Westben Arts Festival Theatre
by Festival Nomad "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams
(Contains excerpts from Westben's website)
Last summer Gary and I had the pleasure of visiting the Westben Arts Festival Theatre located just outside the Town of Campbellford. We had been invited there to attend a performance of "Carmen".
To get to Westben, we drove north east from Cobourg, through the Northumberland Hill to the scenic Campbellford. On arriving at Westben, we drove through the front gate into the large parking arrive. Once parked, we made our way down a long tree-line walkway which opened to a wide panoramic view of the Northumberland country-side. In the middle of our view was "The Barn"! Here, I will let the Westben Arts Festival Theatre website tell the rest of the story.
A little history about Westben … “Bringing culture and nature together in perfect harmony, the magnificent 400–seat timber-frame barn opens onto a lush meadow, surrounded by the gently rolling hills of Northumberland County. The stage hosts an incredible array of renowned Canadian and international artists, from full symphony orchestras & choruses to chamber music and soloists. The best in class in a relaxed country setting!”
Westben’s primary venue, The Barn, is located three kilometres north-west of Campbellford, on gently rolling farmland previously owned by three generations of the West family. West School and West Cemetery lie just to the north, while the area’s principal brick-making machine sits in retirement in the front field. Purchased by the Bennett family in the 1960’s, the area was dubbed “Westben,” Westben’s co-founders, Donna Bennett & Brian Finley built The Barn in 2000 with the help of the community. “In 1999, The Westben Arts Festival Theatre was formed as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating, enriching and integrating professionals and amateurs in musical projects and educational activities. Run by a Board of Directors, Westben received its charitable status in 2000.”
Conceived to compliment its naturally beautiful setting, the timber-frame structure was designed and built by Didier Schvartz of Lakefield’s Sun Wood Company. With its massive fir and hemlock beams and locally-milled pine ceiling, The Barn has excellent acoustics. Walls and doors roll back to allow music to waft over the surrounding meadow. The stage is elevated by 4 feet. 300 cushioned theatre seats are located directly in front of the stage in 20 rows of 15 seats, all with an unobstructed view. Each of the two wings can accommodate an additional 50 chairs which offer good proximity to the stage and generally good sight-lines. These seats are offered at a discounted rate.”
Needless to say, Gary and I enjoyed our visited to Westben Arts Festival Theatre and their fabulous presentation of "Carmen".