What is a Repair Café?
Repair Cafés are community events which match people who have broken or faulty household items with skilled people who like fixing things. The ‘repair café’ concept was started in the Netherlands in 2009, and now over 1,500 voluntary groups organise them worldwide under this brand – including ours. In Oxfordshire, repair cafés emerged at the beginning of 2018 thanks to the efforts of the CAG Network, with funding from Oxfordshire County Council. Their purpose is to bring about a shift in consumerism and the way we view normal household items – especially electrical things like toasters and radios – as throw-away stuff. The focus of the events is on skill-sharing and building community as attendees are invited to understand how to fix their broken items instead of recycling them, or throwing them away in bins.
How often do they happen?
Our own events take place every first Sunday of every other month (Jan, Mar, May, July, Sep, Nov) between 14:00 – 17:00 at Makespace Oxford, 1 Aristotle Lane, OX2 6TP.
There are various other Community Action Groups that organise them across Oxfordshire at various dates and places. These groups are working on having one public central calendar for all repair cafés; in the meantime you can search for your nearest next café on the Oxfordshire County Council site, the Oxfordshire Recycles facebook page, or the Oxfordshire CAG Network events website.
Who are the repairers?
The repairers are volunteer community members who have a range of skills and experience in various fields that they are prepared to offer, such as electrics, electronics, clothing, bicycles, etc. For some, repairing items in a certain category e.g. IT is also a full time job, and others may be retired professionals or hobbyists with relevant experience. Those leading on repairs in a particular category must rate their skills as intermediate or advanced, but we also welcome beginners to assist and upskill.
Who should come?
If you have something broken, want to try to save it, don’t have the time, tools or skills to fix it, and would like to have your thing looked at (and hopefully fixed!) by someone with more skills or experience, you’re our perfect guest! We have a mix of expert and beginner volunteers willing to apply and share their skills and knowledge for a good buzz. This way you can save money, prevent waste, and have a good time.
What sort of things can I bring along?
The types of items you can bring varies at each of our events depending on which repairer volunteers confirm their attendance. The best way to know is to keep an eye on our repair café webpage. We open our online booking form on this page one month before each event, when we also publicise the available types of repair. You can book in and bring along any item that you can carry that matches the services being offered. For health and safety reasons we cannot accept some items such as petrol lawn mowers, and these will be at the discretion of the organiser, or our Check-in volunteers. You can always email us to check beforehand: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does it work?
When you arrive, our Check-in volunteers will check you and your item in and will give you a ticket number, so that you can relax over a cup of tea or coffee and cake in the waiting area. There may be a fair amount of waiting involved, so you may wish to bring something to keep you busy. You can also watch some repairs and chat to other guests and volunteers. Our repairer volunteers will come and find you by your name or your ticket number when they are due to look at your item, so that you may observe and assist with the repair.
Is the service free?
Our group is passionate about waste prevention, thus the service is free, yet we very much appreciate a cash donation. There are some costs associated with the Repair Café, such as spare parts, tools, consumables, refreshments etc. All other proceeds go towards our voluntary non profit initiative. If you happen to not have cash on you, you can make an online donation.
Should I book?
When we take pre-bookings, you can be sure that your item will be looked at and hopefully repaired, or if not, advised on. We accept bookings for only one item per person that so that as many people as possible can be seen. You will see whether we are taking pre-bookings for the next event on the Repair Cafe page.
I can’t book – can I just turn up with my item?
Yes, you can. If you turn up early enough, there will be a good chance of your item being seen, however we can’t guarantee it. More waiting is involved, thus bring a book, a laptop, knitting or something to keep you busy. There will be comfy seats, and coffee and cake for everyone.
For this event we offer a drop-in service with an interest list. It is very useful to have an idea of what sort of items are likely to come in, so that we may prepare tools, engage more volunteers if needed, or to promote the service.
How does the drop-in and interest list work?
You can record your interest in bringing along one item to our next event via the green button above. Please note that we can’t guarantee for your item to be seen. However, if you arrive early, are willing to wait for the duration of the event (bring something nice to keep you busy!) and if you register your interest, there is more chance of your item to be seen and hopefully repaired.
Can I come even if I don’t have anything to fix?
Yes! We want to raise awareness of repairing and reusing instead of ‘throwing away’, so please come and watch volunteers perform the repairs and learn from them. Please ask beforehand at the check-in desk, or the repairer, if they are happy with you observing.
What if my item can’t be repaired?
If your item can’t be repaired at the event, our repairer volunteers will do their best to inform you if your item is potentially repairable or not. In the case of advice on future repair, they may be able to let you know what spare parts to buy and encourage you to bring it back to the same event, to the next event, or a different event across the county. Or they may point you towards local commercial repair businesses. As there is not yet a local repair shop map or guide, use your search engine to help you find your nearest repair shop. In case your item has reached the end of its life, repairers or host volunteers will be able to advise on recycling or disposal options.
Are there any other Repair Cafés?
There are! Other Community Action Groups such as Sustainable Didcot, Sustainable Wantage, Greening Chinnor, etc. organise them across the county. For dates and locations, please see FAQ: What is a repair café.
Are you insured?
As a CAG, we have Public and Product Liability Insurance kindly provided by CAG Oxfordshire. For our insurance to be valid, we:
- have any electrical appliance (other than a battery-operated appliance) inspected and tested by a suitably qualified person who has at least received Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) training from the CAG Network
- ensure that each item of furniture or furnishings supplied free of charge is fit for purpose
- ensure that any other products are compliant with any current safety legislation or regulations
- retain all required records under such legislation or regulations for the required period provided this period is not less than 3 years
- have conducted a risk assessment of our events, which is circulated to our repairer and host volunteers and which is regularly reviewed
- In accordance with good practice, ask each guest to read and sign a brief disclaimer* before engaging in repair attempts.
Why do you do Repair Cafés?
We do it because we are passionate about preventing waste, helping you save money, protect the environment, and all feel good about it! This is the tagline and mission of SHARE Oxford. Repair Cafés are also an opportunity to raise donations to support our growing initiative.
Can I become a repairer? How?
Anyone with confidence in their ability to repair can express an interest in volunteering for our events. Have a look at the bottom of our repair café webpage to see how we recruit new repairer volunteers.
This Repair Café is a community repair space not a repair service and our repairers are volunteers not professionals. Therefore:
- Attendees offering items to be repaired do so at their own risk and should back up any data beforehand.
- Repairers are entitled to refuse to repair certain objects due to safety.
- Repairers give no guarantee to be able to fix the item and are not responsible if repaired objects turn out not to work properly at home. However, if you have brought an electrical item, we will perform a basic Portable Appliance Test to ensure that the item it is safe from electrical harm, in compliance with relevant UK legislation.
- If you have brought in a bike item for repair, we ensure that it is safe to ride by requesting our volunteers to be qualified mechanics.
- The repairers, organisers and event partners of the Repair Café are not liable for any loss that may result from advice and instructions concerning repairs or resulting from work performed in the Repair Café.