City antidote to throwaway society

Clock repairer Steve Carley, Repair Cafe
Clock repairer Steve Carley, Repair Cafe

They came with lots of things that needed fixing - shoes, vacuum cleaners, clocks, telephones, laptops, clothes with broken zips, bicycles ..

Ordinarily, the owners might have thrown them away.

But they were taking advantage of Sheffield’s first Repair Café, where they were given help to fix the items or advice on how to do it themselves.

The success of the launch event at Heeley City Farm could lead to a network of places where household goods are repaired instead of being jettisoned.

Another is being planned at Heeley City Farm. One may be held at the old community-owned cutlery factory, Portland Works.

Behind the initiative is Repair Sheffield, working with other community groups and individuals such as electricians, joiners and seamstresses, some of whom are retired.

Skills and advice were dispensed, with the emphasis on safety. No charges were made, although donations could be made. The essential idea was to share knowledge and experience.

Gordon Ferguson, who was there as one of the ‘repairers’, said: “The very first person I saw was for me just the sort of person we would want to attract - someone who was willing to ‘have a go’ but was a bit daunted by the prospect of stripping down a complex appliance and understanding how it worked.

“She did most of the work herself, with help and support from me and a couple of the other ‘repairers’. We were not able to fix her things, but she went away knowing how they worked and why they broke, and what parts to get and how to get them, and I know that she would be perfectly capable of fitting the new parts herself.

“It reminds me of the old Chinese proverb ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.”

The aim is to promote more self-reliance.

“I am pretty certain that people in Africa are on average more capable and self-reliant than most of us here,”said Gordon.

“We send tools abroad and good though that is, back here we become totally reliant on expensive services, that increasingly many of us cannot afford, to survive in our technological world.”

One member of the public who went to the Repair Café was Mark Hadman.

He said: ‘It was good. I got my bike brakes fixed and learned to use a sewing machine! I’d be happy to take part again.” or contact Gordon Ferguson at