Elizabeth Bourn (née Andrews) was born and raised in Wellington. After attending Wellington East Girls’ College, she embarked on a radio cadetship at station 2YA, based on The Terrace. When the training programme was disbanded midway through the cadetship, she shifted to a job in accounts at regional TV station WNTV-1 on Waring Taylor Street.
Bourn’s office was next to the make-up room, and one day she chanced upon the script for a radio commercial that had been left on the floor. She was reading the lines, "making a bit of fun of it", when a senior female announcer emerged from the make-up room and proclaimed: “you’ll never make it with a voice like that”. Bourn was keen to prove the naysayer wrong. Operations Supervisor Ash Lewis arranged an audition for her. Bourn made her debut in front of the WNTV-1 cameras on Sunday, 4 June 1964. At 19, she became the youngest continuity announcer in local TV history.
As a continuity presenter, Bourn's job was to fill the gaps between shows. As well as programme and promotional information, she sometimes presented the weather and read the late night news bulletin. When local television began broadcasting earlier in the day, afternoon shifts included short interviews. Continuity announcers were sometimes the only 'visitor' that viewers had, and many enjoyed considerable popularity.
Bourn became well-known as 'The Friday Girl’, because she was often the early evening hostess on that day. TV had only launched in New Zealand in 1960, and the ropes were being learnt on air: she recalls a blooper where the soundtrack of MGM’s iconic roaring lion (from the end credits of the previous programme) accidentally played over a shot of her with her mouth agape.
In 1966 she left for an OE in the UK. On her return the following year, she married pioneering producer Christopher Bourn (New Faces, Night Sky). She worked behind the scenes for a number of years in the camera department and also as a make-up artist, then when the opportunity arose, re-auditioned for a TV 'hostess' role in the early 70s.
Seventeen years followed as a continuity presenter with state television, based mainly at Avalon Studios. Among the interviews, personal highlights included chats with Lindsay Perigo when they were both performing in a production of musical South Pacific, and a talk with Māori broadcaster Wiremu Parker, as part of Māori Language Week.
By the mid-80s TVNZ was shifting away from on-screen hosts, as advertising and promotional requirements took precedence; 1988 marked Bourn’s last year of doing continuity. She left to concentrate on motherhood, but continued to appear in musical stage shows and plays, including singing in the chorus of Mercury Theatre's production of Carousel in 1990, and the lead role of Anna, in a North Shore Operatic production of The King and I.
Bourn fondly remembers the early days of TV at WNTV-1, before TV became more commercially focused. It’s apt that the continuity presenter gets to wrap her profile: “Everyone was learning, and people chipped in across different shows. As well as presenting, I was a make-up artist, and was always available to be part of the audience for music shows like Let's Go. It was new and fun — it was the best of times.”
Unknown Writer, ’Scene & Heard’, The NZ Women’s Weekly, 6 August 1990
Unknown Writer, ’Family Game is Catching’, The Auckland Star, 20 June 1967