Finding someone and somewhere that will repair a broken item is a chore for many of us. Often, the easier option is to throw it into landfill and buy a new one.
It was this challenge of yet another broken kettle that prompted Bath resident Lorna Montgomery to look for a more practical solution – how to link up those with repair skills with those broken items.
Her search initially took her to electrical repairs charity Restart and ultimately onto the discovery of the Repair Café Foundation – a now decade-old organisation that started in Amsterdam. Its aims are to help people meet local repairers able to fix a full range of items, from electricals to clothing and more. It also wants to help people learn new repair skills and feel part of a community while doing so.
The ethos fitted well with Lorna’s background in volunteer organisations and her family motto of ‘waste not, want not’ so she decided to start up a Repair Café locally. The first meeting took place in The Cork pub in the centre of Bath. Thanks to B&NES Council publicising the meeting, it attracted a lot of interest and volunteers (including many of Lorna’s friends).
Repair Cafes rolled out
The first Bath Repair Café was then held in St Luke’s Church Centre in Bear Flat in April 2017. Visitors donated £100 on the day, perfectly covering the cost of hiring the hall.
Other Repair Cafés followed at St Saviour’s Church in Larkhall and at Time Bank Plus in Twerton before the regular pattern of monthly cafes in Larkhall, Weston and Southdown was established.
Peasedown St John came on board as the latest regular location in June this year and we’ve run pop-up Repair Cafés at Mulberry Park in Foxhill and are planning some at the University of Bath.
Since the launch, volunteers have seen more than 1,200 items, fixing things like singing teddy bears, mobile phones, numerous toasters and kettles, and many dresses, skirts and jackets. Sentimental items such as model boats, weighing scales and old clocks have also been given a new lease of life.
The idea of helping people access items they don’t often use (and borrowing rather than buying them) was something Lorna also felt passionate about. After looking in options, the Library of Things in Crystal Palace seemed a sensible and easy model to follow.
The name Share & Repair came to mind and in November 2018, the Bath Repair Café officially changed its name to coincide with the opening of a permanent place in Bath for a ‘Library of Things’ (at Weston Hub).
It’s the second such library in Bath. The first is based at Time Bank Plus in Twerton and there are hopes to work together more closely in the future.
Structure and Funding
Share & Repair is currently a community group but in the process of becoming a Charity. Our funding comes from a mixture of donations and grants.
Donations given by Repair Café visitors are used to cover the cost of hall hire, insurance, materials and an annual volunteer celebration.
Grants from St John’s, Bath & West Community Energy Fund and Bath Boules are used to buy capital items such as PAT Testers (to check electrical items are safe to use), publicity and marketing materials.
Share & Repair is working alongside communities in Timsbury and Marshfield to help them establish Repair Café projects. We also supported the newly set-up Repair Café in Keynsham.
Our dream now is to have premises in central Bath where we can run repairing and ‘how to’ workshops and house a bigger, permanent Library of Things. It would also be a place where other circular economy best practices could be explored.
We would sit alongside other local environmental organisations with the joint aim of creating a one-stop-shop where the residents of Bath & North East Somerset could find out more on how to reduce their carbon footprint.