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Bath Repair Café - Four Thoughts

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

You've heard of café culture... well move over all of that, because repairing's where it's at! :) We're a bit late to the party but recently, we were introduced to the wonderful world of the repair café that's sprung up all over Somerset (and UK wide), making many of us rethink what we throw away. We wanted to find out a little bit more about the idea, share it with you on the blog and luckily for us, Lorna Montgomery, Founder of the Bath Repair Café, was on hand for a chat.

We asked Lorna four questions we thought you'd love to know the answers to... and if you're thinking of throwing away your old toaster, just hang a minute until you've read this!

1. Can you tell us a bit about the Bath Repair Café and the idea behind it? 

It’s a really simple idea. Repair cafés are community events where volunteers with practical skills get together to help mend people’s broken things for free. It brings people together to share skills and cut waste by keeping your things working for longer, so they don’t need to be dumped and replaced.

In Bath, we’ve been going since April 2017. We now have three regular repair cafés every month, in Southdown, Weston and Larkhall, with other pop-up events too.

We find a lot of people are fed up with things not being made to last, or not being able to get them fixed when they do break. It can be very tempting to just throw it out and get another one, but we're giving people another option – at least come and see if it can be fixed, meet some really interesting and talented people and enjoy a cuppa and a tasty cake while you're at it!

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Tea, cake and repairing something that was broken? Sounds good to us!

2. What sort of things do people repair at the café and do you help people to learn how to repair? 

It’s amazing what skills we have in our community... from bike mechanics to skilful stitchers, a woodworker in his 90s, a clock and watch expert and lots of people experienced in electrical and mechanical repairs. They're so willing to share their knowledge and talents. We invite people to sit with their repairer and get involved and they often find it fascinating to see their possessions taken apart - to see how they work, help find the problem and see that fixed before their very eyes.

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It's official. Repairing stuff makes you happy :) Photo by Neil Simpson

Often people bring beloved but broken items along, and it’s really rewarding to see how much it means to them to have a family heirloom or favourite item of clothing fixed so it's as good as new. We're delighted at every item fixed, because it's another visitor helped and another thing which isn’t ready to throw out yet.

We run occasional ‘how to’ sessions, so people can pick up some mending tips and feel more confident fixing things themselves – like how to use a sewing machine, or maintaining your bike. Repairing and repurposing things is a great way to reduce our environmental impact and to live more sustainably.

3. What's the weirdest or most wonderful thing that's been repaired so far? 

You name it, we’ve probably mended it! Everything from giving a toy bunny back his bounce to repairing a mannequin, lawnmowers and a deionizer.

One of the most unusual was a 40-year-old goose shaped lamp with a cassette player integrated – now working again as well as it did when it was first made in the 1970s!

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Even this goose-shaped lamp gets fixed at the Bath Repair Cafe!

The eyes of our fixers genuinely light up when particularly interesting or older items come through the doors, but we also fix up plenty of bicycles, clothes and small household appliances. Electrical items like radios and toasters are the most common.

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And the moral of the story... don't chuck out your toaster!

In our first year, we looked at over 320 items, and more than two thirds were fixed, which is a great result – more than 230 things that weren’t binned and didn’t need to be bought, made or transported with all the resources involved in that.

4. Tell us a secret about the Bath Repair Café that no-one else knows. 

I’ll tell you two secrets! The first is that the real beauty of the repair café is only partly in fixing things. It’s also in creating a space where people come together, in the fantastic atmosphere of our events, and the buzz they get from making those connections. We get volunteers and visitors from all walks of life, and it’s always fascinating to see who will come and what they'll bring. Repairing is a really practical way of helping someone else, the community and the planet. There is something special about people who have never met, working together to solve a problem and when something gets fixed, it really makes you feel great!

That’s an open secret that anyone who comes along knows about, so I’ll let you in on another one. We’ve got big plans to find new and exciting ways for people in the city to come together, cut down on waste and reduce the need to buy as much. We’re preparing to launch our first 'library of things', where people can borrow tools and other things you need only once in a while for just a few pounds. We hope it'll just be the beginning of a network of projects to help people make more of the resources we have, to live more sustainability and to build more connections with each other.

Ahh, we just love the idea of a 'library of things' and the commmunity spirit that the repair cafés clearly generate, as well as the amazing collection of things they save. It seems to us that this is definitely one of the fun ways to live more sustainably and to think about what we're all using, reusing or recycling. Now where's our old teasmaid? :D

To check out what's happening at Bath Share and Repair, you can follow them here on Twitter, or check out their website here which will show you all the dates and locations of their repair cafés this year.

There are also repair cafés in Frome (as well as a library of things), Wells, Wedmore, Wellington, Wiveliscombe, Taunton has held events in the past at The Planet Cafe and others are popping-up all the time, which is just brilliant.

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Thanks for the chat Lorna! :)


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