Restoring locals’ belongings and sense of belonging is the Repair Cafe Glasgow. The Kinning Park branch has been providing free repair workshops and services since 2017, as part of the wider Repair Cafe International movement.
Repair Cafe Glasgow Communications and Events Officer, Lauren Crilly, said: “Repair Cafe International started in the Netherlands in 2009, and the idea was to open a repair space to the community, where people could come and get their things fixed for free, as well as up-skilling themselves.”
She added: “In 2017-18 we ran a little Repair Cafe in Kinning Park, as part of Social Sundays, which we started as part of a Climate Change Project. It was quite busy, but there was quite a lot of other things going on in the space, so John, our Project Manager, decided the Repair Cafe needed its own space and organisation to flourish.”
The team then applied for the Climate Challenge Fund, in Feburary 2018, and started the Repair Café Glasgow in April.
Crilly said: “The challenges of bringing Repair Cafe to Glasgow has been the same challenges that any small business faces; just getting the word out about your organisation.
“We maintain a presence on social media, so that has been a great way of getting younger people involved. A lot of our volunteers are under the age of 30, and that is not the same as other Repair Cafes across the UK, which tend to have a lot of older, retired volunteers.”
Volunteers of all ages, genders and backgrounds are welcome at Repair Cafe Glasgow, with the current team including Scottish, Irish, German and Spanish repairers.
Crilly said: “We have increased the amount of events that we are doing and increased the amount of people involved as volunteers, but at the moment we are continuing to build our network, get people interested, and build diversity in our team. Just now we have a team dominated by men, so it would be really good to get more women on board!”
As well as a mix of demographics Glasgow Repair Cafe has a mix of skills.
Crilly explained: “Our volunteers are amazing, they are able to tackle electronics, textiles and other materials, but we also get people bringing in things that aren’t any of those, for instance someone recently brought in a broken suitcase.
“When someone brings in something for repair that we don’t specialise in fixing everyone is just willing to have a go; within the Repair Cafe everyone has to have that mentality, because there is only a short amount of time to get things fixed. Sometimes the instinct to repair and have a go just kicks in.”
Crilly added: “At the moment we could definitely use more sewing and textile repair specialists; I think that is the backbone of the Repair events, people tend to have broken clothes, and at the moment we only have two textile volunteers.”
While textile repairs are the most sought after, the Repair Café has had niche requests.
Crilly said: “At our last event we had someone come in with a salad spinner that we weren’t able to fix! It was funny because we had four engineers standing around that broken salad spinner trying to figure out what was wrong with it – turns out it was just a piece of plastic that needed replaced, and we just didn’t have the right part. That woman was quite attached to her salad spinner, so it was sad that we were unable to fix it.”
The sentimental aspect of repairing peoples’ belongings came as a surprise to Crilly.
She said: “People have come in and said things like, ‘this lamp belonged to my mum and my mum’s passed away; I’d really like it if you could fix it’, and then when we’ve fixed it, it has totally put a smile on their face.”
However, Crilly acknowledges not everything is as easy to fix.
She added: “If someone brought a broken heart in for repair, I would have a cup of tea and chat with him or her, maybe offer them some cake. There are no professional councillors in Repair Cafe Glasgow, but I do consider myself a slight agony aunt!”
Goodwill is also fostered through Repair Café Glasgow’s community outreach efforts.
Crilly explained: “We are based in Kinning Park Complex, which has a big refugee and Asylum seeker community, so we informally work with organisations that help these groups. The Team that leads Repair Café Glasgow has worked in the community sector for a number of years, so we have a built up a number of community contacts.”
She added: “We go through all avenues and connect with other community organisations; we had an event with Locavore community food shop, on Victoria Road, last month; and now we are having an event at the Rig Art Centre in Greenock, and one at the Broomhill Community Hall, on 24 November, so we are connecting as many existing organisations together as we can.”
Repair Café Glasgow is as much about bringing people together for sustainable living discussions, as it is for reducing waste through repairs.
Crilly said: “When you think about waste reduction, Repair Café Glasgow is quite small scale, but it is about creating a community of people and discussions about environmental issues on a greater scale.”
To join the discussion, come to Glasgow Repair Café’s next event, on Saturday, 20 October at Kinning Park Complex, featuring a ceramics repair workshop and drop in repairs sessions.
Crilly added: “We are doing an event in Greenock in November; we’ll be doing some workshops with the swap market in Govanhill in the New Year, and we’ll be doing another event in Locavore; so we are really wanting to get involved with as many organisations as possible.”
To volunteer with Repair Café Glasgow email email@example.com, follow the café on social media, or join an event to have a chat about volunteering.