Almost 100 people visited York’s first Repair Café and more than 60 items were mended at the event held by Planet South Bank at Clements Hall on Sunday 23 April.
The repair café, which had ‘stations’ fixing small appliances, electronics, furniture, textiles and clothing, jewellery and bikes, was run by 26 volunteers from the local community and offered repairs free of charge for items that could be fixed.
The three-hour event saw a steady stream of visitors, who enjoyed homemade and donated cakes while they waited for their turn to see the repairers.
Items that were brought included lamps, CD players, kettles, clocks, chairs, speakers, bikes, sweaters, blankets, necklaces and earrings. Among the more challenging items for the repair team were a headless doll, a lawnmower and a laptop, but only six items proved completely unfixable.
Response to the repair café was overwhelmingly positive, with visitors praising the hard-working repairers and friendly service.
“ Brilliant – I got three much-loved items repaired”, “without your help my pushchair would have been landfill”, “wonderful fixers and helpers” and “nothing is a lost cause” were some of the comments received in feedback, while the main complaint was that the event was not already weekly.
“One lady retrieved two lamps that she had actually thrown in the trash, cleaned them off and brought them to us and was thrilled to bits that she got them both fixed,” said organiser Kate Lock.
“We also fixed a child’s bike that had been found in a skip. It is really satisfying to know that we’ve saved things from being chucked away and given them a new lease of life.”
Councillor Andrew Waller, City of York Council Executive Member for the Environment, attended the event, bringing along a tie signed by Jon Snow for a spot repair.
“It’s been a really great buzz. Opportunities like this are a really good way to try and get us away from the disposable, throwaway society,” he said.
“I think people are more aware of the problems caused by landfill and sending stuff away, so the more that we can get used to bringing things in to repair, getting more life out of them, then the more money we’ll save in the long run.
“It’s been a really good trial and from what I’ve seen today there’s certainly been a lot of demand for it.”
Planet Southbank received funding to run the repair cafe and other waste-themed events from York Community Recycling Fund and Kate Lock hopes that Sunday’s successful pilot will inspire other groups to put on similar events in other parts of York.
“We’ve shown it’s doable, and viable and there’s a clear need for it and interest in it. I think we will do another one – the proceeds from the café can seed the next event. I can also see the potential for building up the repair crew we’ve established and sending them out to venues in other parts of the city, if groups and venues are willing to host.
“We are certainly happy to share our learning. We joined the international Repair Café Foundation and there’s a lot of help out there to do these things. It’s already very big in The Netherlands, where it started, and it seems to be growing all over the world, including in the UK.”
Kate and the Planet Southbank team were supported by members of Glass Half Full, another voluntary group, as well as local businesses, tradespeople, makers, menders, hobbyists and professionals.
“There’s been fantastic support across the board, from donations of cakes from local cafes and shops to skilled tradesmen giving their time voluntarily.
“One of the best things has been the range of people that have been involved or come along, and the fantastic conversations and connections we’ve made.
“That’s what community spirit is all about and I think we discovered there’s a lot of it around today.”
If you would like to volunteer for a future York Repair Café, email: firstname.lastname@example.org