It’s an exciting time to be living in Melbourne, Australia, The World. Last year Melbourne was announced as the second UNESCO City of Literature, closely beating out Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago for the honour.
This meant that Melbourne needed to find an entity to be the centrepiece of the new City of Literature. After scouting around for people who could build such a centrepiece, the engineers that built the Collins Class submarines were eventually overlooked in favour of world-renowned arts manager Chrissy Sharp. A shame really because book readings in submarines are da bomb. Or at least, da torpedo.
Chrissy Sharp, who was fresh from a stint at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre, is the kind of authoritative international figure who should never be described as being ‘fresh from a stint’. She is not a footballer.
Chrissy hired local publishing guru Michael Williams to run the program, turquoise was chosen to be the official colour of the centre and things were underway. But there was one thing missing – a name.
The centre was eventually called the Wheeler Centre (a name that, for me, conjures up images of axles) after Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who founded Lonely Planet in Melbourne 30 years ago, and whom are donors to the centre. And no they didn’t name the centre after themselves. Where do you think we are? Pottersville?
The Wheeler Centre set up shop in the south wing of the State Library of Victoria and a number of Melbourne’s small literary organisations – such as the Emerging Writers’ Festival and Express Media – moved into the centre, where they are free to use the photocopier and coffee machine whenever they want.
Now we’re but days away from the centre officially opening with its big kick-off event – A Gala Night of Storytelling. It will be the first time in Australian history that the word ‘Gala’ has been used outside of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Just two days after the Gala is the first Debut Monday – a recurring event that sees four new writers reading from their books on Monday evenings. I will be appearing at the debut Debut Monday event at 6pm on February 15th where I’ll be reading from The Greatest Blogger in the World. Bob Franklin, Sofie Laguna and Madeleine Hamilton will also be there reading from their books. It’s a free event, there will be wine on hand and I’m told that all the authors will be reading from their books out loud. I know, right!
If you’re in Melbourne or you’re going to be in Melbourne soon have a look at the Wheeler Centre program and pop by sometime. I’m sure they’ll be glad to have to. So long as you don’t tell them their state-of-the-art literary centre reminds you of axles.