A person working to repair electrical devices at a repair cafe

Make and do mend: the rise of the repair cafe

17 Dec 21 3 minute read

Look up the definition of repair in the dictionary and you’ll find the description ‘getting something damaged back into good condition’ or ‘to do something to make a bad situation better’

With the current concern for the climate emergency that second part has never been more relevant. So let’s all repair whatever we can to help (however small) in reducing waste, making better use of resources and saving money.

What is a repair cafe?

Now, we’re not all a dab hand with a screwdriver or sewing machine, and that’s where a repair cafe comes in. It’s a relaxed event where you can enjoy a cuppa and a chat while volunteers work on repairing anything from household items like kettles and computers to bikes and garden tools. The focus is on making things last, which means it’s great for your pocket by saving you money and good for the environment by reducing our need to mine for components and manufacture new things.  

We’re not all a dab hand with a screwdriver or sewing machine, and that’s where a repair cafe comes in.

Repair Cafe Glasgow (1).jpeg

What can you expect at your first repair cafe?

  • You can pretty much take along anything that is broken and the volunteers will do their best to repair them – but do check first. Sometimes a repair cafe will focus on certain items such as electricals only
  • You’ll be encouraged to sit and chat with the volunteer so you learn how to make future repairs
  • As long as it can be repaired, you’ll leave with fully-functioning items that will go on to last many more years
  • You may be asked to complete a short form describing the item that was repaired so that the organisers can monitor how much is repaired to help secure future funding

Who organises repair cafes?

Repair cafes tend to be run by volunteers. As Lauren Crilly, from Repair Cafe Glasgow, said “We started with four volunteers and now we have more than 30 including over 10 textile repairers. It’s fantastic. They are incredibly skilled and come from all backgrounds – product designers, computer technicians, engineers and natural tinkerers.”

Become a volunteer

If you’ve got a desire to repair things and ‘have a go’ outlook then volunteering at a repair cafe might just be for you. One of our team members, Miriam, remembers her first visit to Transition Stirling’s Repair Cafe; “I took along a pair of glasses where the arm had come off. There wasn’t anyone there specialising in glasses repair, but a jewellery maker was there that day and had all sorts of tiny tools and said she’d have a go. I came away with good as new glasses and a big smile.

“That same day, I also took an old sewing machine that I’d been given. The volunteers PAT tested it, put on a new plug and changed the needle for me.”

Find a repair cafe

There aren't many repair cafes in Scotland yet, but The Share & Repair Network is a new initiative set up to provide a community space for repair projects in Scotland, you can use their website to find repair projects near you. Here are a few to get you started - if you hear of any others, let us know on Facebook and we’ll add them to the list.

Or if you’d like to start up your own repair café, you can buy a manual for a small fee from Repair Cafe International.

Check out your local repair cafe next time you have something that needs a bit of TLC.