3rd European Repair Café Conference/webinar, 26 January 2024 3:00 PM, MM, 17/1/24
(Will be recorded, and notes will be circulated, so these are just my takeaways, particularly from the chat, which may not be recorded) 

Themes: practical issues faced by Repair Cafes, targeted at trustees, managers, repairers and other volunteers; and suitable for those in start-ups or more experienced Repair Cafes. Key organisational issues for Repair Cafes including lessons learnt and best practice examples.

Co-chaired and introduced by: Professor Martin Charter, Director and Chair, Board of Trustees, Farnham Repair CaféThe Centre for Sustainable Design (®)Business School for the Creative IndustriesUniversity for the Creative Arts (UCA) and Martine Postma, Founder and Director, Repair Café International Foundation (Of which we are members)

On the agenda:

1. ‘Right to Repair’ Developments - Anna Cavazzani MEP (I tuned in too late to hear this, apologies, but it will appear in the records,

2. Skills Assessment, including qualifications, training, selection of volunteers...: Überlingen Repair Cafe, Germany, Saint-Egrève Repair Café France, Farnham Repair Café, UK. RCs cope with varying levels of skill and experience, found, as we have, that working in pairs and learning on the job and from each other worked well. One suggestion was short mutual training sessions, perhaps before a RC or at another time or venue. But also to keep things simple and fun. One recommendation for PAT training - https://www.virtual-college.co.uk/courses/health-and-safety/pat-testing. Advice to remind volunteers occasionally to re-read Ts & Cs, Codes of Conduct, safeguarding policy etc, especially if they evolve or are updated.

3. Recruitment of younger repairers: some sound advice if interested from Repair Café Hacklab Kyiv, Ukraine, Repair Café: Utrecht University, Netherlands; North Carolina Repair Cafe, US, the latter particularly good on the issues and problems, e g not to expect too much commitment or sewing skills from younger volunteers, be where they are (K University?) and not so infrequently that fixers disappear, emphasise money-saving and sustainability aspects in recruitment, possible DofE project?, offer opportunities and rewards (various suggested in chat, including parties, aprons..)

General comments
From open discussion in chat and Q&A sessions: not all Qs were answered but there were some useful suggestions on publicity (local Council newsletters and social media, Ethical Consumer magazine...), on simplifying paperwork so that booking included repair form too (Tunbridge Wells RC has done so, they reported) though some RCs, even large ones, don’t bother with bookings at all.

In some ways not unlike the monthly GSRCN discussions – beyond Surrey other RCs have similar issues and come up with similar solutions. Quite a range of sizes (some have 70+ volunteers, no longer need or try to recruit, and repair dozens of items per session), longevity, and schedules, though mostly once a month. Because most are linked to the Repair Café International Foundation their approaches tend to converge, with skill sharing, enjoyment and learning as important as waste reduction and sustainability.


GSRC network Zoom meeting. 31/8/23, Notes

Only 5 participants but quite a range – from a couple that had been going for years and done 1000s of repairs, to us and one other that were relatively new and still settling down, and one, that the participant had inherited, whose accounts were scribbled on scraps of paper and which had no insurance. Some takeaways:

  • Insurance came up and one of the participants mentioned “employee liability” - when I asked about it, he said it covered volunteer liability, so is definitely worth having, though it’s also worth checking that this is the case for our insurance company.
  • Also worth having and checking is product liability, and it may also be worth checking that TTK cover includes the occasional repair being carried out at a volunteer’s home, as they occasionally can be.  
  • ENG was recommended for insurance, though the feeling was that whether they understand your RC’s needs etc depends on which agent you talk to,.
  • Convenor Martin Charter’s Farnham RC had waxed and waned on booking repairs and some RCs don’t bother, mainly because of the difficulty of predicting timings, though advance warning of what is coming in, especially of unusual item or repairs, with photos, was considered useful.
  • Should we/TTK ever need to set up a new bank account, Metro bank was recommended as open to new community business accounts (I can’t remember if Caitlin from Kew the Transition has tried Metro).
  • Re keeping accounts, the 2 most experienced groups just kept fairly detailed spreadsheets of ins and outs, and thought that Open Collective, which I mentioned as an accounting tool, wasn’t needed by independent RCs (as I think all the others at this meeting were).
  • Some discussion of appreciating and keeping volunteers returning long-term which the 2 oldest groups seemed quite good at: recommendations included going to the pub afterwards (and we have one practically next door to the Library); parties and celebrations (Christmas/BBQs,,,), group T-/polo-shirts, certificates...
2nd European Repair Café Conference, July 2023

Link to the webinar recording and presentations https://cfsd.org.uk/events/european-repair-cafe-conference/

DHD's Points of interest from the meeting:

 1) Ada Preziosi of the European Commission talked about the changes underway in the EU to try to push consumers towards repair rather than (say) free replacement as is the legal right now for faulty goods.

 2) Engaging younger people in the repair process, maybe always accompanied by a parent/guardian, sometimes as “apprentices”, develops several useful skills for the people involved.

3) There are several software solutions that might allow us to do our repair sheets online and/or automatically extract stats.  Some that looked interesting that other participants mentioned or were using: repairmonitor.org; repairconnects.org; restarters.net

4) Though the meeting was nominally northern European, there were participants from other continents including Australia!


GSRC network Zoom meeting. 3/7/23, Notes

- Holidays: smaller than usual numbers at this meeting, and no meeting planned for August because of holidays, though all present would be carrying on with RC openings throughout the holiday season, for similar reasons to ours. But should have a range of skills and PAT + PAT expert available.

- One group having problems with front desk, staffed by one person, with no useful docs, not enough filtering of items, not enough volunteers, little in the way of donations - we seemed quite efficient and well-staffed by comparison!

- Recordings of June Repair Cafe conference at Farnham now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HYivCkapXc&ab_channel=sustainabledesign01 or via the conference agenda at  https://cfsd.org.uk/events/repair-cafe-conference-2023/. There were some interesting variations on the RC concept, insurance came up as an issue.

- Should we be saving knowledge acquired as we go, e g about particular repairs - seems a good idea but how? Should we occasionally review how we’re doing, what we could do better?

- What counts as a repair? No consistent standards, some scepticism about very high repair rates (though volunteers taking items home could boost the rate), Martin Charter uses 4 categories: full repair; partial repair; information/advice given; not repaired.

- Income - some groups take items from e g Veolia to repair and then resell for revenue - others pointed out storage problems and legal/insurance issues, which would probably apply to us - and we have STWC doing something similar here already.


RCK data, February-July 2023

RCK data Feb-July


Takeaways from Circular economy / furniture waste workshop, 22/6/23

About a dozen participants, from academia, charity shop sector, RBK (Ioanna, Leonard), community orgs (Hugh from STWC, me). It was long day, partially interesting, a bit chaotic (e g, there was only on the foyer notice board, and it wasn’t ours, though it could have been as it was RBK!), and on-line hybrid didn’t work well so I stuck it out all day. The recording and PP slides will be shared in due course, but a few v selective points points:

- Charity shop sales are going up during inflation and cost of living crisis - could that also mean more demand for RCK?

- A few charity shops have space for furniture repairs and upcycling (e g painting, re-covering) but often lack the skilled volunteers and time.

- People aren’t as aware of Freecycle, Freegle, Olio, YouTube videos on repairs, etc as they should be- and too much ends up in waste system.

- Charity shops do take electrical items (I had assumed they don’t) but check them over before reselling.

- Recycling (of everything from clothes to furniture) is better than growing, mining etc from scratch, but not as good as re-use, re-selling, upcycling etc

- Participants were v positive about RCK and general upskilling. Partnerships a possibility, but would we lose volunteers to charity shops (a bit like GrowBaby, STWC)?

- There may be further similar seminars...


Learnings from neighbouring repair cafes and similar, 2022...


From Twickenham Repair Café (https://www.twickenhamrepaircafe.org/) (phone conversation and visit on 17/9/22 - see also their data)

Volunteers (they have 15+!) recruited mainly via Nextdoor, none of them professional repairers but experienced and skilled.

Funding - they have been promised £500 from Council and reckon start-up cost is c £1000. They take donations on the way out (someone - a receptionist/manager - has to do this and they have a card reader), and people are quite generous, so they make enough to cover ongoing costs.

Venue: they have free use of a good-sized church hall, with a bit of storage, toilets, a kitchen, tables and chairs, and some outdoor space for messy work. There were about 10 tables, with one or two volunteers per table, for different kinds of repair.

Repairs - 50% electrical, which they can either repair or diagnose that it can’t be repaired, the rest is very varied - china, furniture, bikes, sewing, clocks... with really messy work done outdoors, and clearing up after themselves. The ethos is “watch and learn” so there is an element of skill-sharing - with cake and coffee etc available.

Rules and disclaimers - sensible and useful, like all the ones I’ve looked at; users sign in and take responsibility for their objects and the risks - https://www.twickenhamrepaircafe.org/rules. They recommend joining the national repair café network - https://www.repaircafe.org/en/ - for access to advice, design, rules and useful forms for a one-off fee of £49 - https://www.repaircafe.org/en/join/start-your-own/.

Kit - skilled and specialist volunteers usually prefer to bring their own, so they don’t (and can’t) have a complete range, but they have spent £300 on a PAT tester (e g, https://www.tester.co.uk/electrical-electronic/pat-testing-equipment/pat-testers), and have enough plastic table cloths, some heat-proof industrial ones, to protect church hall tables from mess and, e g, solder. Also, some generally useful stuff like a selection of glues (including some expensive ones like those dentists use and set with UV light), screws etc + equipment to fill gaps. Some of the offers, e g, a much-used electric knife sharpener, were not specially bought, one of the volunteers just happened to have one.

Storage - they have a cupboard in the church hall, where they can store tools and small unfinished repairs.

Publicity - they use all the local media they can, have found that most volunteers and users are very local - needing a good comms volunteer.
Saturday mornings seem like a good time - Twickenham was busy when we visited.


Message from Richmond MakerLabs, 16/9/22 (https://richmondmakerlabs.uk/)
A domestic repair facility in Kingston would be very worthwhile.

I think your focus should be on recruiting volunteers with practical skills in the areas of repair you might offer: sewing, upholstery, woodwork, clocks, bicycles, as well as electrical.

Each of those volunteers would already have the relevant tools, and would be in a good position to advise you what's missing.

Although a few RML members have participated individually in local repair events, RML itself doesn't offer any kind of repair service.  We aim to be a place where community members can come and use our tools themselves.

If a repair event operates one day a month, there will be no need to store tools and equipment at the venue.  But if you were envisaging something like once a week, every week, you might find it difficult to get that kind of commitment from volunteer repairers.

Good luck with the project, and do stay in touch with us.

Kind regards
for Richmond MakerLabs,
Ian B.


From Elmbridge Eco Hub 20/9/22 (https://elmbridgeecohub.org.uk/)

... it’s great to hear about another potential Repair Cafe setting up - I think Kew the Transition is also thinking of setting one up (if they haven’t already done so).

Whilst we do have a basic supply of hand tools that we generally use as part of the wider Community Eco Hub project - we are also in the fortunate position of our repairers having access to the electrical tools that we have within our Library of Things e.g. saw, sander, drill etc etc. Having said that, our experience is that most repairers like to bring their own tools with them, and only call upon us for odds and ends that they don’t have e.g. paint brush for dusting out items etc etc.

We have however a basic supply of textile repair items including a sewing machine (also part of our Library of Things), threads, needles, fabrics, iron on patches, an iron etc


Glues and clamps are important, as are a good supply of extension leads. So that each repairer bench has one, and possibly a desk lamp, saucer or similar for screws etc, cleaning cloth. We have just bought a glasses repair kit, and are about to buy a staple gun and Torx screw heads

Through our learning we don’t repair any petrol items or undertake jobs that require welding. We have policies in place for items that take longer than the hour to be fixed. 

We have decided to PAT test all electrical items that we work on before they leave our care - and this may be something that your insurance cover will also determine.

We’re very happy to meet you to discuss this in further detail, but we’re also going to be at the Thames Ditton Nature and Climate Festival this Saturday coming 2-4pm in the Thames Ditton Community Centre if you want to pop along to see us? Failing that, let’s meet for a coffee and chat shall we?


Sat 24th - met up with Sue of Elmbridge Eco-Hub at the Thames Ditton Eco Festival this afternoon, and had a chat, much of which confirmed what I’ve gathered from other repair cafes. Their most common electrical repair task is toasters, and they have also had a lot of garden tools recently. Someone was fixing a radio while I was there (or at least taking it to bits!). The very useful points she made were that cakes and coffee etc were important for making volunteers feel valued and visitors welcome, that you need a lot of organisers, cake bakers, meeters and greeters, form and data gatherers... as well as the skilled repairers, and that you need to devise some kind of queuing/booking/advance notice system (see https://elmbridgeecohub.org.uk/repair-cafe/ for theirs), so that repairers are ready for what is brought in. They were also recommending https://www.ifixit.com/ as a useful resource. The Repair Café opens once a month on second Saturdays at Elmbridge Eco-Hub, where they have more outdoor than indoor space and are beginning to wonder what they’ll do in the winter, possibly even look for another space, but like us don’t want to pay rent. If anyone else can pop along to the repair café on 8th Oct and report back (you’d probably think of different Qs from mine) that would be great - Peter and I will be away.


Also from Somerset House exhibition, summer 2022, images from Eternally Yours“exploring ideas around care, repair and healing” and mending beautifully, creatively and visibly. 
See also Kintsugi - the Japanese art of repair - on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEJ23t940UY



Useful websites for advice, recruiting volunteers...: https://www.ifixit.com; https://www.repaircafe.org/en; https://restarters.net/about; https://therestartproject.org/about/ and there are doubtless others including YouTube.