Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
07 Feb, 2020
2020 is a big year for Same Same But Different, as AUT alum Sam Orchard takes the helm as programme director.
Sam took some time in the week before the festival to chat to the AUT team about taking on the role, and what it means to him.
What does being Programme Director mean to you?
“Putting together the programme for Same Same But Different 2020, Peter (Wells) has been at the forefront of my mind. This is the first year of the festival since Peter passed, and I really wanted to honour his legacy and what he’s created. He opened the door to me in inviting me to be part of the festival, and that was really meaningful to me.
“You know, comics are not generally seen as high art, or high literature, but Peter welcomed me in, and I want to make sure we keep those doors open. I hope we’re following in his footsteps, because he was always pushing boundaries in his writing.”
What has inspired you about past festivals?
“The most powerful thing to me is the community within a community created by this festival. It gives us a space to celebrate our community, and what being part of our wider society has cost us over the years, and what we bring to it.
“I’m so grateful to Peter and the Board for the work they’ve done in the past five years to create this space that is so clear and open, and has opened up space for new conversations. Being able to come together for a few days to discuss and share, whether as an author, or as part of the audience is so powerful.
“The conversations that we have during the festival can be hilarious, they can be challenging, they can be both.
“Age is a really interesting aspect for this year’s festival. We have a really big spread of age amongst our writers, and I’m looking forward to the space they’ll create, from Victor offering his perspective on the playwright’s panel, to the Saturday night event Let’s Talk About Sex where we have Mark Hendrickson talking about his research into sex and sexuality in aged care, to Melody Thomas of RNZ and Sam Te Kani of the Vice series Sex With Sam offering a younger perspective, and Joanne Drayton talking about her work in biography, writing about real people, public figures, and their experience of sex growing up in a time when homosexuality wasn’t acceptable and ‘rules’ around experience around of women’s sexuality were much more conservative.”
What are your must attend events at this year’s festival?
“I honestly think all of them. The key is the whole festival experience! But if forced to choose a couple, I’d like to highlight the session on Saturday afternoon honouring Victor Rodger – he’s brought so much to our communities and he’s such a powerful storyteller – and I can’t wait to celebrate his work as a community.
“The other great event for poetry lovers, especially those feeling brave, is our PRIDE Poetry Speak Easy pre-event on Wednesday.
“We’ve got something for everyone.”
What is the role of art and comics in building understanding of people not always centred in mainstream media?
“The combination of imagery and words is a strength for me. When I think about Peter he used words in such a strong way you could visualise what he was writing about. The act of reading is a visual experience for me. That informs the art I make.
“Advocacy seems inseparable (from my art) because of my own experiences of both marginalisation and privilege – I’m really fascinated by that and the ways we seek to both cover up our own and other people’s marginalisation and privilege. The more we can talk about it, and bring to the surface, the more than we can uncover.
“In my art, that might mean drawing about dressing up in a dinosaur onesie – or about exposing flaws in social welfare.”
You’ve studied a varied range of things in your life – from creative arts and media to law to creative writing. What highlights do you have from your tertiary education?
“I feel like my media degree taught me how to read, my law degree taught me how to write. My Master of Creative Writing taught me to put both into practice.
“Interviewing people from the rainbow community and putting their stories into comics coincided with when I first started medically transitioning, so it led to an exploration of my own self. It was amazing to reflect on myself through that process. It’s hard finding to words for yourself when they don’t exist. It’s hard to claim them as ourselves. When we see ourselves reflected, or not, in others it grows our understanding of ourselves and our surrounding world. That is one of the things I found most valuable about my Masters of Creative Writing.”