What is a repair cafe?
It’s an event usually lasting 2.5 hours on one Saturday a month where you can bring broken possessions to be fixed by volunteers who are experts and enjoy a hot drink. You stay with the repairer so that you can see how it’s done and maybe help with it yourself. There is no charge, but donations are welcome to help cover costs. This saves waste, saves money, promotes caring for our stuff and helps the planet.
The first repair cafe was started by Martine Postma in Amsterdam in 2009 and its great success led to the setting up of the Repair Café Foundation. They provide advice and help in setting up and maintaining repair cafés and also support campaigns for ‘right to repair’ laws requiring manufacturers to make it easy to repair their products and to provide spare parts for at least 10 years.
The website www.repaircafe.org/en/ provides information on the repair café movement.
There are over 2200 repair cafes worldwide, with 147 in Britain but the number is growing fast!
The Tunbridge Wells Repair Cafe has been going since 2020, Sevenoaks and Edenbridge have also set up in 2022, and the Malling Repair Cafe is going to start up in November.
Bring your broken household items and our team of skilled volunteers will do their very best to try and repair them. These include: electrical, mechanical, tech, textiles, clothing and bikes. We also sharpen knives, scissors and other items. If you have something that is broken or needs maintenance and you can get to a Tonbridge Repair Café session, we will take a look at it for you and assess whether we can repair it. We don’t stock spare parts but can help you identify what’s required. You can then source it and return the following month to complete the repair or can be shown how to fit it yourself. Some items such as clocks and laptops may require more work than there is time for but we are happy to offer an assessment.
How does it work?
We are not experts in restoration of antique items such as those seen on BBC1’s The Repair Shop. These can take weeks of highly skilled expensive work to restore to their former glory, but again, we can take a look and see what’s possible.
Just arrive between 10.00am – 12.00pm for a 12:30pm finish. During busy periods, relax and enjoy tea and cake in the St Stephen’s cafe.
We will ask you to first register yourself and your item on our easy-to-use system (or we can do it for you) and when it’s your turn, to sit with the repairer so that you can see how it’s done and maybe also help.
It is also now possible to register in advance by following this link.
This does not give you priority but could save you time on the day. If you are able to provide details of your item for repair, such as model number and what the problem is, that may also enable us to help with suggestions for obtaining a spare part etc. You can even upload an image of the item to help our repairers advise you on the best course of action.
Any pre-registration expires after 5 weeks, so best to register near the time of an upcoming repair cafe.
Repairs are carried out free of charge by volunteers. Donations are welcome to help cover our costs, which include public liability insurance, additional tools and materials and also supplying our volunteers with much-needed coffees and teas to keep them in full working order for the morning.
If you have a chair with a wonky leg, or a drawer with a loose handle, we can fix it! Some woodworking repairs, though, need more time and are best done in a workshop. We have volunteers who are willing to help with this, so feel free to contact us or bring your item along for our experts to see what can be done.
‘Fast fashion’ is a major cause of harm to our planet and to the people exploited to make clothes that are used only a few times and then discarded. We can help turn this around by making clothes last as long as possible by providing repairs and alterations. As well as helping with zips and buttons, we can sometimes alter seams to make clothes a bit bigger or smaller, as well as shortening sleeves and taking up/ letting down hems.
It doesn’t stop there: our brilliant sewing experts can use their creative flair to repurpose garments (for example we can turn trousers into shorts, or dresses into tops), or provide ‘visible mending’. It helps if you can bring favourite fabric for patches or strong material to use for reinforcing.
We would like to see this activity grow, since there is a huge opportunity to make a difference. We would welcome offers of help from anyone who loves sewing and there might be an opportunity in the future to spread this further with sewing classes.
One common repair needed for clothes is a zip replacement. There are just too many sizes and types for us to be able to stock spares. If you can obtain the right one in advance and bring it along, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to walk away with your coat ready to wear again. This video describes the main types: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhukkR9x4gs.
Please ensure that textiles are freshly laundered and other items brought are reasonably clean. For example, tip crumbs out of toasters, empty hoovers and lawn mowers etc. Do not bring items containing fuel such as chainsaws, please drain items before bringing.
We cannot repair microwave ovens.
We also currently do not have any volunteer repairers to work on any clock repairs.
Thank you for reading. We look forward to seeing you and your broken stuff very soon!
We aim to post which repairs will be available before each event on our social media pages, so have a look out there as well and follow us on your chosen platform.
See also our House Rules we use for the Repair Cafe
Repair volunteer call out
Can you help or know someone who could?
Our Repair Cafe is looking for more volunteers 🙌🏻
*are you a sewing wiz? 🪡🧵
*do you have a knack with electrics?💡🔌
*is flat pack a piece of cake for you? 🛠🪚
We are on the look out for more amazing volunteers to help repair bits and bobs.
If you have the skill and the time to spare, the Repair Cafe would love to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com