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Children’s Book Festival 2015

This coming Sunday the kids of Melbourne (and the big kids at heart) are in for a treat.

The Children’s Book Fair 2015 will take over the State Library and the Wheeler Centre from 10am till 4pm, featuring author talks, live performances, a picnic library, and a Monster Marquee where you can make a pair of horns to wear and keep — among other fun stuff.

The entire event is free for all, but you will need to book seats for the ‘Meet the Authors and Illustrators’ sessions. Unfortunately a few of the big name author sessions — Shaun Tan, Andy Griffiths, Hazel Edwards — are already booked out, but there are still tickets available for the others. If your heart’s set on attending one of these booked out talks, it’s sometimes still worth turning up on the day to see if have been any cancellations or no-shows — but be prepared for disappointment.

You can view the entire day’s programme here.

Children’s Book Festival 2015

Date: 22 March 2015

Time: 10am–4pm

Venue: State Library of Victoria and The Wheeler Centre

The Wheeler Centre map_The Melbourne Local


Peel Street Block Party 2015

Everyone loves a block party.

This Saturday, the Peel Street Block Party will rock it with live music, a fashion show, food and market stalls, and live art. Presented by Three Thousand, Northside Records and The Social Studio — a fashion school-slash-label focussed on providing training and employment opportunities to youth migrants and refugees — this event will feature acts including Banoffee, Baro, Queen Magic and performance poet Abe Nouk. Check out the event’s Facebook page for all the juicy details.

This is exactly the kind of event that Melbourne does well — casual, creative, multicultural. Get down to Collingwood to soak up the vibes from 12pm to 6pm.

Peel Street Block Party 2015

Date: 14 March 2015

Time: 12pm–6pm

Address: Corner of Peel St and Oxford St, Collingwood

Damage: Free

Peel St x Oxford St map

Sidney Myer Free Concerts 2015

It’s summer in Melbourne, which means the annual Sidney Myer Free Concerts are fast approaching.

This year, the three concerts will be held over eight days from the 14th to 21st of February (Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday). Each concert will feature a soloist (soprano, piano and violin respectively) and is arranged around a theme: A Musical Valentine, Summer Nights in Budapest, and Bohemian Rhapsody.

If you’ve attended these free concerts in the past, you will know that the venue fills up fast — you will have to arrive a couple of hours early to nab a decent spot on the grass. If you haven’t been before, go. It’s rare to have the chance to hear the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for free, and even rarer to be able to sit with friends and listen under the stars.

If you’re in Melbourne this summer, lap it up.

And a note to my readers — this Melbourne Local is not, in fact, currently in Melbourne (cheers from Dili, East Timor!) so apologies for the lack of updates of late. I’ll be back in Melbourne in late February so hopefully I’ll get back on the blogging horse then. Enjoy!

Sidney Myer Free Concerts 2015 

Dates: 14, 18 & 21 February 2015

Time: 7pm (gates open at 4pm)

Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Adress: Linlithgow Avenue, Melbourne

Damage: Free

Sidney Myer Music Bowl map

Sunset Series 2015

Melburnians don’t need much coaxing to get out and enjoy the city’s parks during summer, but in case you need some extra motivation, the Sunset Series in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens should give you a kick where you need it.

For the next two weekends, there will be free entertainment on Saturday and Sunday evenings, including two dance workshops. The Saturday events — each featuring four music acts — will start at 5pm and last till 8.45pm, while the Sunday dance workshops will also begin at around 5pm. There will be food trucks on site if you can’t muster a picnic.

Here’s the full line-up:

Saturday 10 January:
5–5.45pm Beautiful Beasts
6–6.45pm Dash
7–7.45pm APES
8–8.45pm Echo Drama

Sunday 11 January:
5pm Melbourne Salsa Dance Workshop with Live Latin Band

Saturday 17 January:
5–5.45pm Dan Flynn and the State of Things
6–6.45pm The Tiger and Me
7–7.45pm Passerine
8–8.45pm Madre Monte

Sunday 18 January:
5pm Rhythm and Spice Bollywood Dance Workshop

A couple years back I saw the Bollywood dance workshop and it was a lot of fun. Take a picnic and get ready for a boogie in the sun.

Sunset Series 2015

Dates: 10–11 and 17–18 January 2015

Times: 5pm–9pm

Venue: Fitzroy Gardens

Address: 230-298 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne

Tel: 9658 9658

Damage: Free

Note that these events are weather-dependent so please check in with the That’s Melbourne Facebook page if it looks like rain.

Fitzroy Gardens map

Lolo & Wren

It’s always a promising sign when a cafe located roughly in the middle of nowhere is still functional. Even better when it’s thriving. This, surely, is when you know you’re onto something good.

Cycling to Lolo & Wren, I was sure I must have copied the wrong address. I found myself in inner-suburban no man’s land — an obscure part of Brunswick West somewhere between Melville Road and the CityLink tollway. Yep, romantic.

But there it was, nestled among houses and apartment buildings, with little to attract punters apart from an A-frame sign and a few glowing recommendations.

Run by husband and wife team Franco and Karen Caruso, it’s Lolo & Wren’s food that’s put it on the highly competitive Melbourne cafe map — no wonder considering Franco is a former Scottish Young Chef of the Year (2006). The cafe itself is large and bright, with an open kitchen and a central wooden bench perfect for perching to read the newspaper.

On a recommendation I tried the pancakes with pear, almonds, walnuts and mascarpone, and my friend had an egg and bacon brekkie that, for once, really was restaurant quality. Both were delish and the servings were huge; I have it on good authority that some of the dishes really ought to be shared. The prices here are on the upper end of standard for the inner suburbs — generally around $19 for breakfast — but here you really get your money’s worth.

This one is definitely worth the cycle.

Lolo & Wren

Address: 484 Albion Street Brunswick West, Vic, 3055

Tel: 9383 3712

Opening Hours: 7am–4pm Monday–Friday, 8am–4pm Saturday and Sunday

Lolo & Wren map
Read more reviews at Lolo and Wren on Urbanspoon

Spectacular Christmas Spectacular

If you’re keen to get down and Christmassy this festive season, why not kick things off with the Spectacular Christmas Spectacular. This concert, to be held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Saturday, is presented by The School of Hard Knocks, an organisation that aims to empower disadvantaged people through the arts. The show will feature a whole bunch of local choirs, including the Choir of Hope and Inspiration, formally known as the Choir of Hard Knocks (made famous by the popular five-part ABC documentary a few years ago). Here’s a short (heavily edited) clip from the documentary:

If this video is anything to judge by, you’re in for a weepy evening of spine tingly goodness.

Spectacular Christmas Spectacular!

Date: 13 December 2014

Time: 7.30pm

Venue: Melbourne Town Hall

Address: 90–120 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Damage: $35 full / $25 conc / $16 under 12s

Melbourne Town Hall map

Free Opera in the Bowl 2014

Ooh! Free opera!

This Opera in the Bowl event at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on the 13th will feature five singers performing a selection of chorus pieces and arias from popular operas including Madame Butterfly, Carmen and The Pearl Fishers.

These free events are always incredibly popular so turn up early if you want a spot on the grass. Gates open at 4pm so I’d recommend taking a picnic and a good book and arriving as early as possible.

As we all know, opera tickets are far too expensive in this country so if you enjoy classical music it’s really worth taking advantage of this rare free event under the stars.

Mazda Opera in the Bowl

Date: 13 December 2014

Time: 8pm start (doors open at 4pm)

Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Myer Music Bowl map

Food Truck Festival at Coburg Drive-In

For a city madly in love with all things retro, plus all things food (particularly, for the moment at least, if said food is made in a truck), the Coburg Drive-In’s monthly Food Truck Festival is going down a treat.

Many Melburnians have never heard of the drive-in cinema in Coburg, let alone seen a movie there. Now, not only can you rock up with car-load of friends to see new-release films like in the good old days, but once a month you can munch on some tasty food truck grub as you watch.

This month, the Food Truck Fest happens Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 November, with eight different trucks in attendance on both nights. Click here to check out the truck selection and flicks showing this week.

Movie tickets cost $17.50 for an adult, $14 for concessions and $40 for a car load (five people max).

Food Truck Festival

Dates: Monthly (check website to confirm dates)

Time: from 6pm

Damage: $17.50 full / $14 conc. / $40 car (five people)

Coburg Drive-In map

West Writers Our Stories Forum

There’s something special about the Footscray Community Arts Centre. I have only recently been introduced to this organisation, but its reputation as one of the country’s leading community-based contemporary arts centres precedes it by a mile. When I finally made it there for the centre’s recent 40th birthday celebration, I found an inclusive, unpretentious gathering place for west Melbourne’s multicultural arts community — the sort of place where everyone seemed to know everyone. Its lovely riverside location is just an added sweetener.

Footscray Community Arts Centre_Stories forum

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit the FCAC, this Saturday is the perfect opportunity. The West Writers Our Stories Forum will feature panel discussions, presentations, launches, workshops and story walks, including a 1.5-hour workshop with award-winning author Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap, Loaded), a panel chaired by The Lifted Brow‘s editor-in-chief Sam Cooney, live performances by Still Nomads and the launch of Ascension Magazine. The event aims to examine the significance of stories in Australia’s diverse communities, and how this diversity is represented in the country’s literary scene.

The forum runs all day and costs $20 — a bargain if you ask me. You can book tickets here. For more details about the forum, including a full programme, visit the event page on the FCAC website.

West Writers Our Stories Forum

Date: 14 November 2014

Time: 10am–9.30pm

Venue: Footscray Community Arts Centre

Address: 45 Moreland St, Footscray

Damage: $20 forum pass

Queen Vic Night Market returns

Heads up, people. The Queen Vic Night Market returns next Wednesday (5 November) for another season of yum food, cool tunes, twinkly lights and sweaty crowds. Yes, it’s full of overheating tourists and it can be nigh on impossible to find a seat, but come here on a balmy summer evening and you’ll feel like you’re on holiday (or perhaps you are on holiday — in which case, soak it up!).

The market runs every Wednesday night until 25 March 2015 except Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

The Night Market

Dates: 5 November 2014 — 25 March 2015

Time: 5pm–10am

Where: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

Queen Vic Market map