Australia’s first Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, the Wheeler Centre, opened in February 2010. The Centre is located within a newly renovated wing of the State Library of Victoria, in the heart of Melbourne’s bustling central business district, in the burgeoning cultural precinct close to Melbourne and RMIT Universities.
Details from the interior of the Wheeler Centre building.
The establishment of the Centre is at the heart of an ambitious Victorian Government initiative which saw Melbourne designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008 and join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network alongside Berlin, Montreal, Seville, Edinburgh and other global creative cities.
The Centre is a hub and home for writers and key literary organisations, including the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Writers Victoria, Express Media, Emerging Writers’ Festival, Australian Poetry, Small Press Underground Networking Community (SPUNC), the Melbourne branch of PEN International. It provides shared meeting rooms and workshop spaces to foster collaboration, hot desks for short-term use by other writers and organisations as required and access to a large performance space with a seating capacity of 200. The Centre’s interior designers peckvonhartel won a 2010 Melbourne Design Award for Best Interior Design (Public or Institutional Project) for their work on the Centre.
The Wheeler Centre is responsible for programming a range of events across the year: the annual Premier’s Literary Awards, the prestigious annual Deakin Lectures, keynote public events including international speakers, as well as book and magazine launches, speeches, debates, seminars, poetry recitals, book readings, symposia, awards and performances.
The Centre’s first Director was Chrissy Sharp, who came to the role after a distinguished career as an arts and cultural administrator in Australia and the UK. Its current Director is Michael Williams.
The Wheeler Centre is governed by an independent board. Its members are Eric Beecher (chairman, principal of Private Media), Peter Biggs (managing director, Clemenger BBDO Advertising Melbourne), Gabrielle Coyne (CEO, Penguin Australia), Tony Hudson (Director and Company Secretary), Anita Ziemer (Managing Director of Slade Group, Founding Director of Nexthire and Chairman of Melbourne Girls Grammar School), Joanna Murray-Smith (playwright and author), Mark Rubbo (managing director, Readings bookshops) and Dianne Rule (publisher).
Operational funding for the Centre has been provided by the Victorian Government, through Arts Victoria, and from a range of programming and philanthropic partnerships, including notably the Planet Wheeler Foundation.