Harold Beven reckons he’s the luckiest man to serve in the Second World War. Born in a village east of London, he saw plenty of action in the (UK) Royal Navy, but by his own admission, never got his feet wet. Joining up as soon as possible after the outbreak of war, Beven served in almost all the naval theatres. As a Chief Petty Officer, he was involved in the evacuations of Greece and Crete — and later the allied invasions of Sicily and Italy — as well as the D-Day invasion of France. At the age of 96, Beven remembers entire conversations as if it was yesterday.
When Frank Sanft’s older brother was killed early in World War ll, it only intensified Frank’s determination to serve. Joining the Royal Navy, he was eventually assigned to Operation PLUTO, which involved laying an undersea fuel pipeline between the UK and Cherbourg (vital in keeping Allied vehicles moving, directly after the invasion of France). Frank laughs now at a close call with a sniper ashore in France. Serving in the Pacific, he was there after Singapore’s notorious Changi PoW camp was liberated. In 2017 Sanft was awarded a prestigious French Legion of Honour.
Reg Dunbar’s war was mostly fought in the skies above Europe and North Africa. His first bombing raids over Germany were as an RAF tail gunner in a Vickers Wellington plane - a cold and lonely job he says. For the rest of that tour he was in the wireless operator’s seat, the job he’d trained for. In North Africa the squadron supported the Eighth Army, the famous Desert Rats. Reg also took part in the first thousand bomber raid over Cologne. Later he worked on the secret 'Moonshine' radar, which fooled the Germans into thinking a bomber formation was on the way.
With the phrase “we were lucky to get away with it” and a ready laugh, 97-year-old Douglas Smith describes some of the close calls he had as a trainee and later bomber pilot during World War ll. Luck yes, but skill too, as he survived a 30 mission tour of duty. Douglas first tasted action flying a small, twin engine Dakota Boston over France and the Netherlands. Graduating to four engine Lancasters, he took part in huge raids over some of Germany’s biggest cities. Never afraid himself, he laments the vast loss of life among friends and enemies.
Aged 15, Lauren Jackson swapped high school and amateur theatre to star in movie Alex, inspired by the Tessa Duder bestseller about a teenage swimmer who competes in the Olympic Games. Time in Germany fuelled the writing of both Jackson's first play (the award-winning Exchange), and university studies on the German and Kiwi film industries. Since graduating from acting school Toi Whakaari in 2001, she has appeared on stage and screen, and directed two short films: family tale I'm Going to Mum's — which won four awards, and was invited to the 2013 Berlin Film Festival — and 2017 drama Tree.
Popstars was a key part of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of all-female pop band TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs). The five singers went on to record several chart-topping singles, and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold around the world and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality television for years to come. Popstars was named Best Entertainment Programme at the 1999 NZ Television Awards.
With his likeable, easy-going and erudite style, Jim Mora's career has spanned current affairs, entertainment and lifestyle shows. His TV profile alone reaches back more than 30 years and his time in radio stretches even further: from The South Tonight and Holmes, to Mucking In and hosting Radio New Zealand's Afternoons.
Mark Albiston has won awards at festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Salt Lake City, thanks to short films Run and The Six Dollar Fifty Man (which he directed with Louis Sutherland). After time in the United Kingdom, Albiston returned home to launch Sticky Pictures, where he won gongs for arts shows The Living Room and The Gravy. Alibston and Sutherland's 2013 movie Shopping won further awards and acclaim.
Eight years after debuting on TV sketch show Funny Business, Lucy Lawless won international fame for her starring role on Xena: Warrior Princess. The series won her a devoted fan following, and invitations to guest-star on everything from The Simpsons to Bro' Town. Since the end of Xena's six season run, Lawless has mainly acted for American television, including a role as bad girl Lucretia in locally-shot series Spartacus.
Julie Christie, DNZM, is one of New Zealand's most successful television producers. She built her company, Touchdown Productions, into the country's leading producer of entertainment television and exporter of programme formats. In 2006 she sold Touchdown to global company Eyeworks in a multi-million dollar deal; she stayed on as managing director until 2012.