The Wheeler Centre is a cultural institution dedicated to books, writing and ideas. It is the centrepiece of Melbourne’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature and organises events, lectures, readings and debates about literature and a wide range of other issues. All the events I've been to there have been really thought-provoking, and they are a great way to gain insight into both contemporary writing and 21st-century Australia. And one of the best things about The Wheeler Centre is that most of the events are free! Reserving tickets through the website is very simple so if you're visiting Melbourne make sure you check out The Wheeler Centre's programme.
This online poetry collection of works by local Melbourne spoken word artists and poets is a great way to get a feel for the city and its people. Each poem is inspired by a different place (a statue, a building, a street corner) and the poems have been organised into a series of poetry walks, which you can download as MP3 files. Explore Melbourne through its poets and you'll discover what a creative and inspiring city this is.
"I want some culture / Never mind the cheese / I just wanna hear music / And originality / I want some culture / Never mind the TV / Just wanna hear music / Down at the 303..."
And so with these lyrics began my quest to track down this must-see live music venue in trendy Northcote, north Melbourne. These are the opening lines of a song called "Down at the 303" by Melbourne's most famous sons, The Cat Empire, a band who my Australian wife had introduced me to over here in grey old England when we were a-courtin'. And I fell in love with her, and with the band. And with Melbourne, though I'd never been there. No matter, my wife and I arranged our wedding and honeymoon so I could see it. We got married in Australia, on the Gold Coast, then flew down to Melbourne for the honeymoon. And I fell in love again. It was July, winter time, totally out of season, but I loved it. The sun shone, it rained, it hailed, all on the same tram ride through town. And on our last night in Melbourne, we made it down to the 303.
Barely noticeable on High Street, Northcote, they don't really even have a sign outside, but it's identifiable as being next door to the Northcote Social Club.
We walked in, my heart pounding. An intimate, cosy bar upstairs, low lighting, and conspiratorial chats between young lovers. We got a drink. We moved downstairs to the venue. It was heaving, and sweaty. Some of the quietest, most beautiful live music I've ever heard was being played by a band I've now forgotten the name of. But there was no hustle or bustle, no angry, angsty pushing and shoving. Everyone was sat cross-legged on the floor. My wife and I joined them, rubbing knees with smiling strangers. It was a beautiful evening.
The Cat Empire's song (see youtube link below) is about the joy of seeing a local band in a small, local, intimate venue. It's about getting out there and finding the girl of your dreams at the gig of a lifetime, not sitting at home watching TV, not listening to cheese.
"Music is for living/ Yes, music is essential/ Music should take risks and be experimental/ In the cultchaaaa!!!"
Go check it out, go find the life of your dreams.
Melbourne is the home of footy. The game was devised here, was first played here in a paddock (on what is today part of the MCG) and, despite it branching out to be played, spectated on and barracked on in all corners of Australia, Melbourne still rules the footy.
The 'footy' is aussie speak for football, which is played under the rules of the Australian Football League.
However, this football is like no other on earth. It is uniquely Australian and uses some of the skill sets from Gaelic football (but not use of their round ball), some of the tackling skills of the two rugby codes and the use of the oval Rugby ball but none of the hassles of 'offside', 'own goal', or 'handball' which taint the rules of soccer.
It is a 'winter' game played by both sexes and is very much a sport where the entire family can attend and barrack for their favourite team (or player). It is a game with history going back to the early 1850s and with its rules and first clubs pre-dating even the setup of other major football codes. Some of the rules even relate to age-old aboriginal sports which featured jumping to catch a ball made of possum fur, today reflected in the rules related to 'overhead marking'
Our great game results in a Grand Final (after 22 matches between 16 national teams) traditionally held on the last Saturday in September.
The rules? Too many and complex to list here so I suggest a visit to the AFL website or, if in Melbourne between March and September, go to the footy! It's a Melbourne institution!
Visting Melbourne's Chinatown - the oldest area of continuous Chinese settlement in the western world is a great way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon. Lots to see (as the history of the area dates back to the 1840s and 1850s), plenty of places to have a bite and while there, visit the Chinese Museum.
along Little Bourke Street City
plus the alleys which link the area to Bourke St and Lonsdale St
Museum of Chinese Australian History
22 Cohen Place Melbourne
Victoria 3000 Australia
Phone: 9662 2888
Melbourne, the culture capital of Australia, has a regular international film festival showing 300 films and over 100 shorts over 19 days at 5 or 6 different theatres. The film offerings are amazing - just go.
Various venues. For more information see www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au/2006Festival
The Melbourne Motorcycle Toy Run has become a Christmas institution in Melbourne. Upwards of 10,000 bikers, their bikes decorated with tinsel and baubles, get together across the suburbs and head into the middle of the city, before heading off to Williamstown. Once there, the bikers hand over toys and food they have collected to various charities.
It's a big event with whole blocks of the city cordoned off and accessible only to those on two wheels. Those joining in get dressed up as Santa or elves.
Toy Run is a great day out for bikers helping the needy at Christmas.
Fifteen minutes outside Melbourne is the former home of John and Sunday Reed, now open to the public. From the 1930s onwards their home, once an old dairy farm, was a centre of the Australian modernist movement. The couple were passionate supporters and patrons of the leading Australian artists of the day. Sidney Nolan painted his famous Ned Kelly series in their dining room.
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen 3105; www.heide.com.au;
For more news on the gallery's redevelopment, see www.theage.com.au/news/arts/new-heides-bigger-picture/2006/07/10/1152383621295.html
To truly understand what makes a Melbournian tick you should make sure you include a trip to an AFL game during your stay. ‘Aussie rules,’ as it is known, is a Victorian obsession and the smallness of the players shorts have to seen to be believed.
Absolutely beautiful place in the Dandenong mountains. A day trip worth doing. See amazingly lifelike sculptures carved out of the natural environment. The man was an amazing artist. The sanctuary has a magical feel to it, and the Dandenongs are great to visit. Finish off your trip with afternoon tea and scones in the cafe opposite. Perfect.
Great galleries - collection and space, constantly rotating exhibitions and interesting permanent collections.
Split over two sites - both fantastic spaces.
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