Hilary Timmins: Showcasing Extraordinary Kiwis

You may recognise Hilary Timmins from her extended career gracing New Zealand TV screens, however this now London-based Kiwi is heading up a new project. Dream Catchers is a video series which showcases inspiring stories of New Zealand’s global winners. Featuring Kiwis from a variety of industries, Dream Catchers highlights their journeys, what motivates them, and how being a Kiwi has helped them along the way.

What’s your background and what brought you to live in the UK?

I grew up in Auckland and was working in tourism while doing some part time modelling and commercials before landing the role of co-host alongside John Hawkesby on the iconic Kiwi game show, ‘It’s in the Bag’. I was 19 at the time and it would be the beginning of an unbroken 22-year career on NZ television. John and I toured around the country for five years with It’s in the Bag and I feel very privileged to have been able to see so much of our beautiful country including filming a Christmas special at one of our most isolated outposts, Scott Base in Antarctica.

In the early 1990’s I began a long association with The New Zealand Lotteries Commission, starting by filming their lottery grant stories which I went on to write and direct before moving to Wellington to front the live Lotto Draw, which I did for sixteen years.

London called in 2011 when I moved with my son to join my partner, fellow New Zealander Robert Whitehouse.

What has been your experience of the Kiwi community living abroad?

One of the great things Rob did when I arrived was to join us up with the New Zealand community networks. I had never imagined I would go and live on the other side of the world at that stage in my life and I think he was concerned I would suffer from homesickness. The networks in London are amazing, incredibly inclusive and supportive.

I find the expat community here so generous with their contacts and willingness to reach down and pull each other up. This has been made so apparent when tragedy struck back home with the Christchurch earthquake and the more recent Mosque shootings, when the New Zealand whanau abroad gathered to grieve and pulled together to fundraise.

We’re a tight little band of brothers and sisters with one major thing in common, just because we’re far from home it doesn’t mean we’ve left.

How did Dream Catchers come about and why do you think it’s so important to share stories of Kiwi success abroad?

When the Christchurch earthquake happened, that galvanised the expat community to come together. I became involved in a number of different fundraising projects and began to meet some remarkable New Zealanders making a real impact globally across a broad spectrum of roles. It made me think – why are there so many New Zealanders fitting these roles and why do we not know about them at home? Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate these success stories and use them as a resource to encourage a new generation of young New Zealanders to dream big and reach for their goals no matter where in world they are.

I was fortunate to get the support of the community networks behind me including Kea and the New Zealand Society UK and thanks to the generosity of key individuals Kent Gardner and Paul Gough and a great team working with me, Dream Catchers became a reality. It didn’t happen overnight but it did happen!

How were people chosen for the broadcast series and are there any common traits?

We had filmed over sixty stories to be part of the educational resource and when TVNZ said they would be interested in broadcasting eight commercial half hour episodes we thought (A) this would be a great flagship for the project and (B) there’s no way everyone can be in it. All the people we filmed were amazing but for the broadcast series we decided we had to focus on having different occupations within a theme, diversification of gender and ethnicity and each story had to carry a different message.

There are definitely common traits that carry through the series and that I believe are specific to us as New Zealanders; the number eight wire is part of our DNA, we are problem solvers, we are well-educated, we are egalitarian, we are generalists and we are tenacious. If there is a way to make it happen we will find it.

What is your goal for Dream Catchers?

Dream Catchers has screened twice on TVNZ One, as well as on Air New Zealand with some episodes also going to Air Canada and British Airways. The goal now is to make it accessible to our global community as well as to get it in front of the young New Zealanders we want to inspire.

Putting it on YouTube is a way to share and celebrate these success stories internationally and hopefully we can also find the funding to put the remaining stories up on YouTube and continue shining a spotlight on what New Zealanders are doing around the world because everything we do outside New Zealand reflects on New Zealand.

How do you see your relationship with New Zealand after being away for so long?

It’s a funny thing but I think you become more patriotic. I’m very proud and thankful to be a New Zealander. I wouldn’t want to be anything else.

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