World’s biggest Repair Cafe

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Article by Nicole Barton.

Repair Cafes. ‘What a jolly good idea’ is what I think Sir David Attenborough said to me as I introduced him to the concept in April. My recollection is blurred by endorphins and adrenalin - this was a huge, bucket list moment for me. I explained that Repair Cafe’s are free community events, matching experienced repairers with people needing stuff fixed. They are a significant part of the reason I recently disclosed to a friend that ‘I would probably go into work and do my job, even if I wasn’t paid’.

I work on lots of environmental initiatives and only recently realised why Repair Cafes are so special. It’s the kindness. Highly skilled, professional engineers and repairers share themselves and their tools to unreservedly help a stranger. The repairers talk through what they are doing and a brief relationship is struck up. Repair Cafés are the proper Big Society, helping in a small way to tackle poverty and isolation.

Repairer Chris Moller says he does it ‘Because the delight on peoples’ faces when you bring something back from the dead that they had totally given up on, is priceless’.  It seems generosity is infectious. Repair Cafes are springing up all over Cambridgeshire and the entire world –1,370 are registered and stretch from Chile to Japan and Norway. 

Kate Boursnell from Transition Cambridge is involved because ‘… they help people’s stuff last longer, so we use fewer resources and less energy to make new things.’ In terms of climate change, this is crucial.  Our consumption makes up 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Per capita Britain is one of the top five nations creating electronic waste. The average Briton dumps 23.5kg of e-waste each year.

The Circular Cambridge Festival, supported by Mackays of Cambridge and Draper Tools on Sat 11th Nov is challenging repairers and the public to take part in the World’s Biggest Repair Cafe. Bring us your faulty, torn, wobbly, and malfunctioning items and together we’ll have a huge repair party. The whir of the drills, smell of solder, tapping of hammers and patter of sewing machines will be blended with talks, stalls and an amazing café. Full programme and booking available at www.circularcambridge.org /festival

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A version of this blog post first appeared in the Cambridge Independent on the 18th October 2017.