Ten-year volunteer Brenda Whittingham relaxes a moment in the Charlie White Theatre before embarking on a busy Thursday at the Mary Winspear Community Cultural Centre.

Ten-year volunteer Brenda Whittingham relaxes a moment in the Charlie White Theatre before embarking on a busy Thursday at the Mary Winspear Community Cultural Centre.

Mary Winspear Centre celebrates 10 years

Gala this weekend to honour the community cultural centre in Sidney

Bach with Bazzana is a highlight of the week for Brenda Whittingham.

The University of Victoria course, offered at the Mary Winspear centre, breaks up her volunteer day with a little musical education.

The UVic courses are among the variety of offerings at the community cultural centre that celebrates 10 years this fall, and Whittingham’s been a volunteer with the centre from the start.

“I wanted to make some sort of a contribution to make sure that it succeeded,”  she explained. “I’m a very community oriented person, I believe that every community needs a community centre. The one that we had, Sanscha Hall, was fine for many years, but it needed upgrading.”

In 1995, a proposal call went out to build a new facility, with an estimated cost of $6 million funded through an impressive Honouring the Past – Building the Future fundraising campaign by the Sanscha Community Cultural Centre Foundation. To honour Sanscha Hall and its volunteers, the new centre was built around the original hall, upgrading it acoustically and seismographically. In September 2001, the Mary Winspear Centre opened its doors to an excited, proud community.

That project came to fruition; the Mary Winspear Community Cultural Centre celebrates a decade this year, and Whittingham celebrates 10 years of offering her time.

“(It’s the) good people to work with, and I like what I do,” Whittingham said. “For a while there I was doing things like the mail and answering the phone, and of course ushering and doing front of house at the theatre.”

The Mary Winspear Community Cultural Centre features a theatre, various meeting rooms and a hall that she calls perfect for community gatherings.

“The community, I think they’re like me, they want to express how they feel about their community,” Whittingham said of the many meetings held in the Bodine Family hall. It’s been the site of open houses, all-candidates meetings come election time, shows and conventions.

The 30,000 square foot, wheelchair accessible centre is the site of the annual Christmas dinner, weekly yoga and many an art show. The Charlie White Theatre down the hall is always alive with music and live theatre, and is Whittingham’s favourite volunteer gig.

As an usher she interacts with theatre-goers from across the Peninsula, Victoria and the Gulf Islands.

“I get to talk to people, help them find their seats,” she said.

Whittingham is among those who attend class there, her favourite is with Brentwood Bay music historian and biographer Kevin Bazzana. It’s just one of the many courses offered through the University of Victoria. “It’s a highlight for me certainly,” she said. “That’s great to have that so close to us.”

Whittingham plans to continue her volunteer work at what she sees as a hub of activity.

“The fact that there is a living, active community centre serving this portion of the Peninsula and it’s used very well, that’s a very positive thing,” Whittingham said. “It’s just a positive place, good staff, good people to work with and the community uses it.”


The Mary Winspear plans to celebrate with a gala on Oct. 22. The Swiftsure Big Band will perform. Tickets, $55, are available through the box office, 250-656-0275. Proceeds to the Children’s Arts and Culture Fund.