Bloomsday 2016, Collected Works Bookshop (photograph: Richard Mudford)
Kris Hemensley's book launch, 2016 (photograph: Richard Mudford)
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building, 1997 (photograph: Liz Ham)
In the first part of our two-part series on Collected Works Bookshop, Kris Hemensley writes about the Shop’s inception, its early history and the Vali Myers connection.
A meeting place for writers and readers, Collected Works Bookshop is one of Melbourne's favourite independent bookstores currently located in the historic Nicholas Building on Swanston Street. In fact, writes Kris Hemensley, the bookstore's current location was "an idea promoted by the late Vali Myers”.
Collected Works Bookshop was the natural issue of the Small Publishers Collective of 1984, the most important literary press among which was Robert Kenny's Rigmarole Books. It was Robert's brain-wave to create a bookshop dedicated to small press literature, run by a voluntary roster of writers and publishers. Some of the better known members were Jurate Sasnaitis, Des Cowley, Pete Spence, Nan McNab, Rob Finlayson.
Vali Myers began visiting the Shop when it was situated in the Flinders Lane Arcade building on Flinders Lane (our home from 1987-99), opposite Ross House. It would have been into the ‘90s when she first came in. Vali and friends, kind of Pied Piper-ish. She found us again in the 99-02 when we were down in the basement at 254 Flinders Street, a tenant of the CAE. As it became increasingly uncomfortable down there (CAE plans to sell that part of their property) we began sussing out other locations. And Vali’s famous comment was, ‘What are you doing in this dungeon, darling? Come up to my building [the Nicholas]’ …which in fact is what transpired, but at the eleventh hour, last days of December 02, receiving the keys the day before Gross Waddell (the agents at that time) closed their office for the holiday! I love the thought of the connection with Vali… several visits and conversations over a period… When we got into the Nicholas I sent her a card to tell her we’d made it to her building. Very sadly she was in the Epworth Hospital at that time… I’d seen a piece on her in The Melbourne Times, and photographed in her hospital bed… looking forward to her next journey she said… She died shortly after. Would have been wonderful had she been able to visit us there… Hers, of course, is an important spirit of the Nicholas Building…