Growing concern about today’s ‘throwaway culture’ is driving more people to visit Scotland’s first Repair Café.

“The climate change conversation is happening,” says Lauren Crilly, marketing manager at the Glasgow project. “It is very much an online movement, and there is a great deal of chat on our social media channels, for example, about sustainability.

“But we have also noticed that many of the people who come to our sessions are frustrated that the things they buy don’t last long – so that conversation is happening here too, and the Repair Café is a great space for it.”

The Repair Café in the city’s Kinning Park Complex opened last year, part of an international movement started by Martine Postma in Amsterdam in 2009.

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The Dutch businesswoman had become increasingly frustrated by the developed world’s throwaway culture, In the process of producing a guide for her local community with tips on how to produce less waste, she realised that much of the advice was to do with repairing and fixing stuff that might otherwise have ended up as landfill.

A global community of fixers was born and there are now around 1500 Repair Cafés located in 33 countries, including 50 – and counting - in the UK. Glasgow is the first one in Scotland, set up in April 2018 with money from the Climate Challenge Fund.

“The support from the community has been fantastic, we really hit the ground running,” says Crilly, who runs the project with founder Jon Dawes.

“Jon is a repairer too, and he was doing informal sessions as part of the Kinning Park Complex’s Social Sunday events. They were proving so popular, he decided they needed a space of their own.”

“We now run monthly events, as well as some pop-up sessions outside the city, and different workshops. Recently, we held a ceramics session and a DIY skills workshop for women and non-binary people, and it was a great success.”

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The idea behind the Repair Café is simple – people bring along household items, such as kettles, laptops and lamps, and a bunch of brilliant volunteer repairers get to work.

“We started with four volunteers and now we have more than 20,” smiles Crilly. “It’s fantastic. They are incredibly skilled and come from all backgrounds – product designers, computer technicians, engineers and natural DIY tinkerers.

“We also have five textile repairers, including an older lady who has been doing it all her life, and is just full of great tips, and two younger women who studied fashion.”

It is not about competing with professional repair specialists – the very opposite, in fact, as Repair Cafés encourage people to consider getting things repaired rather than throwing them away. Visitors are frequently advised to consult professionals if required. Crucially, the group also feeds back information to product manufacturers about the durability of the items, as part of the worldwide Right to Repair movement.

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“Everyone who comes fills in a registration form, so we have an understanding of who is coming along and what we are fixing,” says Crilly.

“We feed that information back to the wider network, with the aim of really challenging manufacturers who build in obsolescence to their products. We are fighting for more durability, for companies to make their products more repairable.”

Like the hit BBC daytime show, Repair Shop, people also bring along treasured items for the team to fix.

“We had one woman bring in a lovely lamp that had belonged to her mother, which we managed to repair,” explains Crilly.

“Her mum had passed away, so it was something she really wanted to keep. It was very emotional.

“There are huge social benefits to the Repair Café too, of course – people come along and have a chat, learn some new skills and get to know each other over a cup of tea, which is lovely.

“Kinning Park is a real melting pot of cultures, with many refugees and asylum seekers living here so it’s great that we’re also bringing people together."

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“I’m Irish, Jon’s American, and we both love living and working in Glasgow,” smiles Crilly, whose background is in community work.

“Jon is a repairer and I’m starting to learn some skills myself – I did the DIY course recently, so now I can solder!”

The Glasgow Repair Café’s first anniversary event takes place on Saturday, May 25. Visit repaircafe.org.uk for details.

“People often worry about whether they can really make a difference, but they can,” says Crilly.

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“It’s good to focus on something hopeful, amid the really damaging and drastic things that are happening to our world right now, many of which are out of our control.

“Providing a solution to things that are within our control empowers people. There are lots of positive things happening in our communities.

“The way I see it is – small change plus small change plus small change equals big change.

“Coming along to the Repair Café is an opportunity for people to start reducing their environmental impact.”

This article appeared in The Herald on the 23rd May 2019.

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The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at herald.scotland.com and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

If you are interested in contributing editorially or interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner, please contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137 or email stephen.mctaggart@heraldandtimes.co.uk