You just know from the way some people begin their stories that an hour isn’t going to be long enough to get far enough beneath the skin.
‘I’m a Hutt boy, Wellington born and bred,’ Blue Bradley says from his home above the old Crave cafe in Morningside. ‘I’m the eighth child, son of an Irishman fresh off the boat. He married a girl from the King Country and they settled down in the Hutt and had a tribe called Bradley. I wouldn’t say we were well off at all, in fact I’d say we weren’t. And from an early age dad was dying from a long struggle with cancer.’
It’s no surprise Blue knows how to craft a compelling story. You could argue it was in his Irish blood. What is a surprise, however, is how, from an early childhood of crime and violence and seeing things that ‘no eight or 10-year-old should see’, he would become the leader of the Northern Easter Camp run at Mystery Creek—which last year drew 5300 kids—and one of the pivotal figures behind Crave cafe and the buzz that’s currently reframing Morningside.
His turning point was a faith conversion at the age of 16, against the backdrop of a father dying of cancer, and a brood of violent siblings struggling to survive on no money, living off food parcels at times, and stealing to get by.
‘I could see the trajectory of my life when I was a young fella,’ says Blue. ‘I thought, I have no tools, I’m not equipped to do anything to change my life. My brothers were pub brawlers and my dad thought I was worse than them. Somehow I knew he was right. I definitely felt more angry than them.’
His conversion came about through Christian youth camps, where he was initially one of those ‘bad guys’ the other kids were warned to steer clear of.
‘I realised that I have to actually surrender to something bigger than me in order for me to become something different than I thought I was going to be, something that I thought would be good and loving. The life I thought I could have was just so far away, so far removed from what I was able to conjure up.’
As it turned out, that life was actually very close. Within a few short years he was running his own youth camps, as well as houses in the Petone area of Wellington for disenfranchised kids and budding leaders. Years of ministry work, panel beating, mission trips, counter-culturalism, and marriage followed, before Blue and wife Katie decided it was time to shift to Auckland for more formal study. It didn’t work out quite like Blue had hoped, and he found himself out of college but still with a hunger to do something quietly revolutionary in a community context.
And then he met Nigel Cottle.
‘I heard wind that this crazy guy called Cottle was sort of snooping around as well, and thinking about some things … so we took a journey of a year to work out whether we even liked each other. Do we know each other, are we on the same kind of journey?’
Turns out they were. Together they bought the building across from the new Crave and moved into the apartments upstairs. Crave 1.0 became 2.0, then 3.0, and then last year the new 4.0.
‘We were two families who didn’t really know each other and we committed for five years to live like this,’ Blue says. ‘We’ve just clocked over 10 years.
‘We didn’t come into the community with any set plan, we didn’t come in with a formula. We came in as couples and we worked where we could just to be people of love and hospitality in the area.’