Hilary Timmins graced our television screens for decades before relocating to London where she was so inspired by high achieving Kiwi ex-pats she created an award-winning documentary series.
In 2011 former television presenter Hilary Timmins moved to Britain to be with her partner, executive film producer Robert Whitehouse. “It was a tough decision to leave New Zealand and particularly courageous of my son Callum who has since gone on to graduate university and works in a music studio here. We go home to New Zealand as often as we can and fortunately I was there earlier this year,” she says.
A Seed Is Planted
It was during UK fundraising events for the Christchurch earthquake that a seed was planted. “I began meeting amazing Kiwis doing extraordinary things,” Hilary says. “I thought their stories made a great career motivational tool but it wasn’t until I was talking to Kent Gardner — a businessman and philanthropist — who also thought the stories should be told that an idea solidified. Kent and Rob were incredibly supportive of the idea for Dream Catchers, without them it wouldn’t have happened. Raising funding was a mission. I couldn’t get the TV channels interested to facilitate NZ On Air funding and kept hitting dead ends with corporate sponsorship. It was Kent and Rob who kept telling me, ‘You can do this’.”
Making It Happen
Funding came through private sponsorship and charitable grants from the New Zealand Society UK and NZUK Link. Kea, the global network for New Zealanders were also supportive with contacts and promotion.
“Dream Catchers is designed to be a gift to young people, to help them move forward to fulfilling their dreams.”
Contemporary Career Heroes
Dream Catchers tells of extraordinary career successes across arts, culture, entertainment, sport, food, wine, homes, garden, film, fashion and business. Whaea Esther Kerr Jessop started the London Māori Club, Professor Ken Rea of Guildhall’s School of Drama has trained actors like Orlando Bloom, Ewan McGregor and Daniel Craig, there’s Formula E race driver Mitch Evans, opera singer Jonathon Lemalu, principal ballerina Delia Mathews, landscape designer Anthony Paul, fashion designer Emilia Wickstead and chef Peter Gordon as well as historic Kiwi mentions like Sir Keith Park who led the Battle of Britain and Bruce McLaren founder of McLaren Motorsport.
“Some of the biggest corporates in the world are based in the UK and have Kiwi CEOs –Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas was the first woman to lead the City of London in its thousand-year history, Mark Wilson was CEO of insurance giant AVIVA and Josh Bayliss is CEO of Richard Branson’s Virgin,” says Hilary. “I think Dream Catchers is an opportunity to lift our contemporary career heroes up and highlight the qualities that make Kiwis different. We’re problem solvers, don’t tell us we can’t do something because we’ll find a way to make it work. Perseverance, tenacity and not giving up are part of who we are.”
Hilary also wanted to show that failure can be one of your biggest successes. “The career journey often sees us wanting to do one thing at 18 but by 25 we might pivot, we don’t have careers for life anymore – we have stepping stones – nothing is wasted,” she says.
Last year Hilary was delighted to be the recipient of The British prime minister’s Points Of Light award which acknowledges people doing outstanding work in their community. “It was lovely for both the series, the people who gave me the privilege of telling their stories and a credit to Kent Gardner and Paul Gough, the two individuals who provided the largest amount of funding. They both come from humble backgrounds and believe you can do anything but sometimes you need a key to unlock the possibilities,” she says.
“Your ‘Dream Catchers’ project is an innovative way of showcasing the success of New Zealanders across the globe. You should be very proud of your work to inspire and educate others through storytelling and I wish you every success as the project progresses.”
– Prime Minister Theresa May
The series has since screened on TVNZ1 and Hilary’s vision for Dream Catchers to be accessible to schools and young people has now become a reality through their educational partnership with CATE ( Careers and Transition Education NZ) “The stories are relateable because they are about New Zealanders,” she says.