18 year old Olly Campbell is one of the quiet ones in Wellington. But he is also the one to watch with strong roots to the city and a budding future in design and advertising. Fair to say, Olly is known amongst friends as 'a good sort'
Often seen at famous Wellington Cafe Prefab, working the tables on his Saturday brunch shift, with his sandy blonde hair and a soft spoken voice, you might think Olly is so chilled out he is horizontal. But don’t be fooled. Olly's been working since he was 14 making friends and plotting his future. Now is about to make his first big move to study communications and design in Auckland. He's innovative and has enough ideas brewing to make a long-black. For example, it is his idea to enlist ace photographer and Olly's friend, Rob Burrowes to take snaps. The Residents asked to pick Olly’s brains about this crucial moment in life - the last Summer in Wellington before he moves away.
A Wellingtonian born and bred, Olly’s lived in Brooklyn in Wellington all his life. From primary school, he went to Brooklyn School, although “my parents did consider sending me to Wellesley - but it all worked out good, because most of my friends went to Wellesley anyway” he remarks, endearingly ignoring any educational merit that might have played a part.
Safe to say, Olly’s memories of growing up are rooted in his home suburb and couldn’t be more classic of a happy Wellington suburban childhood. “There are two hills in Brooklyn, one in the east and one in the west. I was always the only one on the west side. They are only 500 meters away, but I always had to walk or scooter over to Thompson Street. I had three friends - and we were always going around to each other’s places. Going to school. Basketball. Fish and chips. Brooklyn life was good.”
“There are two hills in Brooklyn, one in the east and one in the west. I was always the one on the westside”
In 2011 Olly moved to Wellington College, among 350 other boys in year 9. He remembers feeling intimidated at first, having moving from a small school like Brooklyn to the massive halls of Wellington College. “It was pretty scary at first, but you get used to it. I originally stuck with my old friends from Brooklyn, but we split up as friends do. Work was a lot harder. Then you get to NCEA and you’re like ‘Woah ok this is actually hard’”. Olly liked English, but hated Maths. His studies did not improve and, like all teenagers are prone to doing, blames his lack of improvement on a foreign teacher that taught him algebra “It wasn’t helped” he shrugs, with a cheeky look. Luckily for his future, communications will be math-free.
Out of the box - “the big rush of happiness you get when you look out at the crowd and you see people you know out there”
Wellington College could have categorised Olly as just an arts or sports focused pupil. But Olly refuses to just stick to one thing. Through his high school years he quickly got involved in a broad range extra curricular activities, from drama and stage challenge to dabbling with basketball. “I feel like I am open to a lot of people and a lot of different activities” he muses.“I never wished I went to a co-ed school because I had a heap of friends who were girls anyway, because I knew them from primary school”. A particular favourite for Olly was the inter-school arts competition, Stage Challenge. When Olly didn’t get into Stage Challenge in the second year he auditioned, he petitioned the teachers to let him in, and it worked. He loved it for the “big rush of happiness you get when you look out at the crowd and you see people you know out there”.
“Year 13 was really good” remarks Olly. “I managed to get excellence with minimal effort. You understand NCEA and the system. I got bang on 50 excellence credits”. But wasn’t all school and NCEA credit for Olly. “On our study periods we would always go out, and, because I work at Prefab, me and my good friend Johnny would go down and get some free coffee, some half-priced food, and talk with Russi”. Indeed, Olly has a part-time job at Prefab that he started when it first opened, three years ago (he was the first of his friends to get a job). Olly began at the bottom of the pile, as a floor mopper. “It wasn't glamourous” he notes “I got bossed around and was the lacky. I scrubbed every floor there was there.” Olly doesn’t take it personally though -he knows it is a neat job to have where you work around some of Wellington’s hospitality greats. Jeff Kennedy, who started Cafe L’Affare in the 1990’s when there were no cafes around, and partner Bridget Dunn own Prefab. Olly has a soft spot for mate Russi “The big Fijian guys”, who has been working for Jeff and Bridget for nearly 30 years. After finishing with floors, Olly moved up in the world to being the water-boy on Saturday brunch shifts. Now he is taking table orders like a pro. With older staff, Olly grew in confidence.”As a kid, you’re not really exposed to many other people except your friends and/or your mums friends” he notes. “So when I got there there was a whole gang of people who I didn’t know really existed - so that was really cool”. I try and drop hints to get Olly to tell me of any late night shenanigans with Pre-fab staff - but if they do exist, Olly is keeping Mum.
Apart from Prefab Olly rates 5 Boroughs, or chilling at his mates houses. “I’m a student so I have no money” he reminds me. He loves seeing Wellington develop and admits he is “OCD about counting cranes. That might sound really weird but it shows there is growth in the city”.
School's out for Summer...school's out, forever
This Summer has been all about on hanging out with friends, who're going their separate ways after this last Summer. “A whole bunch of mates are going to Dunedin” Olly says “some are staying here. Another bunch have gone over to the UK. My mate’s in Paris right now. Another in Queenstown”. I ask Olly why he chose Auckland. After all, not many of his friends are going to Auckland, and Olly seems kind of friend focused. “Mainly the course - it’s the best one in New Zealand. I also wanted to get out of Wellington for a bit.” Olly wanted to get into advertising “for a long time” and he reckons that will be the course that gets him there. “People think it is because I watched Mad Men - but I’ve even watched it!”
So where are the nerves? This young Wellingtonians seems relatively chilled out about his big move up north, unlike how I was when I was anticipating moving away from home at 18 “I sleep pretty easy” says Olly laughing. He is looking forward to apartment living on the Campus on Symonds Street, and living centrally in the city. “Everyone just talks bad stuff about Auckland - people are really against moving to Auckland!”
But there is a catch. “I can’t wait for the times coming back from Auckland to Wellington - because I will be a different person but I will appreciate so many more things here”. Olly thinks the best thing about Wellington is the collaborative way people do things together. “So many people come into Prefab - you can connect with people so easily. I know the guy that sells apartments. They guy that makes chairs. You meet so many people in the city. I feel like so many other people are so creative doing stuff it creates competition, so everyone wants to do better. That is one thing I hope I won't miss about Wellington, living in Auckland”.
“I can’t wait for the times coming back from Auckland to Wellington - because I will be a different person but I will appreciate so many more things here”
Olly is however, not worried about what other people think - and while he will miss his family and friends, it seems he is ready to go. It seems he has his own twist on life, and is ready to take on the future. As we go our separate ways, I can’t help but think Olly will be back.
IF YOU WANT TO CHECK OUT MORE OF ROB'S PHOTO'S CHECK HIS INSTAGRAM