Real Life

Kiwi BBC star: the best news of my life

A Christmas party led to Lucy Hockings landing her dream job.

There are some women who have it all – good looks, a great job, beautiful children and a supportive partner. Kiwi Lucy Hockings is one of those women. Lucy (38), who worked at TVNZ for five years, has made it big in London presenting for the BBC World Service – one of very few “accented” voices at the station.

Her big break came about at a work Christmas party, when one of the bosses asked her to consider a presenting role. “I didn’t take it seriously, but they booked me in for a trial. I think that’s why I was so relaxed and I got it.” But her first overnight shifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day didn’t go well.

“There were complaints because they didn’t want ‘that Australian girl’ reading the news,” she smiles. “I found that very intimidating, but they stuck with me,” says Lucy, who eventually became a regular weekend presenter and then gained a permanent slot during the week five years ago.

The Taranaki-born reporter was sent to the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to “neutralise” her accent, but Lucy says it didn’t really help. “I think every presenter has their ‘on-air’ voice but an audience responds to a newsreader who is telling the story and who is themselves. Who I am is a New Zealander with an accent. “It has softened with 10 years in London, but I think they’re now thrilled that I’m from New Zealand because the BBC is an international channel. So now it’s almost an advantage.”

When Lucy first left New Zealand more than 11 years ago for her OE there were other formerly New Zealand-based TV journalists working at the BBC, including Simon Mercep and Simon Shepherd, who both put in a good word for her. “It was my Kiwi connections that got me in. I’d been sending my CV around and not getting any response – not even an acknowledgment.”

These days Lucy is fortunate enough to watch major news events unfold and in some cases world presidents will phone the BBC wanting to be interviewed. “One of my first big stories was hearing the rumour that they’d captured Saddam Hussein. Then 20 minutes later they said, ‘They’ve got him! We’re rolling,’” she says.

“I was interviewing prime ministers and foreign ministers. It was a baptism of fire. “Since then I’ve had a real run of dictators. I’ve been on air with Osama Bin Laden and Gadaffi .”

Lucy puts a lot of thought into what she wears on TV. She has no wardrobe allowance, but owns 42 jackets and must keep a black one at work in case a VIP dies. She can’t show too much skin, but Lucy also wants to look fashionable.

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