Our City of Literature
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It’s 2008. We’re about to become a City of Literature … but what does a literary city have to do and be? And what would a parliament of the City of Literature look like? Step back in time – and into the hypothetical chamber – as we hammer out a shape for our literary city.
The Speaker of the House will formally open the first parliamentary session, call us to order and introduce the press gallery. Then, our elected representatives from across the literary world – including writers, librarians, publishers and booksellers – will be sworn in on a book of their choosing, before delivering maiden speeches outlining their visions for constituent readers and writers in Melbourne.
Presented in partnership with the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office.
Alison Croggon is an award-winning novelist, poet, theatre writer, critic and editor who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She works in many genres and her books and poems have been published to acclaim nationally and internationally.
She is arts editor for The Saturday Paper and co-founder of the performance criticism website Witness. Her most recent book is the creative non-fiction Monsters, out in March 2021, from Scribe Publications.
Beth Driscoll is a Lecturer in Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne, and is part of a team that recently received a Romance Writers of America academic grant to study the genre world of romance in twenty-first century Australia.
Lili Wilkinson is the award-winning author of twelve YA novels, including Pink, Green Valentine and The Boundless Sublime. She established the insideadog website, the Inky Awards and the Inkys Creative Reading Prize at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria. She has a PhD in Creative Writing, and lives in Melbourne with her husband, son, dog and three chickens. Her latest book is After the Lights Go Out.
Lachlann Carter is co-founder of 100 Story Building, a centre for young writers in Footscray that has 99 floors below ground accessible via a secret trapdoor.
Christine Gordon is the Programming Manager of Melbourne’s pre-eminent independent bookshop, Readings, and has been in that role for over a decade. She considers this the best job in Australia. Christine was one of the founding members of the Stella Prize, sits on the Readings Foundation board and has been a judge on various literary awards. She is passionate about Australian literature and ensuring that reading continues to allow endless possibilities for everyone.
Marian Blythe is director of Australia's premier independent comic art festival, Homecooked, and is publicity manager at Black Inc. books.
She wrote, produced, and performed in the sellout storytelling show Lose the Plot at Melbourne Fringe Festival, and has hosted numerous radio and podcast shows. She can sometimes be found teaching digital media and promotion, or as the enigmatic lead singer of a non-existent Melbourne punk band.
Shalini Kunahlan is Marketing Manager at Melbourne-based independent Text Publishing. She has worked in publishing for over a decade – her interests include digital marketing and bettering diversity outcomes within publishing. She is the inaugural winner of the ABIA Rising Star Award.
Sam Cooney runs the literary organisation TLB, which houses the independent book publishing press Brow Books and quarterly literary magazine The Lifted Brow, as well as running a website, writing prizes, events, and more. He is publisher-in-residence at RMIT, teaches sessionally at several universities, and is a freelance writer and literary critic.
‘We must adopt an intersectional approach to understanding the experiences of the LGBTIQA+ community with disabilities. Intersectionality provides us with a political framework to understand how multiple forms of discrimination are experienced and lived ... our identities don’t exist in a vacuum, they overlap and inform each other.’
Jax is a passionate activist committed to addressing the disadvantages LGBTIQA+ people with disability face. They adopt a social model perspective where disability is created by structural exclusion and ableism. Through their extensive work as a writer, workshop and forum presenter, university lecturer, spoken-word performer and theatre producer, Brown aims to challenge disability stereotypes and spotlight serious issues for change.
Sista Zai Zanda is a storyteller, educator and curator of the Pan Afrikan Poets Cafe – an Afro-Literary matinée of beats, performance and poetry. Since 2015, Zai has spoiled audiences in Melbourne and Sydney with over 100 performances by African and First Nations storytellers including feature performances by renowned international artists Mahogany L Browne (NYC, Nuyorican Poets Cafe), Inua Ellams (Nigeria/UK), Kat François (Trinidad/UK) and Jive Poetic (NYC).
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Clarke is the ABIA and Indie award winning author of over nine books for adults and children, including the critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the best-selling memoir The Hate Race, the Victorian Premier’s Award winning poetry collection Carrying the World, and the Boston Globe/Horn Prize winning picture book The Patchwork Bike, illustrated by Van T. Rudd.
She is the editor of Best Australian Stories 2017, and Growing Up African in Australia. Her forthcoming poetry collection is How Decent Folk Behave (Hachette).
Elizabeth Flux is an award-winning writer and editor whose fiction and nonfiction work has been widely published. She is a judge for the 2019 Award for and Unpublished Manuscript for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and is an editor for Melbourne City of Literature’s ‘Reading Victoria’ project. In 2017 she was the recipient of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship, was a judge for the Scribe Prize, was the winner of the inaugural Feminartsy Fiction Prize, and her short story ‘One’s Company’ was selected for Best Australian Stories 2017.
Claire G. Coleman is a Noongar woman whose family have belonged to the south coast of Western Australia since long before history started being recorded. Claire writes fiction, essays, poetry and art writing while either living in Naarm (Melbourne) or on the road. During an extended circuit of the continent she wrote a novel, Terra Nullius, which won the black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship and was listed for eight awards including a shortlisting for The Stella Prize. Lies, Damned Lies is her first full length work of non-fiction.
Justine Hyde is a writer, critic and librarian who lives in Melbourne. Her criticism, essays and short fiction are published in the Age/Sydney Morning Herald, the Saturday Paper, Meanjin, LitHub, Electric Literature, Kill Your Darlings and a range of anthologies.
Candy Bowers is an award-winning writer, actor, social-activist, comedian and producer. The co-artistic director of Black Honey Company, Candy has pioneered a fierce sub-genre of hip hop theatre that delves into the heart of radical feminist dreaming.
Emilie Collyer writes plays, prose and poetry. Her writing has appeared in Cordite, Overland, the Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings and Aurealis, among others. Recent award winning and nominated plays include: Contest, Dream Home, The Good Girl (New York, Hollywood and Florida) and Once Were Pirates (Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe). Emilie is currently a Red Stitch INK writer and a Playwriting Australia Duologue recipient.
Kirsty Murray was born in Melbourne and its stories run through her veins. An author of books for children and young adults, her works include 11 award-winning novels plus non-fiction, junior fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction and picture books. Kirsty has been a Creative Fellow of the State Library of Victoria, an Asialink Literature Resident in India and an Ambassador for the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge and the Stella Prize in Schools Program. In 2008, Kirsty was proud to be on the steering committee of Melbourne's bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.
Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer and radio broadcaster.
She is the producer of the Melbourne Poetry Map, and a former editor-in-chief of Peril Magazine and board member for the Queensland Poetry Festival. She is currently chair of the board for Peril Magazine and a board member of the Stella Prize.
Alia Gabres is a Melbourne based creative producer, cultural broker and storyteller.
She has worked with diverse and creative communities in Melbourne in various roles such as Lead Creative Producer for Industry and Creative Initiatives at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, and Lead Youth Arts and Events Producer for the City of Brimbank.
She has recently completed a residency at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre in the USA, exploring new frameworks for broader and more diverse engagement in the arts.
She has designed and delivered innovative programming such as the ‘West Writers’ programme in Melbourne's Western suburbs, and worked as Lead Producer on the innovative the ‘Creatively Ageing’ programme and the international Women of the World Festival in 2017.
Melbourne has always been a city of literature. Our population is bursting with rabid readers and writers. We have the best libraries, the coolest bookshops, the finest festivals and some truly pioneering publishers. Also, Monkey Grip is set here and we are the best at wearing turtlenecks.
So it made perfect sense when, in 2008, Melbourne joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and made it official – becoming a designated City of Literature in recognition of our literary spirit. Today, there are 28 cities of literature around the world, including Edinburgh, Krakow, Iowa City and Reykjavik. In November, we’ll mark the anniversary of our designation over three days of fun and gloriously indoor celebrations.
Come and hear stories of our storied city – then, join a debate about the past, present and future of Melbourne as a City of Literature. What literary trends were we preoccupied with ten years ago, and what will our bookish future look like? What’s it like to live here – are we complacent or spoiled? What does it really mean to be named a City of Literature – does it help or hinder our culture? We’ll nut it out in two-day event modelled around the idea of a city parliament.
Presented in partnership with the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office.