Chiswick Repair Cafe celebrates success with new website

Image above: Chiswick Repair Cafe volunteers

Mending for a sustainable future

The Chiswick Repair Cafe, which launched last summer, has been such a success it has now launched its own website. Since the first few experimental repair sessions have proved so popular, they are planning on the cafe becoming a permanent fixture.

“It has been a tremendous success” Charlotte Bullock tells me, so much so that they now have 30 or 40 volunteers on their books who are willing and able to mend things and they have to tell people not all to come at 10.30 when they open, as they have had queues of people down the road, waiting to get in.

People bring chairs, picture frames, coffee machines, Hoovers, jumpers, teddy bears… “if you can carry it, bring it” says Charlotte. Unlike charity shops, their insurance covers electrical goods.

“We have a brilliant group of volunteers. The men have bonded, which is lovely. There are some younger men who tend to do the computers. There is rather an embarrassing gender divide, in that the men tend to do the gluing and fixing and the women the sewing and darning, but we have one volunteer who crosses that gender divide.”

Image above: Chiswick Repair Cafe volunteer

The Repair Cafe takes place once a month month in Christ Church on Turnham Green, set up by four Chiswick women who wanted to do their bit to save the planet, by working towards a sustainable future rather than contributing to the throw-away society the baby boomer generation have become used to.

They met through Hounslow Council’s initiative to create ‘environmental champions’.

“None of us can fix anything” she says, “but we met at a webinar, realised we were all from Chiswick and decided to meet up to see how we could support each other.”

Charlotte at that time was working with an eco start-up, Kate Hollis was a clean air campaigner, Jill Spencer was organising litter-picking, and Marie-Claire Meisels trying to organise the planting of a ‘Great West hedge’ along the A4.

Image above: Organisers Kate, Charlotte, Jill and Marie-Claire

The four of them sought the advice of the ‘Six Dads’, who had set up a repair café in Twickenham a few months earlier and joined the Repair Café Foundation, a worldwide network of repair cafes started originally in the Netherlands some 20 years ago, with members in New York, cities in India, all over the world. They received a £1,000 ‘Thriving Communities’ grant from LB Hounslow and rented the space from the church.

Six months later they now have their own website, where they are promoting existing businesses in the area which already mend things.

Image above: Chiswick Repair Cafe volunteers

When I went on Saturday the church was busy. Christ Church has an inner and an outer area, divided by glass doors. The inner area was laid out with tables where the volunteers were mending things, and clearly signposted; the outer area was laid out with tables and chairs for people to sit and wait their turn to be seen.

It is all very well organised. Someone approached me the minute I walked in the door, to give me a form to fill out and a raffle ticket to secure my place in the queue. I had not realised that you are only meant to take one item. I had brought some sewing and a picture frame, so I had two separate tickets and I was lucky they were both done.

While you wait there is tea and coffee and home made cakes, made by the church ladies (and therefore very good. It seems to go with the territory; church cake is always excellent). I also got chatting to a couple of people while we waited, which was not long, so it was quite a social experience.

Image above: Jill Revie, on sewing machine duty

I realised I knew the volunteer who took on my sewing. Jill Revie, an artist who for years has been a leading light in Artists At Home, set about mending the straps to my bag. Then Steve tapped a few pins into the frame of my picture to hold it more securely.

They were both happy to chat while the worked. It is a very convivial atmosphere. You are asked to make a donation of £5 – £10. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, it’s quick – no hunting around to see it there is anywhere that might mend your item anywhere in range of Chiswick; no having to come back next week to see it it’s been done. It’s social and you go away happy with a much loved item looking better and the positivity which comes with not contributing more to landfill.

We list Chiswick Repair Cafe sessions in our What’s On listings, so keep an eye out for the next one in a month’s time.

Image above: Chiswick Repair Cafe volunteers

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: ‘Repair Cafe’ to launch in Chiswick

See also: Finite – The Climate of Change documentary, review

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