The Mary Webb Centre in Highgate is launching a $125,000 public fundraising campaign to keep the doors of its historic building open in 2016 and beyond.

During the past five years, this former United Church has been transformed into a hub of arts, cultural, and community involvement. However, the centre is now required to meet fire and safety, accessibility and building code regulations. Some upgrades must be completed by the end of this year, and a 2200 square foot addition will be constructed next year to meet the other requirements.

The new addition will include an elevator, better entrances, new washrooms, and better amenities for the audience. Meanwhile, the century-old heritage structure will receive a fire alarm system, improved space for the performers, and some structural refurbishment. These changes will make the Mary Webb Centre a more welcoming place for audiences, performers, and the community members who use its facilities nearly every day of the week.

John Henderson, chair of the Fundraising Committee, says, “After five years, the all-volunteer Centre has created a reputation both for outstanding programming and for operating in a financially responsible manner. We’ve been able to carry out a lot of structural improvements during that time, as well as adding a great sound system—but now we have to finish the task. ”
During the past two years the Centre has been soliciting the support of corporations, foundations, government agencies, and individual donors to help us to make these needed building plans a reality. The Howard Mutual Insurance Company, the Dr Howard J Rees Foundation, the Chatham-Kent Community Foundation, the Howard Mutual Foundation, the McGeachy Charitable Foundation, and the municipality’s Community Partnership Fund have all responded very generously.
Thanks to these institutional donors and a number of very generous local individuals and families, the Centre has raised a total of more than $180,000. This represents over 25% of the funding towards the total $712,800 project. The Centre now qualifies to apply for support from agencies such as Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for matching grants.

The names of the Mary Webb’s musical acts amount to almost a Hall of Fame for contemporary Canadian music: Murray McLauchlan, Jimmy Rankin, the Barra MacNeils, Steven Page, John McDermott, Royal Wood, Sarah Slean, Harry Manx, The Good Lovelies, and the list goes on.

These marquee artists, who could sell out arena-style venues, choose to play at the Mary Webb Centre because of the house-concert feeling and the extraordinary acoustics of this historic building. Another reason they choose to return for repeat concerts is the outstanding welcome they receive. Over five years, the Mary Webb has built an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience, drawn from Chatham-Kent and across southwestern Ontario. With each concert, more people have discovered the excitement of experiencing a world-class artist performing in an intimate 250-seat venue.

“The Centre’s community art gallery, its historical displays, and the rural-style welcome at intermissions all add to the unique Mary Webb experience,” says Marg Eberle, Chairperson of the centre’s board of Directors.

The public phase of The Mary Webb Centre’s fundraising campaign will include special events—a community fashion show on November 12, a special benefit concert featuring local musicians in January, as well as direct requests, a quilt show and raffle on October 24 and 25, and other outreach events, with more to be announced soon.

For further information:
John Henderson or Marg Eberle
Chairperson, Chairperson
Fundraising Committee The Mary Webb Centre
519-678-3438 519-678-3289