An anchor of the community, the Mary Winspear Centre sits at the west end of Beacon Avenue, providing an excellent bookend to that other Sidney raw: the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea.
Today’s News Review features a story on the history and the future of the Winspear and while its past was fraught with ups and downs, the society that runs the Centre is looking ahead boldly.
This month, the Mary Winspear takes a big leap forward with one of the biggest named performers to hit the stage at the Charlie White Theatre — Jann Arden. The Canadian singer had to add a second show here in Sidney, as the first one sold out. Now, the second one is packed. That sort of response is wonderful for a facility that certainly deserves the attention.
The Centre, a cooperative effort between Sidney and North Saanich community members to bring groups together in one place for the benefit of all of the Saanich Peninsula, is looking to grow. While that might not mean an expansion is in the cards in the very near future, there is room to grow and further its mandate — as outlined by Executive Director Brad Edgett in today’s edition. As well, its success over the last few years means it can also sock money away to help renovate and upgrade the 15-year-old facility.
There will be some changes ahead for the Centre. The society that runs it is currently before the B.C. Supreme Court to have its trust document altered to allow them to lease property to the Town of Sidney. If successful, and the Town’s plans for a new fire hall/community safety building proceed, they will gain a steady source of extra income. That infusion will help the Mary Winspear Centre be more self-sustaining — or at least give it flexibility in the kinds of programs it can offer the community.
The Mary Winspear Centre has always tried to be open to new ideas and help where it can. For example, it opened its door to the area’s pickleball players, who were looking for more places to play. It was a pilot project, but the Centre made quite a few new friends.
And that’s what the Centre aims to be — a friend to the residents of the Peninsula, offering a plethora of artistic and community activities.
We should be grateful for the vision of many people, all those years ago, to ensure we would have such a robust community hall today.