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 Repair Cafés in Belgium, Germany, France, the UK, the USA and in dozens of other countries around the world. There are more than 2000 repair cafes worldwide, and some 150 in the UK.
It’s important to understand that a Repair Cafe isn’t in competition with professional repair specialists. The Repair Café Foundation sometimes gets asked whether access to free repair get-togethers is competing with professional repair specialists. That’s not the case; the idea is that Repair Cafés focus attention on the possibility of getting things repaired. Visitors are frequently advised to go to local professionals.
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 Cafe 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.
In a Repair Cafe 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, the repairer runs out of time and tools, which is where this Repair Shed could help.
But if you wonder if a thing can be repaired, taking it along to your nearest Repair Cafe could be the first port of call.
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 Cafes.