Mirror Magazine


'A place for us'
The Merry An Singers have consistently proved that amateur groups need not present anything less than a professional production. The average reader may assume that a children's programme is for doting parents who look with indulgence on squealing brats prancing on the stage. Not so, as far as director Mary Anne David is concerned. Children learn there is joy in singing but not without the discipline and hard work required of any activity that can claim excellence.

Ten years ago, children shared the stage with adults in their production of Disney Spectacular. The then President J. R. Jayewardene was enthralled with the finesse of the concert.

This forthcoming concert will predominantly be by children aged 6 to 14 and some of the items from the fascinating programme include 'Ave Maria,' in the finest tradition of the classics; 'When I grow up,' sophistication from six-year-old tots; 'Couple of swells,' a take off from the world of Fred Astaire and Judy Garland; 'This is my country,' sung with the fervour of any patriot; 'Mother Machree,' that favourite Irish melody and 'Everybody step,' choreographed and staged as they would in Broadway.

There is a bit of cream on top for the audiences. Bathiya, Santhush and Ashanti now enjoying top position in the local charts have willingly come in as guest artistes for the group they cut their teeth in - The Merry An Singers.

It is also their contribution to SUROL to whom the entire proceeds of the concert will go to. The children of the Merry An Singers present their talent and efforts towards families of leprosy patients who are ostracised by society and consequently among the poorest of the poor.

Top class musicians Neranjan de Silva and Christopher Prins will combine with Mary Anne David for the instrumental backing. Andre David has worked out the choreography and a ladies' committee have co-opted experts for the galaxy of costumes.

The Merry An Singers Junior cast will present 'A Place For Us' on November 8, 9 and 10 at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.

Interaction postponed
Due to unavoidable circumstances, the annual sports event, Interaction organised by the Interact District 3220, has been postponed. Originally scheduled to be held on November 2 and 3, the event will now be held on November 16 and 17. The venue, Havelock Grounds, will remain the same.

The organising commitee regrets any inconvenience caused and hopes that participation will be as expected.

The invasion of the liberal thinkers
By Ishani Ranasinghe & Marisa De Silva
Launched seven years ago, YA TV, or Young Asia Television, has, in its own way, revolutionised Sri Lankan TV programming. They came in at a time when state monopoly needed to be substituted with liberal thinking. Developing concerns too were not being addressed adequately, so although regional programmes were necessary to highlight common issues, focus programmes on Sri Lanka were a must, they felt.

"We always prefer to highlight success stories instead of disasters," says Sharmini Boyle, Editor-in-Chief, YA TV, explaining the focus and concept of the programmes. One of the key features in their success, she believes, was that they involved young people who did not have previous work experience. All of them got on the job training. "This way we are able to look and present things from a fresh perspective," she adds.

"We have a network of youth across South East Asia with digital cameras who send in their local stories with appropriate pictures. Our crew then sets about editing and re-writing the copy and including it into the relevant programmes. "We do an average of 45 minutes of programming a day," says Sharmini.

"During these seven years we have been greatly responsible for the change in Sri Lankan TV. We challenged the stereotype manner of TV and changed it. We were the first to bring out social issues, we showed them that it is not a question of controlling the viewers but giving them a choice," she continued.

The 40-strong production team is now based at YA TV's bright new office at Pelawatte, which boasts of solar panels on the roof, which is their own little contribution to the national grid.

Over the years YA TV has developed more Sri Lanka based programmes like 'Mihisara', 'Sathi' and 'Villipu'. 'Mihisara' recently won the award for the 'Best Environmental Television Programme' at the Sri Lanka Green Awards. This award was made by the Sri Lanka Environmental Journalists Forum together with the United Nations Environmental Programme in appreciation of the leadership and social responsibility they have shown in protecting and improving the environment we live in.

'Mihisara', which has been on air for the past one and a half years, is a weekly programme that neither soft-pedals nor sensationalises issues but responds to the need for clear, comprehensive and audience-relevant information. Produced in Sinhala so that it reaches a wider local audience, each programme focuses on a particular theme and explores the complexities and interconnectedness of environmental issues throughout the world.

However Devaka Seneviratne, co-producer of 'Mihisara' is a trifle disappointed that it doesn't seem to have an appeal for sponsors. "Sponsors feel they'd be better off sponsoring a music programme or tele-drama which is more popular with the masses. What they should realise is that programmes of social interest too are very important," he says.

'Mihisara' also hopes to start an e-club where they can organise 12 projects for the year and together with its members, put them into action. "It's not going to be a one off project either," says Devaka. "We hope to suggest projects that the people of the relevant areas can follow up and continue the good work."

'Sathi' (awareness) and 'Vilippu' (awakening) provide opportunities for the Sri Lankan audience to look at the need for peace in the country, as well as at initiatives to achieve peace and reconciliation.

'Sathi' (in Sinhala) and 'Vilippu' (in Tamil) are characterised by the way they look at issues and events from the perspectives of young people, providing them with a platform to express their views and concerns.

"Through these programmes we attempt to create awareness of the Sinhala issues on the Tamil programme and vice versa," says Sulochana Peiris, supervising producer.

N. Jeevendran, producer of Villipu says that the feedback they have got from the audience has been good, particularly from those who are directly involved with the war.

'Space to let', one of their most popular programmes that has an Asian coverage, looks at the world through a woman's eye .

The programme covers issues ranging from the sex industry, abortion, and arranged marriages, to education, employment and health care.

Says Dinasha Alles, Producer-Presenter, "It's very important to have a programme that addresses a wide spectrum of issues both positive and negative as most often these issues are not given due attention."

As YA TV moves on to another year, viewers can certainly look forward to more innovative programmes from their dynamic team.

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