As a graduate intern for Devon County Council’s Waste Management Team I got the privilege of getting my cat repaired by Seb, a young volunteer at at Repair Café. Repair Cafés are found all over Devon. My first visit was to one in Exeter, where Seb repaired my cat. This was a part of International Repair Day celebrations and was held at America Hall, run by a collaboration between lots of Repair Cafés across Devon. My grandmother’s singing cat was not singing, so I took it along.
These cafés were not on my radar until I started this job, and I didn’t even know they existed. Most people at the café were older than me and I found them to be amazing. It was a social, fun, and really helpful experience. I talked to the organisers, and they mentioned the challenge of finding volunteers to run these events, which made me think about the future of these cafés.
A picture of Seb and my cat
Seb was an inspiration for me. He skilfully repaired my cat. Something I was unable to do. It got me thinking, there is a shortage of specific repair skills across the UK. There has been an effort to encourage people to learn these skills through apprenticeships and degree programs, similar to that which occurs in Germany. Repair cafes give the opportunity to see these skills in action, in a relaxed social environment.
One of the repairers, Alan, who referred to himself as the ‘expert lawnmower repair demigod’, mentioned that he learned from his dad. He learnt by watching and working alongside him. Seb and his dad, Joss, were both at the Repair Café. The influence of seeing repair in action evidently has an impact.
A picture of Oliver (me)
Seeing repair in action
So, maybe the key to motivating young people to learn these skills is by showing them first hand. Repair cafés could be the perfect place for that. They provide a communal and social environment where you feel comfortable, and its where young minds can be influenced.
My grandmother’s singing cat is now singing. Since 2019 87% of the 3600 items brought to one of the Repair Café’s represented (Blackdowns Repair Café) have been repaired.
For resources related to DIY, check out the Zone’s Art & Design – Zone (recycledevon.org) ,where there is pages on paper making and textiles.
Repair in action at the café