Category Archives: Guest blog

Keeping the past alive

Guest blog from Kathy Wilson, Royston Repair Cafe volunteer

IMG_0051Sometimes items arriving for repair at the Royston Repair Café are from a bygone era. This was certainly the case on Sunday 24th April 2016, when Naomi Wallen brought her grandfather’s 50-year-old Ekco Transistor Radio, which didn’t seem to tune into any modern radio stations.

Naomi fondly remembers the radio always on whenever she visited her grandfather’s house as a child, and expressed how lovely it would be to have it working again.

The volunteer repairers were clearly excited with the prospect of taking apart something so old and doing their best to get it working again. Because there are usually lots of owners bringing in broken goods, normally only one volunteer repairer can look at each item. But this was special, so next thing at least three repairers were eagerly bent over the partially dismantled radio, all giving their views on what the problem could be.

IMG_0050Most of the volunteers remember happily taking apart and putting back together all manner of items when they were young, which gave them a good grounding in ‘how things work’. After approximately 90 minutes, they managed to fix the radio to the point of picking up stations, but not completely clearly. They realised it was a matter of replacing one part, and the radio would work fully again!

There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction in repairing something, or at least attempting to do so. It’s not just that repairers feel a sense of personal satisfaction, but having fixed something, we feel we’re helping, in our little way, to overcome manufacturer planned-obsolescence and the concept of the ‘throw-away society’. And in the case of the transistor radio, we’ve given Naomi new memories to make.

Radio Fix success

Get updates on the Royston Repair Café at www.facebook.com/roystonrepaircafe 

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Learning to be Mr Fixit at a Repair Cafe

Charlie Hull Mr FixitGuest blog from charliejuggler

While I was growing up my father would try to fix almost anything (I have happy memories of stripping down and rebuilding an elderly Suffolk Punch lawnmower with him, aged about 7) and at home I try to do the same. In the last few months I’ve replaced the heater elements on our cooker, patched up a few toys and rebuilt a greenhouse.

I’ve been looking into how I might help at a Repair Cafe – an event where people can bring anything that needs fixing, from lawnmowers to ornaments to cameras, to a community hall where volunteers will have a go at a repair. The idea is to reduce landfill and re-use items where possible, and help those who don’t have the confidence, skills or experience to have a go themselves.

This Sunday I went to Royston to help out at their event. My score card reads as follows:

  • Black and Decker mains power drill – replaced the brushes, tested the switch, got it running but only slowly and noisily, discovered the motor armature was missing a piece which was happily trashing the new brushes, deemed it unrepairable. FAIL.
  • Digital camera which had been dropped, distorting the lens so it wouldn’t retract – took it to pieces (many, many teeny tiny screws) but it seems the lens unit is a single piece and hard to disassemble (not that I could remove it from the camera). FAIL. (note the same chap brought in both these items but seemed happy with the results, as at least he can get rid of the items now!)
  • Small lava lamp. Stupid moulded un-rewirable plug and inline switch (when I’m President of the World I shall legislate that everything should be held together with screws so you can take it apart). Tested and seemed that power was getting to the bulb holder, but neither bulb the owner had would work, so advised her to buy another. SUCCESS (if she gets a bulb that works).
  • Cast-iron clothes iron, used as an ornament. The handle had been damaged and many repairs attempted with Superglue but this hadn’t worked, so I cleaned off all the old glue, replaced a pin holding the metal and wooden parts of the handle together and re-glued it with two-part epoxy resin then strapped up with tape for drying: SUCCESS (if it held together all the way home).
  • I also consulted (which means hovered over other people’s repairs, making hopefully useful suggestions) – the most impressive repair was an old radio which needed a potentiometer taking apart and cleaning, the young lady was very pleased her grandpa’s radio was making a noise again.

I didn’t have my own toolkit, so had to borrow the cafe’s own donated one – it’s always difficult when you don’t have quite the tools you need but I got by. It was a fun morning and well organised – if not, these events could easily turn into a bunch of (generally) middle-aged men talking about their favourite spanners – not that I wouldn’t join in I suspect!

Hopefully I’ll be involved in a more local event soon – there’s talk of a roving event for the villages south of Cambridge.

With thanks to https://charliejugglerblog.wordpress.com

Adrian Ashton’s (social) entrepreneurs A-Z

Adrian AshtonIt’s all Chris Lee and Liam Black’s fault.

If they hadn’t started their ‘entrepreneur’s A to Z’s, I’d have happily sailed on, but something like that, to someone like me… well, you can see from Chris’ blog where he published his A-Z that I was compelled to offer some kind of ‘harsh truth’ alternative. And then he asked me nicely if I’d do my own social entrepreneurs’ A-Z, based on my own experiences of being a micro enterprise these last 9 years, and supporting countless others over the last 3 decades….

So here it is – a no-holds barred, ‘what they don’t tell you about what it’ll be like’ A-Z of being a (social) entrepreneur. And I’ll probably change my mind about most of these after Chris has posted them up, but nothing lasts forever, so here’s my alphabet for now:

A – anxiety; this is natural. Best to medicate symptoms with beer and cake.

B – bluster and bravado; people will take you more seriously the more confident you sound, so don’t be so British: be more American in how to present and promote yourself!

C – coffee; there’ll be many late nights. And even longer weekends, so make sure there’s always plenty in the kitchen.

D – denial; you’ll deal with a lot of this in your clients. Brush up on your diplomacy with them.

E – eggs; they’re good for you. Eat healthy. You’ll thank me for that later.

F – fooling around; don’t forget to try and have fun in what you do. It you wanted a boring job, you should have got that job stacking shelves in a supermarket.

G – goosebumps; there’ll be moments of such excitement when you realise you’ve pulled off what you thought wasn’t possible within the laws of this universe. Enjoy them, revel in them, and encourage others with stories about them.

H – hype and spin; there’s a lot from sector bodies and politicians. Learn how to spot it, and how to ignore it.

I – internet and social media; a wonderful source of faux companionship, and also of filling those odd bits of time between meetings and other things.

J – jumping through other people’s hoops; you can choose not to, but then you won’t get any paying work. Choose your hoops carefully…

K – kleptomania; keep your stationery supplies topped up by taking the free pens, etc from exhibitors and conferences

L – lies, damned lies, and statistics; you’ll start out wondering how anyone can behave apparently completely dishonestly in their dealings with you. If you’re not careful, you’ll eventually start to turn into them…

M – money; you can never have enough, and you often won’t have enough. As much as you wish you could get through this world on love and fresh air, someone’s got to pay to keep the lights on.

N – naughtiness; get into trouble – it’s the best way to get noticed and create impact (and you can always apologise later…)

O – opportunistic; grab chances where you see them – they’ll probably not come around again for some time…

P – pubs; you won’t see the inside of these as much as you used to/would like to.

Q – questions; people don’t asked enough of them, especially about (sometimes questionable) advice they’re offered from ‘expert advisers’

R – research; you can never do enough: keep learning about everything or you’ll quickly be surpassed by others.

S – stories; in the end we’re all stories. Make sure yours is a good one.

T – time travel; you’ll wish you had this to cope with shifting deadlines by clients.

U – universe; the universe is a big place – don’t forget that: it might help keep things in perspective.

V – values; know what you stand for, what you’re willing to compromise on, and where you’re not happy to go: once you’re out there, it’s easy to drift into ‘bad habits’ otherwise…

W – wives (and other types of spouse); you’ll spend less time with them, so make sure when you do, that they know they have your full attention.

X – xenophobia; don’t avoid outsiders – they’ll often be more interesting and challenging to your ideas (and therefore success) that you usual crowd of mates will be.

Y – yellow snow; never eat this. And never overlook the value of advice and support that also reflects common sense – it’s a rare commodity.

Z – zoos; sometimes you’ll be the zookeeper, sometimes the animal being expected to perform. Remember that both have their place, and neither can flourish without the other.

Thank you Adrian

For other A- Zs, go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/an-a-z-of-social-entrepreneurship and http://www.pioneerspost.com/business-school/20141121/order-your-copy-of-the-social-entrepreneurs-z-here

The Forgotten R – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… and Repair

The Repair Cafe – a free event to enable people to repair, rather than replace, their broken possessions – comes from the Netherlands. In the UK there are currently eight Repair Cafes; this first guest blog from Katherine Lee [Chris Lee’s daughter] sets the scene for the February launch of a ninth – the Royston Repair Cafe in North Hertfordshire.

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The 4 RsEvery hour this country produces enough waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall. Since this quantity is clearly unsustainable, the importance of changing attitudes towards consumption and waste management has never been greater. Most of us are familiar with the waste minimisation strategies of reduce, reuse and recycle, but there is an important omission, which warrants greater attention: repair.

Repair is an approach recently advocated by Professor David Mackay, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. In our current throwaway culture, there is often a perception that repair requires more effort and is more costly than replacement.  In fact, the opposite may be true. Consumers stand to gain much more than a working item by getting involved in the repair process; they may save money, develop skills, a sense of ownership, and a greater understanding of what makes a good product that is built to last. Often it may seem we have forgotten how to repair, or even that it’s a viable option, but the availability of low/no-cost repair support and expertise is actually increasing.

One example is the Repair Café, a free community initiative where participants learn how to mend their broken items under specialist guidance. Since the first Repair Café in Amsterdam in 2009, many more have been set up across Europe and North America. Another international scheme is The Restart Project, aiming to tackle one of the fastest growing waste streams by specialising in the repair of electronic equipment through free Restart Parties. Repairs may also be undertaken quickly and cheaply at home as help is available online. Ifixit.com is a free, open-source repair manual for electronic items and gadgets.  All of these projects have the same aim, to bring communities together to reduce waste by teaching people how to repair.

Whilst reduce, reuse and recycle remain important waste management strategies, given its diverse social, economic and environmental benefits, it is time to recognise the importance of repair.

Further information:

20 reads on repairing, sharing and fixing the planet  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/20-reads-about-repairing-sharing-and-reusing/

Online repair tutorials and guides:   www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2014/jan/09/how-to-repair-your-broken-goods-from-an-iphone-to-a-washing-machine

For updates and information on repair and reuse: www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe