07:00AM, Saturday 28 August 2021
A repair cafe currently running out of Maidenhead library is fixing everything from lampshades and bags to scooters and children’s laptops for free – as well as bringing communities together across generations.
Gabriela Costa set up the Repair Cafe about six months ago, with the first one taking place at Filling Good, the zero-waste shop in the Nicholsons Centre.
There have been three more since, all running out of Maidenhead Library. The cafe is held once a month on the second Saturday.
“I have learned a lot of lessons from repair cafes like the one in Marlow,” Gabi said. “I had no experience setting something like this up and it has been a long journey.
“I always had it in my mind it would be great to have it in the library because now libraries have to reinvent themselves.”
The cafe got started during COVID-19, so the team of around 26 volunteers have been limiting numbers in the cafe in line with restrictions.
The event usually has no more than eight volunteers at a time, but the plan is to increase capacity and potentially extend its opening times to help more people.
“We fix anything as long as we have volunteers there who can fix it – all our volunteers are problem solvers by nature,” said Gabi.
“Although we don’t promise a 100 per cent repair rate, we are improving, and we can find out where to go to buy replacement parts and arrange to repair the item in a future cafe.”
So far, the team can fix electricals, like vacuum cleaners, furniture and bikes – and have already fixed a toy robot and a USB port in an electronic device.
Born and raised in Brazil, Gabi was used to seeing things get repaired. That all changed when she moved to the UK.
“In my local community, it was easy to go to seamstress if I got a hole in my jacket. When I got here, I thought: ‘Where are they all?’ I could see that (skill) was lost,” she said.
Gabi works at the planning level on sustainability but wanted to try a more ‘hands-on’ approach to fixing the planet.
“It’s about having a shift in our priorities – we’re always thinking we need something new when we don’t,” she said.
“We can start to appreciate the value of things and extend their life, rather than throwing things away,” she said. “There is no ‘away’ – we only have one planet.”
Gabi added that the repair cafe has been a great way to bring different generations with different skills together to foster a sense of community
“The older generation are the ones with the knowledge of how to repair things,” said Gabi. “I didn’t even know how to sew before all this.”
Ideally, Gabi would like to see a repair shop in every neighbourhood and a network of repair organisations and businesses who can recommend places to go.
Change is coming on a national level. Currently, the UK creates about 1.5million tonnes of electronic waste, partly due to planned obsolescence.
But in June the Government introduced a ‘right to repair’ law which requires manufacturers to make spare parts for large electric appliances available to consumers and third-party companies.
This gives buyers the freedom to repair rather than replace. Manufacturers have about two years to make the necessary changes.
The hope for the Maidenhead Repair Cafe is to perhaps move into a larger premises in the future, and to help facilitate another repair cafe in Windsor.
The next cafe in the library is due to take place on September 11. Book a ticket on Eventbrite by clicking here.
The repair team is always looking for volunteers. Email Gabi on email@example.com
Repair Cafe Maidenhead received £939 from the Advertiser’s owner, the Louis Baylis Trust, in its latest round of donations. Visit baylis-trust.org.uk to find out more.