Acceptance, Diversity, and Conservation with Malcolm Clarke and Tu Meke Tūī!

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London based Kiwi film and television editor Malcolm Clarke chats with Amy Jane Bedwell about his exciting new children’s book, Tu Meke Tūī!
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Kia Ora Malcolm, thanks for Having the Chat with us! So, tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m 33 years old. I work as an editor for film and television. I’ve been working out of London for the past two years but I have travelled a lot for work. I love my job and the people I work with are totally mad but fantastically creative and a lot of fun. Recently I’ve been working on big budget entertainment shows like Xfactor UK, The Voice UK and Britain’s Got Talent.

As an editor my job is to enhance and refine story in a creative and considered way. There is a level of technical efficiency required but to be a great editor, for any genre you need to have a strong sense of how to tell a story.

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I was born in the mighty Waikato in 1983. True ‘moo loo’ territory. At various stages through blended family situations I’ve been the youngest, oldest, middle and only child, though I have been the oldest for the longest.

I actually thought that I was Māori until I was 14. I didn’t know my mothers side of the family very well so I just assumed because she had dark skin that she was Tainui. I met my maternal grandmother when I was 14 and I asked her about my heritage. She gave me a confused look and explained that I was actually of Italian and Spanish descent.

I feel like I’ve always been a story teller, which has manifested in various forms over the years. As a young boy I’d create shows and recite bedtime stories to my younger siblings from memory. At high school I took part in theatre, music and drama. I’m inspired by music, art and nature. I love making people laugh.Tu_Meke_Tui-5610

In 2013 I decided it was time to shake things up. I had a great job, fantastic friends and a nice place to live but it was all too easy. I packed up everything again and decided to move to Sydney with the aim to gain more experience so I could eventually live and work in the UK… AND HERE I AM.

 
You have worked in broadcasting for a long time, what drew you towards creating a children’s book?

There are many reasons why I wanted to write a children’s book but I guess the most important thing for me was to find a way to instil in our young readers a sense of appreciation of our native wildlife that I adore so much. If Tu Meke Tūī! helps young children become more familiar with our native birds, then perhaps when they are older they will be more likely to help look after and protect them in their role as our next generation of kaitiaki. As a single gay man, I’m unlikely to have children of my own so this is a way I can ‘leave something behind’ (so to speak) as a gift for my nieces, nephews and god children, of which there are an increasing number!!!

You worked with FLOX to create the visual elements of the story – what made you choose FLOX?

FLOX’s (aka Hayley King’s) work is so beautiful. She’s a super smart business woman who works very hard. She’s diverse, unique and a total hottie! Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to work with Tu_Meke_Tui-5439her? The story was inspired by her work, she’s very well known for her images of native flora and fauna. I knew a creative collaboration with her would have a good chance at success. Mary Egan Publishers were also very excited to work with her as her style offered up something completely fresh and new for the current children’s book market.

 

Does Tere the Tūī and Taitū the Takahē’s story stem from any personal circumstances or beliefs?

Absolutely! One of the main themes in the story is about accepting difference and embracing your own uniqueness. Tere the Tūī tries to teach Taitū the Takahē how to fly. Takahē are flightless birds, so of course he can’t fly but when Tere gets snapped up by Stan the Sly Stoat, Taitū comes to the rescue, kicking Stan away with his strong legs. As a gay man growing up in a heterosexual world, I know all too well how that feeling of ‘difference’ can be very isolating. Learning to be confident about who you are, is a subtle message but an important one to learn at a young age.

What is your coming out story?

I came out when I was 16 years old. I sat my parents down on the couch and told them outright. I thought I’d rip the bandaid off quickly. At the time I expected them to be ok with it all immediately but I think upon reflection that was really unfair. I had a good few years to come to terms with the fact that I was gay, even though I was quite young, and to expect them to be ok with everything instantly was unrealistic. It took us a few years but after some time we now have a fantastic relationship. My parents and family are super supportive and really proud.

If you were stranded on a desert island with three celebrities of your choice, who would they be?

Oh gosh… It would have to be Bear Grills, so he could look after me sourcing all the things from the wild that we needed to survive. Kristen Wiig for the lols and Tom Hardy, well it’s Tom Hardy… Guess you know my type now huh?

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 Teach the children in your life about acceptance, friendship and diversity with Tu Meke Tūī available online and from The Children’s Bookshop

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