A fragmented Auckland neighbourhood is being transformed, thanks in part to a cafe collective craving “some good in our hood”.
Crave Neighbourhood Connector, Nigel Cottle, says collective members all live or work in Morningside.
They wanted to make their neighbourhood a better place to live, mainly through addressing social poverty and below par buildings and communal areas. So they started a cafe which has become a vibrant hub of community life.
“It’s quite organic and casual, but meaningful,” Nigel says of the resulting relationships and activities. He lists some of the changes which have occurred in the collective’s 12 years.
A previously dead-end area now boasts the beautiful, bustling Crave cafe and associated KIND eatery, which is a social-enterprise cafe for the health-conscious. All the profits from Crave and most from KIND go back into the local area.
A neighbourhood which had lost its identity as other suburbs merged into it has reclaimed its boundaries. Many residents who worked and spent leisure time elsewhere now want to hang out in their hood.
Big street parties which run twice a year attract about 1000 people. They began when a collective member who was a hunter decided to roast a pig.
“People queued up, had a great time and it kind of kicked off that idea of ‘hey, we can do that on the street’.”
On Sunday nights, a couple of hundred locals turn up at Crave cafe to enjoy free communal soup and board games.
Cooking classes are hosted in collective members’ homes, although are on hold until next year. Over a period of four or five weeks, participants chop, cook and eat together.
It’s all those things that connect people to people,” Nigel says.
Out of relationships formed by way of Crave or KIND, a family which has a child in hospital might be fed or products provided for a nearby primary school fundraiser.
In conjunction with the Red Cross and Positive Women, the charitable collective started the Morningside Urban Market Garden to help former refugee and migrant women develop their own business growing high-value micro herbs and edible flowers.
In the past year or so, a survey of locals revealed concerns about anxiety and depression, so Crave has initiated workshops enabling people to learn to cope with these.
Under the slogan of encouraging “some good in our hood”, street art murals have been commissioned and apple trees planted. The funky Morningcider company processes this apple juice alongside that from Hawke’s Bay.
To quote the cider website: “Coming from the neighbourhood that always looks on the bright cider life, we’ve found the in-cider information on juicing those local apples into something very a-peel-ing”.
Nigel says a faith aspect sits behind the collective’s desire to empower people, connect the neighbourhood and help people feel proud to live there.
He was formerly a Christian youth pastor and like a few other collective members, wanted to live out his faith in a different way.
It’s a way of life, putting arms and legs on our faith.”
The story of Crave cafe’s growth is in itself remarkable.
It started as a 20-seat space, then after two years expanded to a 65-seat area and continued to grow 20 per cent a year. Quality coffee and food is one trademark, while another is gathering a cross-section of society, including mums, students and creatives.
Five years later, a landlord who liked Crave’s work in the neighbourhood offered the cafe the chance to move to its existing premises.
The collective presumed the 200-seat space meant tables would always be available, however it also regularly fills up.
Nigel says staff form an essential part of the cafe and don’t view themselves as simply baristas – “they’re contributing to a bigger story”.
I asked whether a Justice of the Peace (JP) service is still offered.
“That’s just my Dad,” Nigel replies. His Dad arrives at the cafe every Wednesday morning, drinks coffee, chats with customers and signs their documents. Bringing good to a previously fragmented hood.
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