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Spring Fling 2023: Programmers Picks

As hayfever sufferers know all too well, springtime is here, and with it, our Spring Fling event series. With 24 events taking place in just under two weeks, our programming team share their top picks for the series and advise on the events not to miss.  

L-R: Senior Program and Podcast Producer Lauren Taylor, Programming Manager Jamila Khodja, Head of Programming Veronica Sullivan, Program and Special Projects Producer Xanthea O'Connor and Program Coordinator Diem Nguyen. Not picture: Youth Programming Manager Bec Kavanagh.
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Diem Nguyen – Program Coordinator 

There’s such a great mix of events in this year’s Spring Fling program. I am looking forward to hearing about Santilla Chingaipe’s research for the second annual E.W. Cole Lecture. It’ll certainly be a thought-provoking address about the histories that have been forgotten and erased.

The Next Big Thing events are always in my calendar… and not just because I host them! October’s edition [sold out] is a special one because we have Brisbane-based writer Yen-Rong Wong joining us. Yen-Rong worked on an early manuscript of this debut essay collection during her Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship in 2019 so it’s great to welcome her back into the building. 

The Visitors started as a play, it is now a novel and will be an opera, so I am interested in hearing Jane Harrison speak about her process of reimagining January 26, 1788, across different mediums. Looking for Alibrandi (both the book and film) changed my life, so I am excited to hear about how it changed Pia Miranda’s, and looking forward to the other stories Pia has to share beyond the iconic character of Josie Alibrandi. 


Lauren Taylor – Senior Program and Podcast Producer 

As a music nerd, I’m excited to see legendary cosmic American artist and musician Lonnie Holley in-conversation with Santilla Chingaipe. Lonnie is a true creative visionary and has led an extraordinary life. His latest album Oh Me Oh My is a standout favourite from this year and has been on high rotation at home, so it goes without saying that I’m also very much looking forward to his live performance at the Wheeler Centre to kick off our Spring Fling program.

And as a podcast nerd, I’m pumped that two of my favourite local pods will be recording their first ever live episodes as part of Spring Fling. Hosted by Kate Jinx and Brodie Lancaster, See Also is essential listening for me – I’d be truly lost without the iconic duo of Jinxy and BL connecting the dots of pop culture and sharing their recommendations each week. I can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for their debut live show! 

We’re also thrilled to have acclaimed musician Jen Cloher curating a special live episode of their new podcast Everybody’s Trying to Find Their Way Home. Jen has recently been on an incredible journey of discovery to learn about their own Māori heritage, and so this is sure to be a very special celebration of music, language and culture as they are joined on stage by a panel of Māori and First Nations songwriters including Uncle Kutcha Edwards, Allara and Breanne Peters at The Capitol, complete with an array of joyful live musical performances. 

It’s hard to pick just one more highlight from this year’s jam-packed Spring Fling program, but I felt very inspired after reading Robyn Davidson’s debut memoir Tracks many years ago. I have always admired her wandering spirit and so I’m looking forward to delving deeper into her unconventional life and hearing Robyn speak about her new book Unfinished Woman. 


Xanthea O’Connor – Program and Special Projects Producer 

I’ll never forget that fizzy, lurching feeling in my stomach the first time I looked through a telescope and learned that one tiny smudge in the night sky was made up of hundreds of thousands of stars, just as many light-years away. This feeling still haunts me (in a good way), so I’m looking forward to Infinity and Beyond: Humanity and Space at Melbourne Planetarium, Scienceworks. The speakers for this event, including 2023 VPLA People’s Choice Award Winner Krystal de Napoli, will all bring something unexpected to the night and the guided tour of the universe by extragalactic astronomer Dr Tanya Hill will be a delightful way to end. 

After all that space talk, I’m sure I’ll be keen to ground myself back on Earth. Ed Yong is a Pulitzer Prize winning science journalist whose most recent book, An Immense World, delves deep into the way animals experience their environments and stretches our understanding of our five feeble senses.    

There are so many brilliant talks happening this year, but I’m especially excited about Rebecca Makkai discussing her new novel I Have Some Questions for You. It’s sure to be a robust and probing discussion, interrogating our fascination with true crime and the complicated relationship between justice and revenge.  


Bec Kavanagh – Youth Programming Manager  

I’m looking forward to seeing stories come to life in some exciting new ways for this series. Deep Sea Divas is going to be the most beautiful underwater dress up party with storytime and crafts – I’ll be bringing my own kid along!

Lost In Space is all of my favourite things: a cheesy choose-your-own adventure story, the chaos of live storytelling, and some of my favourite YA writers and teen storytellers.

Finally, Up Late is for grown-ups, but still incorporates a sense of play and curiosity, although in a slightly more provocative way. I’m looking forward to seeing the way that money is explored through a variety of lenses, including provocation and performance. 


Veronica Sullivan – Head of Programming 

I’m over the moon about the breadth of creative thinkers joining us at Spring Fling. Among the many brilliant fiction writers joining us, we are honoured to welcome 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner Hernan Diaz. The author of Trust will dig into the illusions and disillusionment of capitalism as he considers what the 20th century’s obsession with wealth has left in its wake. 

Bestselling and much-loved Aussie author Trent Dalton discusses his highly anticipated new novel, Lola in the Mirror, with the equally beloved Clare Bowditch. Lola is a story of struggle and inequality, told with clarity and compassion. I have no doubt Trent and Clare will bring that same candour and warmth to their Spring Fling conversation at the Melbourne Town Hall. 

Leigh Sales is a true force in Australian media, and an exemplar of how the practice of journalism can be conducted with equal parts rigor, integrity and generosity. She’ll share insights from her decades in the industry with her former colleague, 7.30 reporter Elias Clure, in Melbourne, and with her close friend Lisa Millar at Montalto [sold out]. 

We also welcome two remarkable creative cousins – renowned photojournalist Andrew Quilty and Archibald Prize-winning artist Ben Quilty – to discuss Andrew’s new book, This Is Afghanistan, and the challenges and responsibilities of representing conflict and humanity through visual work and reportage. The event will open with a short address by Shuja Jamal, former director-general for international relations on Kabul’s National Security Council, which will provide essential context for the current landscape in Afghanistan, with a portion of event proceeds going to the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights. 


Jamila Khodja – Programming Manager 

This year’s Spring Fling program features a wonderful mix of writers and performers, both local and international. I can’t wait to see Emma Donovan perform live at our Opening Night event, as well as hearing from Australian trailblazers such as Thomas Mayo and Hannah Diviney.

As a huge Sentimental Garbage fangirl, seeing Caroline O’Donoghue live for not just one but two events will be a major highlight [both sold out]. I’ve even got my book club reading her latest novel The Rachel Incident in preparation!  

I first worked with Frankie van Kan earlier this year, and adore the energy she brings to events. Frankie is guest curating a special edition of her Stripped Queer series for Spring Fling [sold out], during which we’ll hear from incredible queer writers as they share original works, entirely naked. It’s an exercise in vulnerability and performance that we’re delighted to bring to the Wheeler Centre for the first time.  

Lastly, we’ve been waiting a long time for the new work from Miles Franklin Literary Award- winner Melissa Lucashenko, and her event – in conversation with Evelyn Araluen – will be an essential conversation about the legacy of colonialism and her epic new novel Edenglassie. It’s going to be a mind-stretching two weeks! 


Spring Fling ticket packages are on sale now. Simply purchase three or more eligible Spring Fling events as part of a package and receive 15% off full price tickets.


Image credit: Senior Program and Podcast Producer Lauren Taylor, Programming Manager Jamila Khodja, Head of Programming Veronica Sullivan, Program and Special Projects Producer Xanthea O’Connor and Program Coordinator Diem Nguyen. Not pictured: Youth Programming Manager Bec Kavanagh.

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