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The Wheeler Centre celebrates fifth birthday

The Wheeler Centre is turning five in February.

Melbourne’s centre for books, writing and ideas will mark its five-year anniversary with a series of gala events throughout the month. The first is A Gala Debate on 2020 on 9 February, followed by A Gala Night of Storytelling on 14 February, and a Gala for Five-year-olds with Julia Donaldson on 17 February.

Since hosting its first event on 13 February 2010—a sold-out Gala Night of Storytelling at the Melbourne Town Hall—the centre has hosted more than 1000 events, with over 200,000 audience members and around 2000 speakers, figures Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams said the centre ‘barely dared to believe’ when it first opened.

Williams told Books+Publishing that ‘after months of speculation about which international name might present our opening event, our decision to showcase twelve extraordinary local voices telling personal stories felt like the right one’. ‘Our very first event was an early indication of this city’s appetite to hear our stories told by the artists who have devoted their lives to telling them,’ he said.

Williams said his personal highlights at the Wheeler Centre are too numerous to mention. ‘How many jobs allow you to invite literary heroes to Melbourne to talk to their adoring readers? How many jobs give you the chance to talk to Richard Flanagan or David Simon, Annie Proulx or Jeffrey Eugenides, Rachel Kushner or Michelle de Kretser?’

Williams said he was particularly proud of the centre’s regional programming, ‘from Mildura to Sale, from Airey’s Inlet to Wangaratta’, and that over 80% of its events are free to audiences. More than a third of events are organised in partnership with other arts, cultural and community organisations.

The centre’s plans for the rest of 2015 include a shake-up of its program launches. Events will no longer be announced in thrice-yearly batches but across the year, in ‘a way that’s much truer to the way we programme and the way that our audiences book’, said Williams. A new website will also be launched in the coming months, as well as a ‘big announcement about a very special new event launching in the first weekend in July’.

To see the anniversary line-up and to book tickets, visit the Wheeler Centre website here.


Category: Local news