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 the challenge of yet another broken kettle that prompted Bath resident Lorna Montgomery to look for a solution. Her search led her to the Repair Café Foundation. Its aims to help local repair volunteers use and share their skills for the benefit of their local community fitted well with her background in volunteer organisations and led to the creation of the Bath Repair Café.
The first café was in Bear Flat in April 2017. Since then, we have set up regular monthly cafés in Larkhall, Weston, Southdown and Peasedown St John with pop-ups in Foxhill and at the University of Bath. And we now have a central Bath location – the Share and Repair Shop – where we lend things to people and repair items.
Since it began, our 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.
From repairing to sharing: Along the way, we also realised we could share our skills with people. So many visitors to our repair cafes said they had a sewing machine at home but couldn’t use it; and others brought in bikes for simple maintenance. In response we launched our HOW TO Workshops, initially by using a side room in the Repair Cafés before we formalised the idea in late 2019. By then we had introduced and held workshops on HOW TO Use Hand and Power Tools.
We are currently (as of Spring 2021) introducing HOW TO Reduce your Carbon Footprint workshops within the Share and Repair Shop and as a pilot project within primary schools.
Another strand of ‘sharing’ is our Library of Things. We started this at the Weston Hub in November 2018 and changed our official name to Share & Repair in line with our expanded vision.
We become a charity: In April 2020, Share and Repair gained charitable status as a CIO (charitable incorporated organisation) no 1189015. This is a major milestone for us and means we are accountable and can now raise funds through grant making trusts and from Gift Aid.
We open a shop: In June 2020 we hit another major milestone when we opened the doors to the Share and Repair Shop in the centre of Bath. This became the new home for the Library of Things and a place where we run repair sessions, which have become our main way to keep repairing during repeated the pandemic.
The response to the shop has bee been incredible. Interest in what we do is growing as passers-by drop in to check us out and we are now lending out more and more items.
HomeKIT launches: In Spring 2021 we officially launch HomeKIT. This is a new project that will see us taking donations of good-quality but unwanted kettles, irons and toasters and sharing these ‘home kits’ with partner charities who will distribute them to low-income households. If items need repairing, we certainly have the skills and means to do so. We’re really excited about expanding our work in this way and working with other organisations.
Want to get involved?
We are delighted to see community interest in sharing and repairing continuing to grow, which means so do our plans.
At Share & Repair we continue to work alongside communities in Bath and North East Somerset to establish Repair Café projects. The Library of Things is expanding thanks to its relocation in the Share and Repair Shop, and our Repair Cafes are up and running once more – working in a slightly different way than pre-lockdown.
We’re always looking for ideas and people to expand and develop what we do, as well as volunteers. So if you’re interested in what we do, and have time, skills or just want to be part of Share & Repair, take a look at our latest vacancies, or simply get in touch for a chat. Feel free to call us on 07486 518197.