Last Saturday I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours at New Broadcasting House contributing to a BBC World Service radio programme* about Repair Cafes. These community repair events have gone global since being founded nine years ago by the brilliant Martine Postma in the Netherlands. There are now nearly 1600 Repairs Cafes in 33 countries.
On Saturday morning I had lots of examples of successful fixes ready to share with radio listeners but, as often happens, I only had time to recall a couple. One unshared repair job stands out in my memory; I think it sums up perfectly what the Repair Café concept is all about. In fact, it was my first introduction to a ‘live’ Repair Café, it fired my interest and I’m re-telling it here in the hope it will spark interest in others in the run-up to International Repair Café Week 2018 in mid-October.
Before setting up the Royston Repair Café five years ago, I arranged a visit to one in London at the wonderful Goodlife Centre. Alison Winfield-Chislett, the genius behind the Centre, offered me a cup of tea as I walked through the door and suggested I just ‘get stuck in’, buddying me up with the owner (we’ll call her Sue) of a broken piano stool. This was lucky because, if I have a repair specialism, it’s furniture. I soon learnt that the stool had been broken by Sue’s 16 year old son. She didn’t say he’d ‘lost it’ in the middle of a particularly demanding piano lesson but that was the image in my mind’s eye.
The big thing about the best Repair Cafes is that, where possible, the owners learn how to mend their broken items themselves. After a bit of instruction for Sue, I watched while she dismantled the broken part of the stool – unscrewing the wooden leg from the metal bracket that had held it in place. Sue glued and clamped the leg and, while the glue dried, we drank tea and had a chat with others at the Repair Café – a lot of that goes on at these events.
Back on the job, Sue bent the bracket back into shape and reconnected the broken leg to the main body of the stool, while I had another cup of tea and offered the odd bit of advice. Within about an hour and a half the stool was fixed. The proud smile on Sue’s face made it all worthwhile.
As she left Sue said, almost as an afterthought, “What I didn’t tell you is that my son’s now 21. This piano stool has been broken for five years! I can’t wait to see his face when he sees it in one piece again, he feels very guilty whenever he looks at it. And when he finds out that his mum fixed it…!”
*Programme to be broadcast in October 2018 in the World Hacks series https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04d42vf
Find out more…
Visit your nearest Repair Cafe https://repaircafe.org/en/visit International Repair Cafe Week 2018 is 13-21st October https://repaircafe.org/en/international-repair-cafe-week-2018/
Royston Repair Café www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe
The Goodlife Centre https://www.thegoodlifecentre.co.uk
More blog posts in this Repairing the World series https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/repairing-the-world