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Repair Café Revolution and Your Right to Repair

Need something repairing but don’t want to spend your spare cash?

You might want to reconsider going to a high street repair shop and instead turn to your local community centre. Repair Cafés as a concept aren’t all that new, but with living becoming more expensive, they’re growing rapidly in popularity.

What is a Repair Cafe?

A Repair Café is a community led group dedicated to repairing broken items of clothing, tech, furniture and more. If you have something broken that you want fixing or restoring to its former glory, bring it along. There are specialists in different crafts waiting at different tables. To get your item repaired go along to one of these tables and give a small donation. The repairer will examine your item and attempt to repair it whilst you settle down with some tea and cake.

Repair Cafés are largely held in community hubs. The branch closest to my university sets up every month in the foyer of the local theatre.

What do you do there?

Whilst I’m more used to helping out, I recently needed a repair doing for myself. I went along and brought a pair of old trousers. They had been heading towards the bin when I got them but I was too stubborn to let them go, wearing them until the fabric split into holes, so I handed them to the sewing repair specialist.

She said that a temporary repair was possible and gave me advice on upkeep, recommending that in future I use a patch to cover the hole but that beyond that, the trousers weren’t all that salvageable.

Whilst she worked, I sat down with a cup of tea and chatted. Other members of the community had come along to get a variety of items repaired: one had a guitar, another a bike, and one couple with a rack of stage lights. They had all paid only a few pounds in return.

After about ten minutes, I was called back over to the sewing table and there were my trousers! Back to their usual state and, as I found out, wearable for about another four months. I am happy to report that after they succumbed to me constantly wearing them around the house, I cut them up into cleaning rags.

If I went back, I would take something different. Some Repair Cafés have repairers that specialise in computers, so perhaps bringing along my old laptop would be the best value.

How did it all start?

The first Repair Café was set up in Amsterdam by a journalist named Martine Postma. Her original vision was to change society’s “throwaway culture“. She began by producing guides on how to produce less waste for her local community, then by setting up a local Repair Café, before founding the Repair Café Foundation to support local groups.

Repair Cafés around the world are part of a much larger idea, the Right to Repair movement. The Right to Repair movement believes that everybody should have the right to repair products that they own.

At present, this means finding people who understand how to repair existing systems and saving them from becoming landfill, but in future, the movement hopes to make all technology easily repairable by the user themselves, including:

According to the Repair Café Wales’ website, 4779 items have been repaired so far by cafés in the organisation.

Related Information

To find a Repair Café in your local area, go to:

To see more about how people are saving their old clothes, check out The Sprout’s visit to the Sustainable Studio.

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