History of the Awards

Bill Toft died prematurely of cancer in 1975. The following year, a group of his friends and colleagues decided to raise money for a fund in his honour. Initially it was twofold – to acknowledge a “broadcaster of the year” – someone who attained and maintained high standards of presentation, and also to identify someone who was serious about their craft – enough to want to study or travel in order to  progress their career.

In December 1976 a cast of many well-known faces and voices gathered at the Wellington Opera House to present a variety concert - I’ve Heard That Face Before. Comedy skits, piano recitals and general high jinks were performed by John Hayden, Dougal Stevenson, Sharon Crosbie, Bill McCarthy, Rob Crabtree, Lindsay Perigo, Ian Fraser, Philip Sherry, Dick Weir, David McPhail, Philip Liner, John Gordon, Hewitt Humphrey, Sue Scott and many more. It was professionally directed by Howard Neil and produced a nearly full house.


The second attempt at fundraising was the publication of the Beauty and the Beast Cookbook, edited by Bill’s widow Ann Toft. The idea emanated from a TV programme featuring a panel of “agony aunts” hosted by Selwyn Toogood in the eighties. All royalties from the book went into the Fund.


The resulting money provided a basis on which to build and invest. In the early nineties, Radio New Zealand and the Radio Broadcasting Association each injected $10,000 in order to revive the then flagging Fund, which has since grown considerably thanks to wise investments. Today the Bill Toft Memorial Fund can look confidently into the future to help broadcasters maintain high standards across the radio spectrum for many years to come.