Category Archives: Repairing the world

The broken phone

The other day I was travelling to London by train minding my own business; in fact, I was literally minding my own business! I was on my way to StartUp 2019 – a brilliant day of inspiration for would-be entrepreneurs (the subject for a future blog post). I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a daughter and her dad sitting directly in front of me.

What caught my attention – I don’t listen in to all conversations on trains, you know – was the daughter’s declaration, while looking despondently into the palm of her hand, Cheap phones break easily. It was a profound and articulate observation from someone I’d estimate to be 10-12 years old, and it particularly struck a chord with me as I’m preparing for our 20th community repair session at the Royston Repair Café in February.

There followed a discussion between the girl and her father along the lines of …

G: Will they be able to mend the crack dad?                                                                                                 F: No – they’ll replace the whole screen                                                                                                          G: Will it be the same colour around the edge?                                                                                           F: Probably not, but your case will cover that up                                                                                        G: Will they be able to mend it straight away?                                                                                            F: No – you’ll have to leave it with them for a while                                                                                   G: Oh dear…                                                                                                                                                      F: But we can take out your sim card to use in another phone. First, we should find out how much it will cost to repair – it might be cheaper to get a new one. How much did it cost?                                   G: £135                                                                                                                                                          F: I’ll check out some prices for new phones [says Dad as he looks online on his own phone]               G: [looking over dad’s shoulder] Wow! You can get same day delivery and a special colour with that one.

Despite being impressed by technical specifications which meant nothing to me but clearly made sense to this mature pre-teen (Isn’t 3-D meant to be bad for your eyes? she asked at one point) I was heartened by what she said next…

But I’d want to keep my old phone if my case doesn’t fit a new one – it’s special. By this time the previously attentive father seemed to be more interested in buying a new phone for his daughter than she was.

I’d like to report that the conversation continued as follows…

G: No dad – I’ve decided I want to hang on to this phone – I love it and it does me fine. Getting a new one would be a waste of money and, well… wasteful.                                      F: OK – let’s  get it repaired and [looking at his own phone] amazing – it says here you can take broken phones to a local Repair Café or Restart Party and fixes are free! Or we could go to a website called iFixit and try to repair it ourselves. And there’s even a guide here to repairing cracked phone screens using something called Sugru.

I made up that last bit because, sad to say, the two travellers arrived at their destination and got off the train before me, so I’ll never know what became of that broken phone. But we can all dream, can’t we? It may be all we have to sustain us!

Help make the dream come true – spread the word…

https://therestartproject.org

https://www.ifixit.com

https://sugru.com/tech-gadget/how-to-fix-a-cracked-phone-screen.html

https://repaircafe.org/en

www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe

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The story of a broken piano stool

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

Repairing the world

Who said “Waste isn’t waste until we waste it”?

Learning of this clever quote was one of many pleasing things I gained from an event in Cambridge yesterday which could legitimately be said to have a global significance. It’s not every day you can say that about spending nine hours in a church on a wet Saturday in November.

The man associated with the quote is Will.I.Am – someone I associate with a name which I regard as, er… unusual, and whose performances on ‘The Voice’ leaves me cold. In contrast, I’m impressed by his behind-the-scenes activities; the music-man-come- style-celebrity gives his name, time and money to many worthy causes. This includes an international campaign – Fashion Revolution – which aims to sew social, ethical and environmental responsibility into the fabric of the fashion industry.

The essence of the campaign is ‘telling the story’ behind the clothing items that arrive on our high streets and sell at rock bottom prices with, in many cases, scant regard for the people and processes behind their production.

For me, the story behind the product was also at the heart of my uplifting day in Cambridge. It was at an attempt on the record for the World’s Biggest Repair Café – a mass fix of pre-loved and still-wanted broken items – bikes, clothes, electricals, toys, high and low tech kitchen gadgets, gardening equipment, ornaments, phones, laptops, even an umbrella. We were seeking to mend more than 150 items – a record set in France in 2013.

I worked on eight items and was pleased with the result, though many of the fixes where a lot more straight forward than those of my fellow repairers working on more technical problems on either side of me.

There were two garden forks with broken wooden handles (with a combined age of 140 years!) and both deserved more TLC than I could give them in the time I had to work on fixing them. The older of the two was 100 years old – originally owned by the great grandmother of the little girl who attended the Repair Café with her mum. As the current owner said to me “I could get a new fork or replace the wooden handle, but it’s my mother and her mother’s hands that worked the soil with this particular handle – that’s what matters to me.”

Or the 40-year old binoculars case – a wedding present I think – the leather hinge between body and lid worn torn in two from regular use. This is now replaced with some new leather in a cack-handed repair which, while certainly not beautiful, will hopefully keep those binoculars protected for another 40 years.

Or the 25 year-old hand-crafted ornamental wooden horse and carriage from Russia. A cherished memento that needed some refurbishment – new reins for the horse, re-fixing the carriage harness, reconstructing the passenger’s parasol – it’s journey to be recalled and treasured, I hope, for generations to come.

Then there were the little food related highlights – the edible nuts and screws on some lovely biscuits, the wonderful free three-course meals served up from surplus food by Cambridge Foodcycle.

Most important for me is that yesterday was about keeping so many things in use for longer. The eight items I worked on had a combined age of over 227 years. “But did you set a new world record?” I hear you ask. It doesn’t really matter but, yes, we did – with over 200 items fixed – we well and truly broke it and so, of course, we now need to repair it…

Further photos at  https://www.facebook.com/roystonrepaircafe/photos/a.709787542553843.1073741847.168583403340929/709787559220508/?type=3&theater

Fashion Revolution http://fashionrevolution.org

20 reads about repairing, sharing and reusing

The ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ of cutting waste, saving money and fixing the planet

If you have problems with downloading, copy and paste link in your browser

 

The Fixer’s Manifesto http://repaircafe-esslingen.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/sugru_manifesto.pdf   

How to run a Repair Café  http://circularcambridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/How-to-run-a-Repair-Cafe-updated-12April16.pdf and www.instructables.com/id/Host-a-Repair-Cafe

Keep the date – FixFest 2017 https://therestartproject.org/community/fixfest

Repair and Share Guide: profiles of 6 inspirational organisation keeping things in use for longer, plus with top tips for setting up your own http://cfsd.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Repair_and_Share_PRINT.pdf

 

What is a library of things?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNca7UVW6g4   

Citizen-driven repair: research sources www.cfsd.org.uk/research including a global survey of Repair Cafes

Eco guide to the repair economy www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/02/the-eco-guide-to-the-repair-economy?

A Greenpeace guide to the repair-ability of your mobile device www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/Global/eastasia/publications/reports/toxics/2017/howrepairableisyourmobiledevice.pdf  

Care and repair – your clothes http://loveyourclothes.org.uk/care-repair

Farnham Repair Café YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UCkzO-v8mM-TeEf_dFqV5pCw

UK Funding for local waste reduction http://ciwm-journal.co.uk/funding-boost-councils-target-weee-reuse

Join the campaign against product obsolescence  www.rethink-it.org sign the petition and check out your product

DIY repair guides:

www.patagonia.com/worn-wear-repairs

www.wikihow.com/wikiHowTo?search=Repair

www.instructables.com/howto/repair

www.ifixit.com/Guide

 

Reduce, reuse, recycle www.epa.gov/recycle

20 Simple ways to live more lightly https://theconsciousvegan.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/20-small-ways-to-make-a-big-difference  [photo]

The forgotten R … repair https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-forgotten-r-reduce-reuse-recycle-and-repair 

 

 

List compiled August 2017 by Chris Lee. Royston Repair Café  www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe

Thanks to Prof Martin Charter www.linkedin.com/in/martin-charter-frsa-6289097/?ppe=1           http://cfsd.org.uk/events/farnham_repair_cafe

The accidental fixer

vac-inspectionIt says much about the kind of people who attend Repair Café events (and many return because they enjoy the experience so much) that Peter Howarth turned up to a recent repair session in Royston, Hertfordshire, with his broken vacuum cleaner and ended up fixing someone else’s instead!

I wanted to find out a bit about the man behind this generous act, this is what I found out…

Have you always been interested in repairs? 

No, not in repairs exactly; it’s more about being interested in finding out how things work… as well as in the general challenge of solving problems of course.

Did you have any formal training?        

No, though as a teenager growing up in Lancaster, I used to work in my dad’s farm and garden equipment business on Saturdays and during school holidays. This included machinery sales, servicing and repairs, so I had quite a lot of ‘on-the-job’ exposure to practical problem-solving, with things like lawnmowers, cultivators and milking machines. 

In general, are you a practical person? 

Yes, I guess so. However, I think my interest mainly comes from inquisitiveness. From an early age I used to take things apart to see how they worked… and (happily) I gradually got better at putting them back together again. 

This was not without a few hiccups along the way though…  I remember years ago investigating the family video recorder after a tape got stuck, which is probably an experience best forgotten… It took me the best part of the weekend to get it back in working order, and tapes still stuck afterwards!

Also of course, when growing up, I had to service and repair my own bikes and cars to save some cash, so you learn as you go along. I must admit though, that today’s cars have many more electronic ‘black boxes’ and computerised engine management components under the bonnet, so they are not as straightforward to repair for the interested ‘home mechanic.’

vac-fix-success

At the recent Royston Repair Café session, how did you end up helping someone else fix their vacuum cleaner, but not your own?! 

I brought along my machine after starting to repair it because I realised it had a clutch problem and thought there may be someone there with more experience of the servicing routine.

However, while I was waiting my turn, I saw a chap with another vacuum cleaner who had been waiting for a while and asked if he’d like me to take a look at it for him. He was happy for me to take it apart to run some tests and happily we managed to find the cause of his problem and get it up and running again. I enjoyed doing something practical and he was able to return a working machine to his daughter – a good result all round!

Has the experience whetted your appetite to be a volunteer repairer at the next Royston Repair Café on February 5th?

Yes, there’s a lot of satisfaction in making something work that has previously been a ‘dead duck’ and it’s great to keep things out of landfill if they can be mended. 

Also, during the working week I’m a freelance marketing consultant who helps people to grow their businesses, so the Repair Cafe was a complete change from the day job and it was really good fun to be a member of the team.

Further information:

Royston Repair Cafe: http://www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe                                              Peter Howarth and his business: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/peterhowarth

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

Words to cut waste

Words to cut wasteLast Thursday I was asked to comment on local radio about the report that we throw away the same weight as 90,000 elephants [makes a change from double-decker buses and football pitches, I suppose] of perfectly good items every year.

I thought I was going to talk about re-use and instead I was asked to talk about repair – a subtle but important difference. I managed to gather my thoughts for a 5-minute plug for our Royston Repair Cafe but it meant my notes about re-use became redundant. So I’m re-recycling them (geddit?) now.

It got me thinking about the need to learn a new lexicon to change attitudes to consumption and waste. Normally I’d advise against anything that smacks of jargon but I’m making an exception here because the goal – a healthier planet – is worth it (not to mention helping people to save money in hard times).

My marketing background has long advocated using ‘affordable’ or ‘good-value’ instead of ‘cheap’ when you’re selling. Even £1 shop customers don’t want to be regarded as cheapskates.

So what words can nudge people to reduce waste if used carefully?

An earlier guest blog talks about ‘repair’ as the forgotten ‘r’ alongside the ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ trinity, so I won’t dwell on those words. Enough to say you should recycle as a last resort – because it reduces our carbon footprint the least of the three.

Just one more ‘r word’ to include here – restore – which I like because it could equally be applied to our health as well as inanimate objects, showing how the wellbeing of people, products and planet are inextricably linked.

Here’s your homework for today. Learn to re-use the following ten words/phrases in your everyday conversation and together we can cut waste.

Recycling centre – instead of local tip. Our’s changed its image almost overnight (and sounded less smelly) by changing its name.

Pre-loved – instead of second-hand or cast-off. Quite a number of furniture re-use schemes/projects/facilities having been using this term for some years. And while we’re on the subject of furniture…

Shabby chic – makes a fashion statement by being old and…er… well worn. In an earlier blog I mentioned my appreciation of the Magpie Co-op’s cleverly-named re-use facility in Brighton – Shabitat

Austerity chic – 60’s and 70’s money-saving gadgets (Sodastream – DIY fizzy drinks, and Hostess trolley – for entertaining at home etc) making a comeback – harking back to the good-old-bad-old-days.

Retro-chic – see the other ‘chics’ above – appeal to people’s nostalgia for a simpler past life. Think of my ten year old mobile that I can use for making phone calls but little else.

Antique – confers quality and value on something; both of which are so subjective you shouldn’t end up in court under the Trades Descriptions Act. My wife’s wedding ring was described as ‘antique’ – sounds better than ‘second-hand’ (which it literally was!) and, to continue the bodily associations, it cost me an arm and a leg.

Vintage – see ‘antique’ but I tend to associate it with clothing (and Wayne Hemingway – one of my heroes)

Thrift – making a virtue out of getting or making something at no/low-cost. Even Kirstie Allsopp is at it (and ‘respect’ to the wonderful Max McMurdo  @maxreestore). And talking of Wayne Hemingway, did you know that 25,000 people visited ‘his’ free Festival of Thrift in Darlington last year? Look out for the 2014 Festival on 27-28 September.

Up-cycle – a somewhat ugly word for something much more attractive. The textbook example is turning a man’s shirt into a woman’s skirt, but my favourite is turning old jeans into an apron (suitable for woodworkers – Men’s Sheds rule) but it doesn’t have to be clothing.

My champion up-cyclers are your final ‘r’ word for today…

Recover – I keep banging on about these folk in Welwyn Garden City so I’ll just refer you to my earlier ‘experts by experience’ blog about them https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-art-of-adding-value/

Other references….

Royston Repair Cafe  www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe

Local Government Association waste reportwww.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/5854661/LGA+Routes+to+Reuse+FINAL+FINAL.PDF/5edd19ba-7c13-47c5-b019-97a352846863

The forgotten ‘r’ https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-forgotten-r-reduce-reuse-recycle-and-repair/

Festival of Thrift http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/sep/28/festival-thrift-austerity-chic-real-help