Centre gets grant to encourage acceptance

The Mary Winspear Centre has been awarded a large grant

The Mary Winspear Centre has been awarded a large grant to use towards creating performing arts productions that address racism and multiculturalism.

Through the provincial government’s EmbraceBC program, the centre was given $35,000 to put towards theatrical productions much like the Why am I different production that ran earlier this year. That production focused on issues surrounding racism, multiculturalism and diversity and took cues from problems children in the Saanich School District said they were facing each day.

“It’s a way to address these issues with youth in a non-traditional format,” said the Centre’s development co-ordinator, Lynn Fanelli.

The productions are conceived by Margaret Watt, instructor and principal at Mountain Dream Productions and the children and youth who participate in the program help Watt with deciding what issues should be addressed.

“Getting this grant is a huge opportunity for us,” said Fanelli. “Margaret has been putting on theatrical programs with youth for five years that deal with all sorts of things like the environment, technology, acceptance. She’s very passionate about working with the kids in all aspects including the story writing and production and she always deals with issues that affect them in everyday life.”

Prior to receiving the $35,000 grant, the centre also received a $5,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings for the same program.

“This money just gives us a chance to build on what we’ve been doing so far and that makes us very happy,” said Fanelli.

Children from a variety of backgrounds are rehearsing for a production of The Forgotten Children in January — the first of five planned shows in 2012/13. Fanelli said while older youth (ages 11 to 18) will be mainly the ones on stage, younger children (6 to 10) will help with the overall program, on stage and behind the scenes. Twenty to 25 children will be involved directly, said Fanelli, and more will take in the shows. She estimates the program will reach up to 4,000 youth when they take  the shows on the road in 2013.

— With files from Steven Heywood