PHOTOGRAPH FEATURES PHILIP AND MEG BABER, CO FOUNDERS & DIRECTORS, STICK NO BILLS™, AT EASE IN THEIR DESIGN STUDIO.
The following are excerpts from the article titled "A Second Coming", written by Venita Machnicki on behalf of Echelon Magazine in August 2015.
When a business is birthed on the back of 20 Bollywood posters gathering dust in an airing cupboard one may sense there has been more than a dose of inspiration involved.
The flagship gallery and co-located design studio of Stick No Bills is located at the heart of Galle Fort. The British-run poster enterprise specializes in antique and retro tea, travel and film posters, many of them pertaining to Ceylon.
Phil and Meg had been visiting Sri Lanka separately before they married. Meg had worked on the island as a risk analyst during the war and Phil is a 2004 tsunami survivor here. So they weren’t strangers to Sri Lanka’s trauma when in 2005 they met in the Middle East.
Of her time in Sri Lanka in the late 90’s Meg recalls ‘I remember wandering around the Fort and being blown away by the place’, she says, ‘the sheer heritage was overwhelming; cultural, architectural and archaeological. And yet it was like a ghost town; full of history but in lethargic limbo, waiting for its next renaissance.”
While running a surf hotel in 2011, Phil found a proprietor who was looking to lease a space within the Fort and Stick No Bills was born. ‘Doing business here is not without its drawbacks’ he laughs, ‘Innovation and quality assurance are often thwarted at every turn and the number of public holidays can be a challenge’. ‘However, the local staff have been fantastic’, counters Meg.
The couple admits that money was low on the list when it came to citing reasons for relocating to Sri Lanka. Both avid surfers, they fell in love with the country for its warm waves, its exceptional beauty and because it provides a safe and stimulating place to raise their family.
They stress how well the various authorities have supported them in opening their business. ‘If you put the time and effort in to get your ducks in a row, the support is there,’ says Meg.
A letter of reference from the Ministry of National Heritage supports this. It praises the couple for their: ‘outstanding contribution towards the promotion of sustainable, culturally and historically sensitive trade and tourism in the fort’.
It also notes that Stick No Bills: ‘has become a magnet for thousands of visitors to Galle Fort seeking an insight into the history of Sri Lanka.’
For expatriates seeking acceptance on the shores of a foreign land, this is a lofty accolade.
Echelon Magazine, August 2015.