First check to see if there's a repair cafe or fixit initiative in your area already. You can check the map hosted by the International Repair Foundation for registered repair cafes around the world. We keep a map for Victoria where we try to keep track of existing, proposed and potential repair cafes in our State. You can also check with your local community centre or local government offices to see if they are aware of any fix-it or repair intiatives in your area.
If you're interested in starting a repair cafe, I recommend getting ahold of the starter kit from the International Repair Foundation and registering on their map (joining the network of 1200+ repair cafes across 30+ countries!). Then set about getting volunteer fixers, a venue to hold the first session, get a start date and event to launch, and then various avenues to promote it. Lessons learned include:
Okay - let's address one common what-about: What about insurance? After questions around how to get fixers along, this seems to be the next most common question asked when people are looking to set up a repair cafe. The following points are worth noting (mindful that this is not intended to constitute legal advice and you'll need to satisfy yourselves about what measures you adopt to address safety, risk and liability):
If you want to find out more about starting up a repair cafe in your community, check out:
[This text also appears in the FAQ section of this website and has been reproduced here to assist those with mobile devices who may not be able to view the FAQ drop down boxes.]
Melbourne’s inner west now has its own repair cafe, where people can bring along their broken items from home for volunteer fixers to fix, wherever possible, and where visitors get the chance to learn practical skills and have a go at fixing things themselves – all free of charge!
The “Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West)” launched this past Sunday (21 February) at the Living Future Festival in the Yarraville Gardens. Over a dozen volunteers were on hand to run workshops and talk to festival-goers about what they can expect at future repair sessions. Dean brought his guitar-fixing gear to the launch to repair bridges and broken strings – including a Moroccan banjo (sitir) he was presented with on the day and which he managed to fix! Howard, a mechanical fitter by trade, showed people how they can revitalise rusty tools. Sylvie, sitir owner and local artist, captivated both young and older visitors to talk about what goes into an essentials toolkit. Danny and Karen, from Reusers of Unloved Discarded Excess (RUDE), ran sessions on fixing garden hose connections, replacing three-point electrical cords, and doing basic clothing repairs and alterations. And Mick and John (the “bike whisperers”) were on hand to show cyclists how to fix and maintain their bikes.
The repair cafe concept started in the Netherlands in 2009 and, in 2010, the Repair Cafe Foundation (http://www.repaircafe.org) was set up to help other local groups wanting to start up their own repair cafe. The Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West) joins over 900 repair cafes around the world and is one of only four in Australia. The other three are at Albury-Wodonga, Marrickville and Mullumbimby in New South Wales.
The idea is to help put neighbours in touch with each other to discover and share practical skills close to home. Repairs can also save money and resources, and minimise what goes into landfill. Plus, as every kid who takes things apart can tell you, it’s just plain fun to be able to fix stuff!
The first in-cafe repair session will be held at Natasha’s cafe in Seddon on the first Sunday in March (the 6th) from 10am til noon. Rhubarb Wholefoods Cafe is located on the corner of Buckley and Victoria Streets.
Find out more about the Melbourne Repair Cafe, future repair sessions, and how to become a volunteer fixer by visiting http://www.melbournerepaircafe.org.
*This article also appeared in the print issue of The Westsider newspaper (March 2016, Issue #14).
Michelle Fisher is the initiator and coordinator of the Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West). She is more comfortable wielding pens than tools and welcomes contributions from those who can wield one or the other or both! Please send submissions to the Melbourne Repair Cafe's email address..