Repair Cafés - Stuff can be mended

Repair Cafés are a worldwide movement that aims to preserve repair skills in society and to promote more repairable products. Starting in the Netherlands, there are now more than 2000 repair cafes worldwide, and some 150 in the UK. There is likely to be one near you – see here.

They aren’t in competition with professional repair specialists. The idea is that Repair Cafés focus attention on the possibility of getting things repaired. Visitors are frequently advised to go to local professionals. People who visit Repair Cafés say that they normally throw away broken items because paying to have them repaired is, in general, too expensive. At the Repair Café they learn that you don’t have to throw things away; there are alternatives.

The snag is that often people are reluctant to have a go at mending things, but at a Repair Café there are experts who can give them a hand. As well as acquiring skills for the future, and saving valuable resources, you’ll find that mending things can be a lot of fun.

So the scheme is that you bring broken items from home and working together with the volunteer experts at the hub you repair them. If it can’t be repaired there and then, there will be pointers as to who might locally be able to help. The items could be clothes or electrical or electronic goods, maybe bikes or crockery or toys.

If you have watched the very popular “Repair Shop” program on the BBC, a Repair Café is sort of but not quite like that. In the TV show, you have professional specialists being paid to be there, and able to go back to their own workshop to mend stuff. The owner of the item being repaired doesn’t really get involved in the repair process.

In a Repair Café it is almost always volunteers giving of their time for free, working with the tools they have brought on the day together with the owner of the item. Apart from repairing the item, a major objective of the cafe is to show the owner of the item what goes on inside. Sometimes, though, and by agreement, an item will need to be taken away for repair.

So if you wonder if a thing can be repaired, bring it to your nearest Repair Café.

I myself have been involved in the establishment of such a venture, the Repair Hub, in Martlesham, Suffolk, and help out as a repairer at the Woodbridge and Waldringfield Repair Cafés