Waste not, want not, in the great ‘fixing revolution’

There was a queue forming at Saturday’s Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: strimmers and hoovers, kettles and table lamps, computers, typewriters, clocks and fairy lights, all waiting their turn for a new lease of life from a seven strong team of heroic menders.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 10:30 am
Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: John Moffatt checking a table lamp

“There’s a bit of a fix it revolution going on,” said Tim Allen while cafe stalwart Gordon Ferguson investigated his vacuum cleaner.  “You have to remember that someone has put this together, so it should be possible to take it apart again,” said Gordon encouragingly.  Since 2014 Gordon and an ever changing squad of repairers has staffed the Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm, and now also at the Strip the Willow upcycling centre on Abbeydale Road.  “It’s really taken off over the last year,” said Andy Cooper, “partly because of the Repair Shop programme on the telly.”  The idea of the Repair Cafe is simple: a “bunch of nerds who like to mend things” (as Gordon calls his crack team of men and women armed with screwdrivers and tubes of specialist adhesives) who invite the public to bring along pretty much anything they’d like mended, whether it’s a lawnmower, an old chair or “Auntie Maude’s old vase that the cat’s knocked off the windowsill,” said Andy Cooper. The owner is encouraged to watch and learn how to go about the mending themselves “to become more self sufficient”, in a cheerful blow against manufacturers who prefer the public to throw away kettles and table lamps and buy new ones every few years. “Consumerism is fundamentally a load of nonsense to make people money,” said retired engineer and IT technician John Moffatt. “The planet can’t afford it, and human beings can’t afford it. How many people get into massive debt by buying stuff they don’t actually need?”  John and several other menders enjoy using their former work skills in their retirement to help other people save money. Others, like Andy, have learned on the job by watching their fellow menders. As demand rises, more volunteers are needed, said Andy: enthusiastic new menders, administrators and publicists to set up repair cafes in new neighbourhoods. No engineering skills required, he said, as you’ll be learning as you go along with everyone else.  The Repair Cafe also promotes other Sheffield repair initiatives. Marcela Campher helps show people how to mend clothing for both Repair Cafe and the Common Thread clothing project. “I like extending the life of clothing,” she said. “The fashion industry is one of the most polluting on the planet, so we really need to think about reusing textiles instead of chucking them in the bin.”  A couple of tables away were Gareth Coleman and Dale Hinchliffe from Burngreave’s BitFixIt organisation which has been teaching local people how to mend and spruce up their computers since 2003. “Access to the Internet is a modern necessity if you want to do your homework, or get a job, claim a benefit, do some cheap shopping or just keep in touch with friends and family,” said the organisation’s Gareth Coleman. “In the north of the city, many of our neighbours aren’t rich enough to have a spare £200 in their pocket to buy a new one if their computer breaks, so they might have to save up for several weeks and meanwhile their kids can’t do their homework.”  So every Saturday Gareth and colleagues volunteer to mend computers and clean up software at Abbeyfield Park House - clients just make a donation and pay for spare parts. “We enjoy the challenge of problem solving, and doing something to help someone makes you feel good too.”  On Saturday Gareth also set about a kettle: just a small piece of refashioned plastic was needed to get the o /off switch working again.  “I hate waste,” said kettle owner Patri Loreto. “This is a brilliant community thing.” Nearby Tim Allen finished his get to know your vacuum cleaner lesson and vowed to have a go himself in future..   “Up until now I’d only just got the confidence to replace the dishwasher salt,” he said, happily.  More information is available at the below websites.  http://sheffieldrepaircafe.callpress.net


Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: Repairer Peter checking an old VHS recorder


Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: Gareth Coleman helping Patri Loreto mend her kettle
Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: Repairer Peter pondering a VHS recorder
Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: John Moffatt (left) showing Michael Hodgson how to clean a vacuum cleaner
Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: cleaning a typewriter
Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm: Andy Cooper checking an old sewing machine