Why Repair Cafés are at the heart of Green communities

What is a Repair Café?
The first Repair Café was set up in Amsterdam in 2009 and there are now around 1,400 Repair Cafés  all over the world.  The idea is that people with the skills to fix things can attempt to mend broken items that may otherwise be thrown away.  Members of the public arrive with broken or faulty radios, lamps, clocks, laptops, toys, clothes and blunt tools etc etc and volunteer engineers, technicians, mechanics and those with sewing skills get fixing.

Some tools of the trade

Green credentials
The obvious one is that an item is repaired and therefore doesn't have to be disposed of, saving resources and energy, but Repair Cafés are green for many other reasons too.  They are the very essence of holistic living - people coming together and sharing their resources, dismissing (where at all possible) the idea of a throwaway society, literally!  The atmosphere is friendly, welcoming and exciting - repairs have the potential to make people very happy; a loved, sentimental item that has been restored, a repair meaning that someone doesn't have to go out and spend a lot of money on a replacement and the joy when successful for the fixer.

Warm welcome
On arrival, you'll be greeted and given a form to fill in asking for details about your item(s).  If there's no queue, you'll be taken through to the relevant repairer.  Either way (queue or not) you can have a cup of tea.

Nettie and Bernadette on the front desk

Café Side
The other side is the hospitality.  Volunteers run a café selling drinks and cakes, so that people with or without repairs can just come along and socialise, soak up the atmosphere and meet and make new friends.

Tewkesbury Friends of the Earth volunteers serve the drinks and cakes

The homemade cakes are even organic at the Tewkesbury Repair Café!

I had a lovely organic cheese scone and a cup of organic mint and liquorice tea :)

Lucky, lucky us 
We live in Tewkesbury and we are thrilled to have a new Repair Café (this was the fourth session).  Last week, we went along with our vintage Reel to Reel machine.

Vintage Philips Reel to Reel player

We hadn't tried the player, but had heard that if you don't know what you're doing, it may be wise to ask an expert to look at it first, so we took it over last Saturday.  First the machine was stripped down and cleaned.

Look at the beautiful engineering inside:

Everyone was fascinated by the player and after plenty of opening, cleaning and checking, a plug had been refitted, a temporary belt replaced the worn one and there was great excitement when Jamie attempted to play the first tape.

Show time
(photo by Tahir Rashid)

What's Next?
We are yet to discover everything on the tapes, but there is definitely some vintage radio comedy and a pretty ancient Open University Reformation programme.

Other Repairs

Geoff fixing a 'used all the time' table top oven whilst next door a sewing machine gets a new lease of life

Rae working on a sewing repair

Simon sorting out a digital radio

A dehumidifier from the local John Moore Museum being inspected

Cliff mending a much loved African olive wood lamp

You pay for any necessary parts and are encouraged to make a donation towards the costs of running the Repair Café.

What about you?
Do you have a favourite toy that no longer works?  The next time something breaks, or you find a dysfunctional heirloom in the attic, instead of taking it to a recycling centre, pop it along to a Repair Café.  Are you a skilled sewer, technician, or great at mending unusual things?  Volunteering is said to be excellent for your mental health, as well as being an asset to your community.

Locally we have Repair Cafés in Tewkesbury, Malvern, Nailsworth, Hereford and Worcester.  Find yours here.  Or, if you don't have one near you, why not Start a Repair Café yourself?

Tool Sharpening
A lot of people have blunt tools which are consequently not working to their full capacity. You can bring them along to brighten their blades and get them gleaming again.  This is one of the most popular requests.

Other items
You can also bring in items that you may not want anymore, we had a spare iron which wasn't heating up terribly well.  It was repaired and can now be sold by the Repair Café for a donation towards their costs.

See for yourself
If you're local, Tewkesbury's next Repair Cafés will be held at Tewkesbury Baptist Church, 3-6pm on 13th January, 17th February, 24th March and 14th April 2018.  See their Tewkesbury Repair Café Facebook page for more details. 

Tewkesbury Repair Café are very grateful to The Baptist Church, Tewkesbury Friends of the Earth, all of their valuable repair magicians and of course to everyone who brings in a repair.  Step by step some of the flaws of modern day living can be healed and Repair Cafés get a gold star for their contribution.