© Flikr user: Philippe
Locations include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The first Repair Café was organised in 2009 by Martine Postma, a Dutch journalist who felt increasingly perturbed by the developed world’s ‘throw-away’ culture and sought ways to address this in a sustainable way. Since its incubation in the Netherlands, the Repair Café model has grown to include over 160 Repair Cafés in the country. Today there are over 115 Repair Café’s across the globe.
A Repair Café is a meet-up for people who want to repair things and is organised by a group of volunteers. The Repair Café provides visitors with snacks, access to tools, materials and specialist repairers who can help mend clothes, appliances and broken bits of furniture. All of this activity is co-ordinated by the Repair Café Foundation: a Dutch not-for-profit organisation established in 2010 with five part-time employees and financed by the Doon Foundation.
© Flikr user: Philippe
The Repair Café’s rapid success owes much to their broad-based appeal. The repairing groups are organised by committed environmentalists, community organisers and likeminded people who entertain the idea of repairing things. The Cafés fulfil a functional need to repair something but for most attendees, the café is a soft protest against the developed world’s wasteful, throwaway society. “What’s important is to spread the notion of repair” explains Martine Postma, Repair Café’s founder. The Cafés are also as much about placing a value on the individual skills of people as they are about fixing products. Many of the most important and involved volunteers are retired, unemployed or unable to work. Postma thinks this is what adds to the spirit of Repair Café; “they attract people who are not at the centre of attention in everyday society but at the Repair Cafe, they become heroes and this creates a very special atmosphere.” The Repair Café Foundation has recently introduced a fee of 25 Euros from every new Repair Café that opens. In return, the newly opened Repair Café is profiled on the Foundation’s website and the organisers of the group are given a Repair Café logo to use at their discretion, along with liability forms, a 30 page manual and other useful brand templates.
© Antti Ahonen
Martine Postma, Founder
Interviewed and researched by Jonathan Robinson, co-founder of The Hub, Islington. Jonathan is working with the British Council's Creative Economy team to map and highlight a worldwide movement of creative hubs.
Edited by Alicia Stewart-Colvin