Laura, Alex & Fozzie Bear

random acts of kindness and the value of face-to-face interaction
— at
Nightingale Studios
Nightingale Brunswick East
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Tell us a little bit about who lives here:

Alex is a Montreal-born-and-bred mechanical engineer by day, bicycle rescuer and restorer by night. I work for an Indigenous-led organisation and spend my spare time gardening and making things from reclaimed wood (@lauraworkswood). Fozzie Bear loves to nap and wrestle with other dogs, and tries to wrestle with her humans. We love living in the heart of Melbourne buzz, but we also love getting out to the bush.

How did you first hear about Nightingale?

I honestly can’t remember. I have always worked in the social impact and arts space and so probably read an article, and then signed up to the mailing list.

What has life been like at Nightingale Brunswick East (NGBE)? Is it what you expected?

For two people whose homes and families are elsewhere, community is important to us. And despite living in Melbourne for years, at NGBE we feel a true sense of community, of belonging, and of a neighbourhood. We had hoped this is what living in a Nightingale community would be like, and that was a major driver for wanting to live here. We are probably more intensely involved and connected with our neighbours than we expected, but that’s our choice and we love that.

How does living in a conscious community positively affect your life?

It simply improved our quality of life. You interact with people from many walks of life who you wouldn’t meet through work or social circles but who share some of your values. One of those values is community and connection, and so you end up with a building full of people who look out for each other in a way that only face-to-face interaction and physical proximity can allow. (So much of that is lost in our text-message-social-media-video-call-diasporic networks of family and friends.)

There is often someone around if you need someone to entertain your kids, or walk your dog, or help patch a tyre puncture, or put together your flatpack furniture, or draw a portrait of your pet stick insect, or write a country ballad about limes. Or some fresh baked bread appears at your door just when you need a random act of kindness. Except it’s not random, it’s people purposefully taking care of each other.

How has living at NGBE impacted your ability to live more sustainably?

One of the most impactful things has been the remarkable reduction in consumerism and waste. We have a community channel called ‘seeking and offering’.  People use it to borrow things like a power drill or kitchen scales or a ball pump — the kind of things you might only need occasionally. People also use it to give away furniture or books or puzzles. I love thinking particularly about the paint sharing — instead of 38 individual apartments with identical colour palettes buying 38+ cans of paint for small touch up jobs, someone has black gloss, someone has white gloss, someone has white matt and we just share.

But I find it’s main use relates to food and cooking. People will often be looking for a lemon or a chilli or a sprig of dill and a neighbour comes to their culinary rescue. People are often giving away food they can’t eat — homemade cake or cans of beer or apples from someone’s friend’s apple tree. I am so incredibly impressed and proud of this sharing economy and the food waste and unnecessary consumption we’ve avoided.

Your favourite spots in the neighbourhood?

Balfe Park, Messina, Anh Minh, Merri Creek.

First published in
May 2022