“It’s been an almost impossible decision to make, and it has been such a privilege dedicating my career to championing the work of writers both here and across the globe. For now, it’s time to focus on my own creative work,” said Ms Llewellyn.
“I will be stepping down from this wonderful role to focus on writing my next book – a novel I’ve had in my top drawer for the past three years – and to dedicate more time to creating bespoke cultural experiences and advocating for people living with disability in the arts and leadership roles.”
Appointed in 2020, Caro Llewellyn saw The Wheeler Centre through two years of pandemic restrictions, leading the development of innovative digital works and hybrid events to continue engaging audiences with books, writing and ideas.
With borders closed, Ms Llewellyn’s Postcards from Abroad series reignited global cultural conversation, delivering longform digital interviews with some of the most exciting names in international literature including Jonathan Franzen, David Sedaris, Fran Lebowitz, Ruth Ozeki, Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt and Salman Rushdie.
This innovation, and Llewellyn’s advocacy within the industry, set The Wheeler Centre up for a successful return to live events in 2022, during which the organisation produced over 160 events, alongside the introduction of its popular new series Spring Fling.
“Caro is an outstanding creative thinker and leader, and she has led The Wheeler Centre through an extraordinarily challenging period, including the rollercoaster of the pandemic and its aftermath,” said The Wheeler Centre Chair, Kate Torney OAM.
“Her optimism, creativity and dedication have been instrumental in ensuring that the Wheeler Centre emerged from this stronger than ever.”
“Under Caro’s leadership, the Wheeler Centre has enhanced its ability to pursue big, bold ideas in a highly sophisticated way.
“She has also built and nurtured a highly skilled and committed team which is now embracing the many opportunities which have emerged in a hybrid, post-lockdown environment,” said Ms Torney.
Ms Llewellyn’s tenure has seen the organisation reach new audiences, increase accessible payment options with ‘Pay What You Wish’ and ‘No One Turned Away for Lack of Funds’ pricing, champion digital and hybrid event deliveries.
Ms Llewellyn also brought numerous high-profile international and local guests to stages and screens including Roxane Gay, Geraldine Brooks, Kevin Rudd, Stephanie Alexander, Courtney Act, Eddie Betts, Jane Campion, Kamila Shamsie, Missy Higgins, and the first-ever public Australian appearance of Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani.
The Wheeler Centre has also introduced new programming, including the recent M/OTHER series, and explored diverse forms – from operas to lunches – with partners such as National Gallery of Victoria, State Library Victoria, RISING, Always Live, Malthouse Theatre, Open House Melbourne, Immigration Museum, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, The Sofitel Melbourne, and Blak & Bright First Nations Literary Festival.
Ms Llewellyn’s first-hand experience as a writer and an arts executive living with disability has been essential in her advocacy for industry support, seeking additional funding for the Next Chapter writers scheme, regional and interstate touring, and the Centre’s education and youth programming.
The Next Chapter has now supported 40 writers with four books published or set to be published. The Wheeler Centre’s regional programming has benefitted communities around Victoria including Warrnambool, Ballarat, Castlemaine and the Macedon Ranges.
During her time as CEO, Ms Llewellyn oversaw a growth in interstate programming, including a major new partnership with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and a commitment to centring young voices, with The Wheeler Centre programming more than 30 young people in 2022 and establishing the unique Teens Talk development program for educators.
“It breaks my heart to leave this wonderful organisation, but I know its foundations are stronger than ever. Under the visionary stewardship of Chair Kate Torney, with the dedication of the directors and the extraordinary talent and commitment of the wider team, The Wheeler Centre will continue to thrive and go on to have even greater success and impact,” said Ms. Llewellyn.
Caro Llewellyn will vacate the role at the end of her contract in July 2023. Recruitment will begin shortly to secure a new CEO for The Wheeler Centre.
For more information about The Wheeler Centre, visit: www.wheelercentre.com for details.
Image: Caro Llewellyn – photo by Beowulf Sheehan