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Building brick brand in the Bay

Richard and Alex

A good number of Richard Catley’s days – and sometimes nights - are spent thinking about bricks.

As a quantity surveyor, he is involved with projects such as the Napier War Memorial Restoration. As an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO), he also deals with bricks of the small, plastic kind.

Richard Catley and Alex Thompson, co-organisers of the 2023 Hawke’s Bay Brick Show, both recall the moment LEGO first became a part of their lives.

For Richard, it was receiving a little yellow house with a red roof when he was aged five. It is a set he still has today.

Alex, an accountant, treasured the fire engine, complete with working siren, and the boat she was allowed to buy before her family left Gibraltar.

Creating with LEGO is a form of relaxation for Alex, she says, the way some people may choose to, for example, knit. “l like to sit and build.”

The pair have brought two successful LEGO shows to fruition since 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic and weather events caused the cancellation or postponement of shows between 2020 and 2022.

Their third event will be held at the Centennial Events Centre over King’s Birthday Weekend. Special guests are Oli and Charlie Mollard, the winners of this year’s LEGO Masters NZ competition, Jake Roos, one of last year’s co-winners, and Jono Samson and Dan Mulholland, 2022 third placegetters.

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise will present a special Mayor’s Choice Award to one of the 60 exhibitors from throughout the country whose creations will fill the entire facility.

Some Napier city councillors are also enthusiastically embracing the LEGO lifestyle, if only temporarily, participating in a building challenge.

A portion of the $5 entry fee (kids under three are free) will go to Pacific Surf Life Saving Club. Thousands are expected to attend the show, so the amount raised for the club is likely to be sizable.

Richard’s wife, Hayley, introduced him to Alex, who she was working for as a personal assistant. “Hayley said to me, I’ve finally found someone who likes LEGO as much as you do,” recalls Richard.

LEGO has remained an immensely popular activity for people of all ages.

At each regional LEGO event – of which there are many, in New Zealand – it is hard to define the typical fan, says Richard.

“There are TFOLs (Teenage Fans of LEGO), and people who are closet collectors, just happy to do their own thing. We see them at all the shows. A few people, like us, have joined a LUG (Lego User Group), to meet other AFOLs and pick up different techniques.”

The Hawke’s Bay LUG put together the popular Bricks & Pieces exhibition at the Faraday Museum of Technology. The Faraday will also have a connection with this year’s Brick Show. It is hosting a “find the minifig” competition, in which participants hunt for a minifig (a LEGO figurine, in LEGO speak) at the show and its twin at the Faraday. Participants can go into a draw to win a set of LEGO.

Richard brought out his LEGO again when his children were young. It has remained out.

The bricks have a habit of turning up in all sorts of places. “It’s in my lounge, it’s at my work, it’s everywhere,” he says cheerfully.

It has been a joy to share with his family, and through events like the Brick Show, with the wider community. “It’s about having fun, really.”


Brickmaking buddies: Richard Catley and Alex Thompson, pictured with their first LEGO sets.

15 May 2023

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