came to Sri Lanka in 1991. After 5 or 6 surf trips to Hikkaduwa one year I stayed at Sunbeach .

There, I  became  friends with the  manager Chaminda over rice and curry and the occasional arrack.

On returning the next year I found the hotel shut – the owner was ill and wanted to sell. Chaminda found me down the beach and suggested that if I took over the hotels lease he’d get his job back and we’d live happily ever after – and that is more or less what happened.  

I went to the bank took out what seemed  a colossal amount of cash (not so much in GBP) in used rupees and the hotel was mine.

A new era for Sunbeach Hotel Hikkaduwa

When not surfing I work as a festival director and artist .

My best friend Roger, an artist, a poet and a chef came in as partner with Chaminda who was an experienced hotel manager but also turned out to be an excellent cook. 

So we had the right skill set for the perfect eccentric hotel management  – food poetry and art – and an ideal location for surfers opposite the beach break.

Sunbeach Hotel in Hikkaduwa

That was in 1998 and since then lots has happened. The hotel has had almost yearly improvements most notably after the tsunami where like most of our neighbours the hotel was badly damaged.

With our guests at the time we set up a fund to support the local community in its recovery from the Tsunami – but that is a whole other story.

You can read more about that on Neil Butlers Blog – LINK.

Sura Medura Artist Residency

Since then we’ve been very involved in Sri Lankan’s cultural life. I was appointed International curator of the Colombo Art Biennale.

About 10 years ago, Maria my wife and I  established the Sura Medura International artist residency The residency is located in a beautiful  villa in the nearby fishing village of Dodanduwa.

The residency welcomes artists from around the world to come and live in Sri Lanka and in response to the experience make work that could only have been made in Sri Lanka.

The artists usually stay for 6 weeks, and at the end of their stay they make an exhibition or performance. The exhibitions are presented at  the residency or Sunbeach  and sometimes on the beach or in the jungle.  They often involve local artists and members of the community  and on occasion tourists too.

Sunbeach: Exhibitions and performances:

The images tell you a little about the range of what has happened.

Frank Bolter  built a paper boat to try (unsuccessfully) to sail back to Germany.

Alex Rigg and Roger Ely performed with the cars on the Galle Road.

On the beach artists Rob Mulholland suspends disbelief, Sumit Sarkar discovers figures in the sand and Adrian and Jurate torment the tourists.

Art, Exhibitions and Sri Lankan party:

The shows and always end with a rice and curry banquet and a party. 

Sunbeach Exhibition

We are looking forward to presenting exhibitions and shows in 2021.

We are also planning an art club for young people.

And meanwhile Chaminda’s cooking seems to get better every year. So come and join us for great food great art and great surf …and the rooms are pretty fabulous too with private terraces overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Neil and family Sunbeach Hikkaduwa

Text and images in this post:

Neil Butler

Do you have a story about Hikkaduwa to share?

Read more here – and contact us.

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