The event was the culmination of months of planning. Back in January, Woking Borough Council asked Woking Environment Action (WEAct) if we would be interested in starting a repair café in Woking. This sounded like a good idea, so in February we went to visit the well-established Farnham Repair Café, run by Martin Charter and his team. After operating for 14 years they had a huge amount of experience to share with us. We thought that the atmosphere was wonderful, the products being repaired eclectic, and it was a great match for the vision and values of WEAct. Repairing and saving items from the bin is right up our street!
After a very excited train ride home, we decided that was just what Woking needed, so we started working on recruiting volunteer fixers and a front desk team. We advertised (for free) on local social media pages and had an article published in Woking News and Mail. We also contacted our own personal networks of friends and neighbours. A wide range of volunteer applications soon started coming in, which gave us confidence that we could get a Woking Repair Café up and running. Our volunteers have such great skills and are riotously enthusiastic. We decided to aim for a mid-June start to organise our planned ways of working as well as to coincide with Great Big Green Week (a key week in the WEAct calendar).
Our next steps involved sorting out insurance and looking for a venue. We started off thinking we would run all our cafés in the town centre, but we quickly got volunteer feedback that we would be more accessible for people if we ran in a number of neighbourhood areas of Woking. St Andrew’s Church contacted us to say they had been thinking of starting their own Repair Café, so we teamed up with them as our first venue. Then, other Woking churches contacted us, and we are now planning to rotate round four different venues across Woking. A roving Café like this is less common, but we’re certainly going to trial this approach.
The Woking Repair Café held its first event on Saturday 10th June at St Andrew’s Church in Goldsworth Park. We had 40 visitors. Feedback from both visitors and volunteers was extremely positive, and everyone enjoyed the day.
Funds, support, publicity
Surrey Climate Commission launched a grant programme for sustainability projects, and in March we were delighted to be awarded funds to pay for our PAT tester, some of our technical equipment and a lovely banner (see our fabulous Café team photo at the beginning of the article).
Throughout March and April we spoke to several other Repair Cafés and borrowed their documentation to help us sort out our own processes, forms, and risk assessments. We ran Zoom orientation briefing sessions for all our volunteers and sorted out what tools and resources we would need. We also signed up with the International Repair Café Organisation and found their resources extremely helpful.
Publicity for the event was done exactly as per our volunteer recruitment drive using (free) social media, physical posters (which we put up all over the place) and word of mouth. It was nerve-wracking to know how much to do, as we wanted to be busy but not to have lots of people disappointed that they couldn’t get in. On all our publicity we asked visitors to email us with what they were planning to bring. This worked well for us, as by Café eve we had received 32 enquiries.
A fantastic day
At last, it was the 10 June. The weather was glorious, and we had a fantastic day. Our 40 visitors arrived in a steady flow, and our volunteer fixers enjoyed the challenge of trying to fix various items, including:
- Toys: getting an arm back on to a doll, a toy helicopter with a
broken rotor blade
- Electrical items: broken vacuum cleaners, lamps, a CD player, a
radio, a toaster, a hairdryer, two coffee grinders
- Furniture: a broken chair and a coffee table
- Textiles: various clothing repairs, a replacement zip, a handbag
strap, and a sandal
Our fixers fixed, gave advice and kindly agreed to take a few items home to finish off. Some items were declared unrepairable, often because they were glued up so strongly that we just couldn’t get into them!
Initial data suggests that we fixed, partially fixed, or gave advice on 85% of items; 15% were unrepairable. We avoided 35.4kg of items going into the waste system, which we’re delighted with.
For the time being at least, our Repair Cafés will run on the 2nd Saturday of the month from 10am to 1pm, doors closing to new arrivals at 12.30pm. We’re going to continue to ask visitors to let us know what they’ll be bringing by emailing [email protected], as this worked so well for us in June.
Saturday 8 July St Michael’s Church Sheerwater GU22 5PJ
Saturday 12 August St Mark’s Church, Westfield GU22 9QA
Saturday 9 September Trinity Methodist, Town Centre GU21 4LH
Saturday 14 October St Andrew’s Church, Goldsworth Park GU21 3LG
Thanks to these churches for their support!
More information is available at https://wokingenvironmentaction.com/woking-repair-cafe/
Please feel free to drop in at one of our cafés to discuss joining the team or explore the possibility of starting a café in your local area.
Editor’s note: This article was written in collaboration by Ellen Pirie and Janey Jux.