Judith Rodriguez remembers the elegance of the Victorian Writers Centre’s first home in Tasma Terrace, which sat behind a high, iron fence in East Melbourne.
Judith became Chair of the organisation in 1993 (a post she held until 1996), just after the Centre moved to its next home at the Broom Factory in Fitzroy. The Broom Factory, she recalls, was much more built for purpose, and the start of Melbourne’s literary hub – with Express Media just down the hall.
As well as Chairing the Committee, running workshops at the Writers Centre (now, of course, called Writers Victoria) and writing for our magazine, Judith was also appointed as the organisation’s first honorary Matron.
And as for our current home in the Wheeler Centre, Judith remembers the venue’s earlier days when this wing of the State Library included some of the holdings of the Victorian Art Gallery while its current home was being built, and the Russell Street entrance led to a hall of museum animal exhibits – most notably a bad taxidermy gorilla that “looked as if it had been boiled in oil”.
“What a long way the Writers Centre has come,“ Judith writes, “From intimate readings to the whole expanding program of workshops and literary events, in a UNESCO-proclaimed City of Literature – from writers themselves doing the administration (I’m thinking of Carmel Bird, Bev Roberts, and Kristin Henry, to the staff group with its network of professional contacts.
What a line-up of rich characters and literature tragics we’ve had in our executive officers, each with initiatives to enrich our writing community. And how much better we know one another, with Writers Victoria as our meeting-point. I’ve lamented our loss of Collected Works bookshop as neighbour – but strangely, now that Little Lon is coming alive with new businesses, we find ourselves near a bookshop and a good restaurant, the Moat, in our Wheeler Centre reincarnation.
The party is in order – bring on the fireworks!”
Judith was awarded Life Membership of Writers Victoria in 2003 for her contribution to the organisation.