Wheeler Centre Board Chair Susan Oliver AM FAICD said she was delighted Llewellyn had agreed to take on the role of driving one of Melbourne’s most important cultural organisations, adding that Llewellyn’s experience and enthusiasm would greatly benefit Victoria’s cultural scene.
“Caro brings exciting and highly relevant local and international experience to the Wheeler Centre in this, its second decade,” said Ms Oliver. “Her energy and her love of ideas, discussion and the written word artform are infectious. We feel certain she will uphold with great skill and passion the Wheeler Centre’s mission to support writers, publishers and booksellers, and to engage the community in good writing and challenging ideas.”
Melbourne-based Llewellyn began her life in literature as a publicist with publisher Random House before she was appointed artistic director and CEO of Sydney Writers’ Festival (2002–2006). She was also responsible for the first-ever writer’s talk at the Sydney Opera House, later programming the series, The Opera House Talks.
In 2006, Llewellyn was recruited by Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie to run the PEN World Voices Festival, which he had established for the human rights organisation, PEN America, in New York City. She was also the artistic director of both the New Literature from Europe Festival in New York (2013–2015) and the Paris-based Festival des Écrivains du Monde for Columbia University (2012–2015). In 2017, Llewellyn returned to Australia after 11 years living and working overseas to take up the position of Director of Experience and Engagement of Museums Victoria.
In 2019, her memoir, Diving into Glass, was published by Hamish Hamilton and earlier this year it was shortlisted for the 2020 Stella Prize. Most recently, she has established Together-Remotely.com, a ticketed online programme of live curated events designed to support writers, readers, booksellers and publishers impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns.
Llewellyn was appointed as the inaugural Director of Melbourne’s Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas (now known as the Wheeler Centre) when the centre was first established in 2008, but vacated the position before starting the role for personal reasons. She now succeeds Michael Williams, who worked at the Wheeler Centre from its inception in 2009 – first as the Head of Programming, then as Director – before stepping down earlier this year.
“I’m truly honoured to have the opportunity to continue the work of the indomitable Michael Williams as CEO of Melbourne’s beloved Wheeler Centre,” said Llewellyn. “Michael’s decade-long tenure has seen extraordinary growth in the Centre’s standing and impact, not only here in Melbourne, but across the nation and around the world through the Centre’s popular podcasts and online coverage.”
“The Wheeler Centre plays a critical and ever-more important role in helping us grapple with and ask hard questions about some of the most challenging social and political issues in our history. I salute Michael and all the staff who’ve done so much heavy lifting to bring this important work to life.”
“I am excited to work with the Board of Directors and the team to grow and diversify the Wheeler Centre’s reach, impact and audience engagement using all my international literary expertise and experience. The Wheeler Centre is committed to working with cultural partners to continue to expand Melbourne’s role as the cultural capital of Australia and a world-leading UNESCO City of Literature,” said Llewellyn.
“The Wheeler Centre has played an important part in our ideas and books ecology for a decade; hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis the Centre is at a critical point for its future direction,” said Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley.
“Caro Llewellyn has the credentials, connections and creativity to navigate these challenging times and I am sure the future of the Wheeler Centre and its many partners will be in safe hands. The Victorian Government will continue to be a key backer for the centre as it seeks new and different ways to engage with wider and more diverse audiences,” said Minister Foley.
Llewellyn will commence her role on Wednesday 15 July 2020. For more information, visit: www.wheelercentre.com for details.
Image: Caro Llewellyn – photo by Beowulf Sheehan