Hope, confidence and friendship at a repair café

Inspiring post about an event at University College London (UCL), where a number of people and groups collaborated to organize a UCL repair café.

“Repair is a resilient act, material and social; local, adaptive and sharing. It is an act of obedience to oneself and ones communit(ies), and disobedient to hegemonic practices which do not serve the common good.”

Repair cafés are nothing new, but the post is quite useful for all the details the authors provide and the great idea of holding it at a University with tables from different disciplines, offering repairs for different kinds of products.

Several tables had been set up with friendly volunteers staffing each one. At the entrance a couple of greeters spoke to passers-by, the question ‘Do you want to check out our repair café?’ causing at first slight confusion, then curiosity and finally sometimes delight and brandishing of freshly torn pockets or broken phone screens. […]

Down a short flight of stairs into the brightly lit main workshop area volunteers from both UCL Conservation and the Slade School of Fine Art shared the joy of not just repairing, but re-purposing – turning broken ceramics into pieces of art, freeing heirloom taxidermy hedgehogs from no-longer wanted plinths and fixing favourite umbrellas. […]

Up a final staircase to the technology laden mezzanine, members of The Restart Project and the Mechanical Engineering Researchers Society repaired speakers, mobile phones and laptops. Beyond the Institute of Making, fixers from JPA Workspaces visited stricken furniture in UCL office spaces, breathing fresh life into swivel chairs without spin, cupboards missing castors or keys, wobbly tables, and desks with missing bolts.

I also love this part by Ben Littlefield, on integrating students in further events.

One of the things I am keen to explore is how a Repair Café approach can work to be a safe, supportive space for students and staff to practice public and community engagement that does practical, immediate good for all involved.

Make sure to click through for their summary of key tips, advice and learning, and next steps. The insight below drew my attention especially, beyond reusing to reduce waste, beyond the technical know-how:

It is important to not just see the Repair Café as a space for helping people to fix things, but also a space for people to come together and share stories, learn from one another and delight in the unexpected.

Image: Sara Brouwer.