The story begins in 2006 with the recently married Janaki Hill, who was born and grew up in the village of Arakavila, Kalutura District, WP recognising the disadvantage that children from the rural areas had, over those living in the major towns and cities, when it came to developing their creative talents and artistic abilities. Janaki herself during her latter school years attended Ruhunu Kalakavaya Low Country School of Dance, under Guru Kalinga Obeywansha, where she was able to develop her natural talents for this classical form of local dance.She then joined the famous Dhamma Jagoda Theatre Academy, where she was able to study drama, learning such skills as method acting techniques pioneered by the world famous Director Stanislawski. Whilst such institutions like those already mentioned provide dedicated students with the opportunity to develop their artistic talents,they are few and far between in cities like Colombo, yet are completely absent in the rural areas of the country.

Janaki decided to try to do something about this sad state of affairs and with the support of her husband Peter, she embarked upon the development of a series of weekend leadership workshops in rural communities around the country for secondary schoolchildren, designed to bring out
their hidden talents through the medium of dance, music and theatre. The experiment met with overwhelming success and was branded the ‘Diriya Daruwo’ programme.

During 2006, SriLankan Airlines were seeking meaningful ways to support community projects through its Social Responsibility programme and the recent success of the fledgling Diriya Daruwo appealed to them. They commissioned Janaki to run a series of 10 Diriya Daruwo workshops in different parts of the country, attracting around 150 young students to each event.

During the activities that formed key elements of the workshows, Janaki observed that when modern contemporary music was being played, all of the participants were on their feet, dancing and partying to the rythym. However, when traditional local music or drumming was playing, the audience remained seated, as if uncertain of how to perform to this clearly unfamiliar rythym and beat. Janaki witnessed similar reactions from the student audiences at the workshops held in most parts of the country.

With the Diriya Daruwo programme coming to an end, Janaki discussed this apparent lack of awareness of traditional music and dance forms by the younger generation with her fellow assistants from the workshops. They came to the conclusion that unless serious attempts were made to try to provide today’s young people with the opportunity to watch, learn and perform traditional classical dance and theatre, this key ingredient of Sri Lankan heritage and folklore would become a thing of the past in many rural areas.

Janaki and Peter Hill then put their heads together and came up with their vision for the future.