Repair Café Glasgow

Though we’ve not seen one another in person for more than 6 weeks, the KDD team are in touch every day, and, at the moment, one of the things we are working on from our separate locations is our People MAKE Glasgow book. Over the past year, we’ve conducted a series of interviews and photoshoots with members of Glasgow’s diverse making community, speaking to the individuals, collectives, non-profit groups, and small businesses, whose work is transforming a city once known for large-scale industrial manufacturing into a place of small-scale and sustainable creative innovation. Glasgow’s makers produce everything from spectacles to carbonated beverages, from sporrans to cartoons, and as well as celebrating and documenting the work of the city’s creative makers, the photographic storytelling makes the book a real visual treat.

As we prepare the book for publication, we thought we’d share a few of these stories with you, and here’s one from our visit to Repair Café Glasgow.

Repair Café Glasgow was founded in 2017, on the principles of Repair Café International, a global network of volunteers dedicated to waste reduction, skill sharing, and social connection.

Repair Café Glasgow is built on the idea that we should tackle our throwaway society by extending the working lives of our material possessions, reducing the mountain of household items destined for landfill, challenging the over-consumption of cheap goods, and resisting built in obsolescence and the very idea of the disposable.

Everything from broken appliances and damaged garden equipment to worn out clothing and torn household textiles are eligible for repair by the Café’s regular group of skilled volunteers.

Imran had invested £200 in a pair of headphones. Previous, cheaper models had failed within a year. He had wanted this set to last, but now, after almost 15 years the connecting headband had snapped. He purchased a new aftermarket headband, but it wasn’t a seamless fit, as of course, the manufacturer had never really intended it to be used in conjunction with cans that had long since been out of production.

Thankfully, one of today’s volunteers is electrical engineer, refugee and welcome new Scot, Omer. Omer gets straight to work and Imran is chuffed to bits with his newly-functional headphones, repaired with his new friend’s help.

But Omer just acts like it’s no big deal.

A young professional couple had spent a couple of hundred pounds on a pair of funky lamps from a big box online store. Just over one year later, the lamps had been retired to the shed, as they both stopped working shortly after the warranty expired.

Their volunteer repair man is Sunny . . .

. . . and, good as his name, Sunny helps bring back the light.

Recently retired local, Pat, sits chatting to fellow volunteer, Laurence, a French fashion and textiles student from the nearby college. A favourite denim dress had been spoiled by oil stains but Pat simply machine embroiders a wee snowdrop over the mark.

A mug is reunited with its handle. Darned garments are transformed, made whole, ready to be worn again.

Defunct household appliances, thought likely to be beyond repair, turn out in fact to be fit for purpose.

What might our shared future look like if we all thought more about caring for what we already own than continually buying new?

Sitting with a cup of tea and some delicious home-baking, watching people sharing their expertise, seeing things get fixed, turned on, come back to life, we are struck by the power of the Repair Café’s simple project. Of course, alleviating environmental pressures on the planet is great, but there’s something much more profound that’s happening here as well. People who have never previously met before are talking to each other like old friends, finding out about one another’s lives and helping each other out. Here, everyone has a skill to share and a story to tell. The Repair Café enables neighbours from the city’s many different areas and communities to all come together to share and mend the objects that matter to them. Here in this social space, on an ordinary Saturday afternoon, we are all learning something new about care, repair, conversation, and the importance of things.

Whether in times of plenty or scarcity, adversity or affluence, there’s something deeply enriching and heart warming about such endeavours.

Surely the world would be a better place with a repair café on every street?

Photography by Tom. Words by Sam and Kate. Find out more about the brilliant work of Repair Café Glasgow here.