Interviewed by Jacquelin Steincamp for The Listener August 11, 1984
It's much more than a new face. For 10 years Rodney Bryant, with his moustache and cavalier attitudes, dominated Christchurch's regional news programmes. Liz Grant, who first appeared on the [Mainland Touch] in April, has giant spectacles, an amazing grin -and a quickly developing rapport with all types of people and topics.
The tough TV critic on the Press, Ken Strongman, has already weakened to her style.
. . . calmly and graciously lifting the tone of The Mainland Touch, he wrote recently.
Liz Grant is still a little stunned that, from 60 applicants for the job, she was the one chosen.
Liz stood out with her vitality and freshness. She seemed so alive in contrast to the others, says Simon Williams, the programme's editor. A thoroughly modern woman, mother of two and married to Listener columnist A.K. Grant, Liz has an on-screen image of Dresden-china cheekiness, with a face that's dominated by That Smile and enormous, face-framing spectacles.
In spite of Grant's two years' TV experience on Beauty and the Beast, the new job is involving her in continuous on-the-job training in interviewing skills and in learning about the particular processes and techniques of a daily news programme.
She's fully aware that what appears on screen is only as good as the production team behind it. And her team forms a supportive liferaft for her - Simon Williams, director Rex Hayward, co-presenter John Dunne, writer Tony Moore, camera Operators, technicians, secretaries.
I can't say enough nice words about the way people have tried to make it easy for me and to take hassles out of my way so that I can concentrate on the fronting job. As I get better and more experienced, hopefully they won't have to do it so much, she says.
Grant hopes the programme will look more closely at problem topics, the types of issues that have received little coverage in the past.
We've already started by focusing on the local drug problem. Allannah James is doing a series on alcohol. Instead of presenting a pretty picture of the Garden City with all its English connotations, we should be showing the multi-cultural centre that Christchurch is becoming.
Grant's yearning for diversity is a reflection of her varied background. Born in Yorkshire in 1949, much of her childhood was spent in Tanzania where her father was a colonial policeman. With Serengeti National Park as part of his territory, some of Grant's most enduring memories are of nature at its most magnificent, and people at their most varied.
Secondary schooling at Rangi Ruru, a Presbyterian girls' school in Christchurch, and a VSA teaching assignment in Tonga further sensitised Grant to the variety and dignity of differing peoples.
Liz Grant has the distinction of having been sacked from radio announcing in the late 60s. She went no further than the probationary level, and never really knew what lay behind her dismissal.
They did tell me that wearing Spectacles made me unsuitable as a radio interviewer. The idea was that the spectacles reduced eye contact, she said.
It was a low period. University seemed the only place to go, so Grant threw herself into an arts degree. But the stop/start style of many women's lives was to be hers also for along came Allen, with marriage in 1973.
The degree, achieved on a part-time basis with three years off for motherhood, was completed in 1982. During this time she kept her hand in with slots on Sunday Suppliment and Community Comment.
The Grants live in an agreeable old red painted housed in inner Papanui, together with daughters Isla (nine) and Laura (seven). Family life would be frenetic, with Liz working from noon until 8pm five nights a week, were not Allan often at home, writing Listener columns and TV scripts.
It's also fortunate he's a good cook and enjoys cooking, she says.
At home Grant exudes a friendliness. She jogs a lot. Doesn't much enjoy cooking. Likes simple entertaining - and people. She smokes fairly heavily and castigates herself for doing so.
I'm always trying to give it up, she says.
It doesn't make me feel good and my chest gets quite tight.
She describes herself as
a serious person with a touch of childish madness. She claims to be tolerant, but (like many of the tolerant) is most angered by those who are intolerant.
The extreme chauvinist or the extreme feminist...people who try to dominate others, whose egos impinge on others...those are the people I really can't relate to, she says.