Our repair cafe team at the Dusty Forge celebrate our second anniversary in October – two years of great challenges during the pandemic and growing popularity! Lead volunteer Penny recalls how it all started: ‘I read about repair cafes in Clean Slate (published by the Centre for Alternative Technology) and as a local resident I reckoned that people in Ely and Caerau would find this free repair and re-use service handy. So I visited my Member of Senedd Mark Drakeford at his Saturday surgery at the Hub, looking for suggestions for a suitable venue. Mark recommended ACE (Action in Caerau & Ely) at the ‘Dusty’ – they’ve long been committed to co-producing environmentally-friendly community development projects.
‘The Dusty provides a welcoming venue for monthly pop-up repair cafe events run by our enthusiastic and skilled team of volunteer fixers, and our volunteer host Gill offers customers a friendly welcome and light refreshments while they’re queuing to see a fixer. We enjoy on-going support from Repair Cafe Wales* (RCW) with their handy start-up kit. In addition, Unite Community’s Cardiff & Area trade union branch sponsored our PAT tester so that we can check the safety of all our electrical repairs.
‘Like many local people, my household budget is often very stretched, and our customers mainly bring broken household items for repair so that we can keep our everyday lives going. But people visit our repair cafe from wider Cardiff and beyond, for example bringing bikes and family heirlooms to be mended. Our textile fixer Irene has a growing reputation for reviving very elderly teddy bears – the oldest treasured bear she’s repaired so far was 80 years old! And our new volunteer Gareth offers expert 1-2-1 advice on making the best use of digital equipment such as phones, tablets, and laptops.
‘Our repair cafe offers a free service that complements several other projects based at the Dusty, including the community pantry and community kitchen which link with FareShare Cymru and several local foodstores to provide tasty meals based on surplus foodstuff. Now ACE is partnering with Benthyg Cymru to launch a library of things at the Dusty, offering a low-cost hire service for household equipment as well as opportunities to learn new skills to repair and re-use wherever we can.’
Nigel has been a volunteer fixer at the Dusty since our repair cafe launched – here’s his feedback from the fixer’s table:
‘I retired in 2015 and wanted to help out in local communities and keep busy at the same time. So when a new volunteering opportunity came along I was very keen to get involved.
‘Having been born into a farming family, my dad passed on the ability to repair things (or at least give it a good go). “If you can’t fix it, you can’t use it” underlined life there, as machinery, buildings, and tools needed a lot of maintenance. Then, in the 1990s, with a young family and now living in Cardiff, ‘Mr Fix-It’ took up the challenge to mend toys etc that ‘just broke when I was using it Dad’…but as a hammer?!
‘In 2019 I’d heard that there was a plan for a repair cafe at the Dusty Forge and it couldn’t have been nearer to what I wanted to do next. I joined the repair cafe team at the ‘Dusty’, helping to fix (or giving it a good go) anything that came through the door. It’s great to meet up with loads of new people at every repair session, with customers from all walks of life but with the same need…to help them by repairing their item and preventing it just being thrown out with the rubbish and into landfill.
‘We encourage our customers to sit with us during the repair, explaining what we’re doing and just generally having a chat with them along the way. I’ve lost count of the things that I’ve repaired (or had a good go at repairing)…pushchairs with wonky wheels, disco ball lights, bikes (lots of bikes), coffee machines (even more coffee machines), Xmas lights, kettles, toasters, the list goes on…
‘The volunteer team is great to work with and so talented in repairing such a variety of things. Our repair cafe host Gill also supplies us with a steady, and very welcome, supply of tea and coffee…it always hits the spot after a worthwhile repair and during a busy repair session.
‘It was brilliant to have the BBCTV Wales News filming our team at work at the Dusty in June 2021. The feature, covering volunteering in Wales, looked to highlight and encourage others to help out in any way that they could. Luckily I’d picked up an easy repair to be filmed whilst fixing it…no on-screen disasters to be edited out!
‘I’d encourage everyone to consider what they would enjoy doing in the spare time, how they can help out within the community, and contact one of the many volunteer organisations in their area.’
*Repair Cafe Wales (RCW) is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) with the core values of waste reduction, skill sharing, and community cohesion. RCW facilitates regular pop-up events enabling people from a diverse range of backgrounds to come together in a supportive environment, which in turn strengthens community resilience and saves broken items ending up in landfill.
RCW started with one repair cafe in Cardiff in 2017 and now supports over 50 repair cafes across Wales in towns, villages and city suburbs. This growth reflects increasing public concern over the climate emergency and positively indicates a motivation to come together and take practical steps towards a solution. RCW recognises that the shift to a throw-away society is not sustainable, and works to promote standards for long-lasting goods and the right to repair, collecting data from local repair cafes as evidence to help inform government policy decisions that promote a greener, more sustainable world.
The next Repair Cafe is 23rd Oct, 10am to 12:30pm.