Meet Nicky & James
Nicky Allely & James Carr
Where are you from?
James: I’ve been in-and-around, back-and-forth, out-and-about. I was born in Wellington and spent my first 5 years there. I had some time growing up in Philadelphia & Melbourne and, when I was fifteen, we moved down to ChCh. That’s been the home base for my family since then - almost 20 years now. I’ve also spent a year living and working in Budapest, Hungary and a couple of years in Montreal.
Nicky: I’m from ChCh and grew up in Redcliffs, just over the hill from Lyttelton. Apart from a year in Dunedin I’ve been a Cantabrian my whole life. We’re one of those couples that is quite opposite in almost every way. James is a citizen of the world and I have my roots really deeply embedded here in ChCh. I’m really excited to see a new part of it. It’s been a real pleasure growing up by the sea, then being at school in a different part of the city, then being out at university at the Ilam campus and now we live in the CBD. So it will be really cool to be over in Lyttelton.
How do you spend your days?
Nicky: I’m a high school teacher. I teach 13-to-17 year olds English and also coach debating. It’s really nice to see how the students aren’t jaded by anything yet and to hear them change their mind about things - especially in quite a polarized world.
James: As of last Monday, I’m now doing a PhD looking at innovation ecosystems and dynamic capabilities. That’s me for the next three-and-a-half years! I just finished up a role at the University working with the Centre for Entrepreneurship at University of Canterbury doing a lot of startup venture support, coaching and mentoring for student founders and student-run startups.
What are you passionate about?
James: Learning new things, discovering new things, exploring new things is what motivates me. That’s a common thread in my life that connects the somewhat wandering travel with being compelled to go back to university every few years to study something new - physics, a Masters of Engineering Management and now the PhD.
Nicky: I’m not a very passionate person but I’m really big on living with balance. I’m into maintenance - so much of what we do is about getting new stuff, or growing, or changing, or building, or creating new things. Something I’m really trying to do more of is maintain what I have and do things with less.
If you ask my friends what I’m passionate about they’ll say “she’s a feminist” or “she’s really into social justice” but I find it hard to say what I’m passionate about.
We’re very yin-and-yang, aren’t we? You’re very “explore, get out there and change.” And I’m very “protect what we have.”
James: There’s a great essay called “Hail the Maintainers” - a tribute to those who make sure the world keeps on working.
Something that we both think is pretty important is writing your own story and not just doing things because that’s what is expected of you. Moving away from the default narrative of what you should be doing or how you should be living. Figuring out what it is that you want and writing your own story one word at a time, one page at a time.
On your days off, what are your favourite things to do?
James: I play games, board games and video games. Mainly strategy games. I’ve been enjoying Ticket to Ride recently, we’ve played that a few times with friends. I occasionally play Settlers of Catan. (With Nicki shaking her head) It’s not a shared passion!
On the video game side of things is mainly a genre called grand strategy. In the least charitable telling, one of the games I play gets called a “spreadsheet simulator!
Nicky: Not just on days off but when I’m not working, and even most of the time when I am working, I’m always thinking about what am I going to eat next. To the point where I’m finishing a meal and thinking about the next, which is probably a little unhelpful!
I’ve been really enjoying the Ōtākaro Trail that winds through the river out to New Brighton. It’s been really cool seeing that all regenerate and that kinda spooky space of where the houses used to be. That tree was planted next to someone’s bathroom, that tree was planted next to someone‘s living room.
James got me a pair of binoculars after I read “How To Do Nothing” and learned about birdwatching and how that’s really good for you. I’m really enjoying watching the kereru that are making their way back into the CBD. They are my favourite bird...now and forever. Whoosh-whoosh! I like finding animals because I can’t have any…James is really allergic.
What attracted you to Collett’s Corner?
Nicky: I was on a girls’ weekend over in Diamond Harbour. We were walking back through Lyttelton and a friend of mine who had done some work for the equity crowdfunding campaign was so excited to see the billboard up on the corner site. And I was like “Collett’s Corner, aye? That sounds pretty cool.”
Lyttelton is such a great vibe and it’s real close-knit. Everything’s walking distance and you’ve got that beautiful basin of hills and you get that gorgeous view out across the harbour. And the concept is really exciting: co-living, slightful smaller spaces, sharing resources, coming together, a business model that’s in symbiosis with the community. I mentioned it to James and I was like “Ahh?”
James: Part of what really appealed was the opportunity to be part of a neighbourhood-type vibe without having to give up your spaces like we would with flatmates. The idea that you’d be part of a community of people with similar goals of being active in that community without giving up your own sense of space and determination.
Nicky: I really like the idea of the bumpspaces. I’m big on those videos from Never Too Small, the Australian architects. They focus on repurposed buildings in Sydney and Melbourne where you’ve got these gorgeous old buildings that they gut out and redesign so that it works better for modern use. They talk about bumpspaces - they’re genius! Even when living in a semi-detatched set of units, I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve chatted to my neighbours, even though we share a walkway.
James: Some people in-and-around my family - my grandparents’ age - have spent time living in a community in Delaware. Probably 50 or 60 houses in the forest and they had a town hall and once a month the whole town came together for a big shared meal. They weren’t coming together for a town meeting or to discuss anything. I have really vivid memories of how cool that was and I’m hoping that there’s opportunities to do some of that stuff as well. Those moments don’t need to be planned well in advance. It’s just an invitation.
What does community mean to you?
James: When I think community versus a group of people who are just doing stuff together or happen to be in the same place at the same time, the big thing for me is that it reflects a choice. Community are the people you choose to give space to - whether it be physical space, time space, emotional and cognitive space because you’re thinking and caring about them. The intention is that you’re making life more interesting and engaging and meaningful.
Nicky: I think I’d add that it is also about place and shared experience. So when I think about my parents who are in their 70s, Mum’s lived in Redcliffs for more than 30 years and she’ll have little anecdotes of “I bumped in to so-and-so today” and that gives her a feeling of community. But then also the shared experiences you have - my Dad’s a tramper and he had a heart operation last year. I went on a walk with one of his walking groups the other day and I met all these people - and I had been worried about him being isolated and not having people around him - and he’s bloody got heaps of friends! It was like “we just love your dad, he’s so lovely!” The people he’s shared those experiences with have become his community.
What do you look forward to most about living at Collett’s Corner?
Nicky: I don’t know if you saw recently...the mayor of Paris wants Paris to be a “15-minute city” and I’m really looking forward to having everything within walking distance of Collett’s Corner. Like “ah, we’re out of milk. I’ll just pop down to Supervalue” and maybe I bump into someone on the way. Or “we’re out of beer, let’s go to the Civil and Naval.”
Where we are now in the CBD we do have everything within walking distance but it feels busy. Lyttelton is that bit smaller and everything feels that bit closer - it’s built for people.
James: 15 mins is a long time to walk down a busy road.
For me, it’s the rooftop dining. Being able to eat outside on the rooftop, looking at the port, watching boats come and go. Outside of the community stuff, that’s a tangible, physical, selfish thing I’m looking forward to.
Was there anything you had to think long and hard about before making your decision?
James: No. We have a very different approach to decision-making but it aligns quite well. For quite a while now, we’ve been interested in tiny houses and alternate ways of living. When we were living out of the back of a mini and AirBnB’ing our way around Eastern Europe (that’s a story for another day!), we saw a whole bunch of different living spaces. We’ve been passively thinking about that kind of stuff for a while. We’ve got some friends who’ve been involved in the discussions around alternative housing projects. Over beers and discussions, we’ve been exposed to some of the thinking and evolution that’s going on in that space. We had flirted a bit with the idea of Madras Square before it got pulled.
By the time Collett’s Corner came up on the radar, I knew Camia - we’d been involved in some things together in the past - and we had very good friends of ours who were involved in the crowdfunding campaign. We valued the people we knew in-and-around the project in terms of the way they view the world and the things that they prioritise.
Basically, Nicky sent the message to me one weekend and the next weekend we went to Lyttelton to sit there and soak up the vibe of the place. And while we were sitting there having wood-fired pizzas, Camia - doing a flyer drop - came and found us and we ended up having a bit of a chat. Within about a week, we’d signed the paperwork. Our decision-making is often a very slow soak-up-the-vibe and then we move very quickly once we get to the pointy end. That’s what happened here!
Are there any changes you’ll be making to your habits to be a part of the resident community?
Nicky: We’re going to have to commute a bit more. That’ll be an adjustment. I won’t be walking to work.
James: Thinking about the neighbours, in terms of extending the invite. If we’re going to be going for a beer across the road, taking that extra moment of “I wonder if anyone else is keen?” and “are we keen to invite anyone else, or are we going on a date?” A little bit more of active engagement with the serendipitous and casual practices of being part of that community and connecting with one another.