Repair Cafes are spreading rapidly, with new ones opening recently in Hemyock and Taunton. Wellington could be next if members of the Transition Town group succeed in their plans. Val Mister a keen member of Wellington Transition Town group, is eager to see a repair café in our town. “It’s not just about getting things mended,” she says, “it’s about sharing skills and knowledge too.”
Val experienced the benefits of of the scheme when she took an old carved wooden box to the first Hemyock Cafe held in the village hall last month. The place was buzzing with activity, as people flocked in with broken bikes and torn clothes, old chairs and dead computers. There were more than than twenty skilled ‘fixers’ on hand, a busy tea and cake stall, and so many people and their stuff.
At the bike repair station, one young lad’s cycle was up on a stand. He watched, fascinated, as Ian Lee-White, on of the local ‘fixers’, stripped out the rusty cable and replaced the worn brake pads on his bike. A former design engineer, Ian had retired to Hemyock three years ago, but has put his years of experience to use, setting up his own successful cycle repair company in the village.
A stitch in time saves nine, they say, and Susan Risdon or ‘Sewing Sue’ as she’s known, made short work of turning up the hems on a pair of bright red trousers. The trousers belonged to Jude Dimuantes, a dynamic woman who’d she set up a repair café in Exeter. It takes place in St Sidwells on the third Saturday of every month and is going from strength to strength. She’s delighted to see the idea spreading – and even more delighted with her trousers, which now fit perfectly!
At the next table, Mary Pepper watched anxiously as Jon Snow, the local blacksmith, delicately fixed the leg of a porcelain bull back on its stump. The bull was a 21st birthday present from Mary’s favourite aunt. “My son had made a football out of newspaper and sellotape, and he was kicking it about,” she went on to explain. “His slipper flew off and knocked this poor bull off the shelf!” After a gap of nearly forty years, the bull has been finally reunited with its missing limb and stood there proudly, as good as new.
There was a queue forming at David Ball’s table. He specialises in restoring antique furniture, and was explaining the advantages of having rubber pads on the clamp as he glued back the leg of an old wooden chair. Long-time Blackdown resident Stephan Lehner had brought the old chair in in a sorry state, but rather than throwing it out, he’d brought it along to see what could be done. “It’s lovely to see so many people here,” said David as he worked. “We could have been sitting here having tea and cake – but it’s been non-stop all morning.”
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as the saying goes. But what about if it is ‘broke’? In today’s throwaway culture, we’re encouraged to chuck it out and buy a new one. But growing concerns over overflowing landfills, plastic waste, and the realisation that we have reached what some call ‘peak stuff’ is galvanising local communities into action. The first repair café was set up in Holland in 2009 by Martine Postma, and there are now over 1,400 across the world. If the success of Hemyock’s repair café is anything to go by, this is just the start. If you’re interested in joining the ‘repair revolution’, check out www.repaircafe.org/en and join the Transition Towns Wellington group to build a better, more sustainable future.
The next Repair Café in Hemyock will be on Saturday 26th May from 10am.
Article by Anita Roy
for Transition Towns Wellington