Tinkerers, tailors and expert fixers urged to join Repair Cafe revolution

Posted on: 18 October 2018

Devon is embracing the Repair Café revolution with more residents than ever before choosing to breathe new life into old possessions and having them fixed instead of throwing them away.

But now, as more people are choosing repair and reuse over discard and buy more, Devon’s six Repair Cafes are urging the county’s hidden handymen and women to sign up and join their army of volunteer fixers.

And its not just fixers and repair people they need – each café needs volunteers to help in a variety of roles from greeting to admin.

Thursday 18 October marks nine years since the international repair café movement began – today there are over 1,600 Repair Cafés in 33 countries and on every continent.

In Devon there are currently cafes in Tiverton, Dartington, Exeter, ExmouthSidmouth and in the Blackdown Hills. A Repair Café in Crediton is due to open next month with a further four set to open next year.

Hundreds of Devon residents have used these volunteer-run cafes and taken anything  from broken furniture, electrical appliances and bicycles to textiles, crockery and toys to be fixed for free.

Some cafes are monthly, others are set up in community venues such as church halls, but they are all underpinned with a unifying ethos – a meeting place where residents can turn up, and have their broken possessions repaired.

The Blackdown Hills Repair Café is an example of their increasing popularity – in September residents brought a bumper crop of items for repair.

“It was easily the busiest event we’ve had so far,” said Trisha Comrie of the Blackdown Hills Repair Café.

“We had around 20 volunteer repairers kept fully occupied with vacuum cleaners, lamps, walkie talkies, kettles, fans, clothing, bikes, computers and much else besides, and a roaring trade being done in the refreshments department!”

She said it is‘exciting’ when they see an old and unusual item and last month an original 1930s home movie projector kit – a Pathe Kid – which had languished in a shed for years –  was brought in for repair.

“It was still complete with two films ‘The Joy of the House’ and ‘River and Canal Locks’, complete with its original bulbs, power supply and instructions. 

“Bought by its current owner for £10 at a car boot sale, this kit sold for 50 shillings, equivalent to a months wages for a factory worker back in its day. Quite a price just after the depression.
“It was successfully fixed, and its owner can now enjoy it to the full.”

However, the value many of the items brought into Repair Cafes go beyond pounds and pence and often have an incalculable sentimental value.

For instance, one elderly lady asked volunteers at the Exmouth Repair Café to glue the ears back on to a rather elderly pottery rabbit

“It probably didn’t have much monetary value” said Jean Holden of the Exmouth Repair Café. “She had bought it as a present for her mother when she was about seven years old and she was now ninety, so she was delighted to have it repaired.”

On another occasion a young mum and her primary school aged daughter asked that ‘Horsey’, an old hobby horse that was greatly loved and taken to bed each night, be repaired after it had been ripped by their pet dog.

Jean added: “After some new fabric, a pole and some major surgery we gave Horsey a new life. The young girl was over the moon!“

Research shows that a large proportion of the small electrical items that come into our recycling centres are repairable and up to 90 per cent of items brought into Devon’s Repair Cafes are fixed.

Recycle Devon’s Reuse Officer Catherine Causley said: “These events help householders waste less and enable them to save money by not having to replace something that could be repaired and often repair something that can never be replaced.

“But as these events become more popular, the more Repair Cafes need expert fixers and volunteers to help out.

“So regardless if you’re an electronics professional, expert seamstress or a keen volunteer willing to take on anything from threading needles and sewing on buttons to fixing a mobile phone, computer, TV or vacuum cleaner please consider offering just a few hours a month of your time.”

And if you have nothing for repair, you can always enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, soak in the community atmosphere or even lend a hand with someone else’s repair job.

Councillor Andrea Davis, the Chair of the Devon Authorities Strategic Waste Committee said: “Repair Cafés are wonderful places – they teach people to see their possessions in a new light and appreciate their value.
“They can also help change people’s mindset which is essential to encourage people’s enthusiasm for a sustainable society. But most of all Repair Cafés have  a lovely community atmosphere and can show just how much fun repairing things can be. So why don’t you pop down for a visit.”

For more information on Repair Cafes near you click here.

8 comments on “Tinkerers, tailors and expert fixers urged to join Repair Cafe revolution

  1. Ian Barnard says:

    If you’re in the Crediton area, we’re holding our first event 10am-1pm Saturday 17th November in Crediton Methodist Church halls – and we’re looking for volunteers to do mending as well as looking forward to welcoming people with things for us to try fix. You can find more details on Facebook – search for Crediton Repair Cafe – or visit our website creditonrepaircafe.org.uk

  2. Martin headon. says:

    I would like to see a repair café in Barnstaple as I live in Barnstaple. I used to repair furniture at a recycling shop and used help customers by finding things they needed to repair things of their own.

  3. Jane says:

    We have an amazing repair cafe in Plymouth .. they also host #borrowdontbuy our library of things!

  4. Jennifer Hobson says:

    Will “fixers” be able to do anything about the damp in our bungalow? Or the night storage heaters that have been being replaced for the last three years?

  5. John Allen says:

    An excellent idea – shame there isn’t one in North Devon

    • david.beasley says:

      Hi John

      Thanks for your interest. Another four are set to open next year – we will keep you posted on the locations.

  6. L G Stook says:

    Where are the other 4 cafes going to be. None wihin an hour of me so can’t help at the moment.

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