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Stortford Repair Café to launch at the Emmaus Centre at Thorley on Saturday April 27

When my mother-in-law passed away, we inherited her blender: a 1950s Osterizer complete with plastic jug, jars and even replacement rubber seals. She had brought it over from Sri Lanka decades ago, so it sported a US plug.

I’ll be honest, I was not impressed. I thought it was a bit ugly and old-fashioned. I went out and bought myself a shiny new blender, hiding the Osterizer at the back of the cupboard.

Until I realised how much more powerful the old blender was! The new blender got sold on Ebay and the Osterizer came out again. I learned to love it for its sheer power and the fact that it reminded me of her every time I used it.

Louise Tennekoon and 10-year-old son Seb with their restored Osterizer blender
Louise Tennekoon and 10-year-old son Seb with their restored Osterizer blender

All was well until one day the kids had a bit of a smoothie-fest and the motor packed up. I was so frustrated – it looked like a pretty simple bit of kit but I didn’t know how to mend it. And I couldn’t part with it because it had such sentimental value. The thought of taking it to the recycling centre filled me with horror.

So it went back into the cupboard, lurking there while I tried to find a solution. Spare parts? Only from the US at vast expense. After a while, it got moved into the attic, but I didn’t forget about it.

I wonder how many of us have been in this situation: holding on to precious things that are broken or no longer work, wishing we could mend them but lacking the skills to do it ourselves. Or even worse, throwing them away when, with a bit of time and knowledge, they could go on working for years to come.

Stortford Repair Cafe logo
Stortford Repair Cafe logo

About 18 months later, I was talking to my handyman, Alfie Cook. He loves a challenge and offered to take a look at the blender. An hour later, he delivered it back to me, working perfectly, complete with a UK plug. My delight in having the blender back was matched by Alfie’s glee at solving the problem.

This got me thinking – there must be people in our community who know how things work and how to mend them, and who would take real pleasure in putting those skills to use. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring those people together and connect them to the people who need their help?

This isn’t a new idea. The concept of a ‘repair café’ – a community-run, pop-up space where you take broken items for repair by skilled volunteers – was born in the Netherlands in 2009. There are now more than 2,500 repair cafés worldwide, bringing together around 33,000 volunteers and repairing more than 40,000 items each month.

So I’m delighted to report that a repair café is being launched right here in Bishop’s Stortford, thanks to the efforts of dynamic Stortford resident Lyn Farrell. Inspired by the successful repair café in Sawbridgeworth, Lyn has secured funding for the first year from the Brazier Trust, which is administered by the town council, as well as the support of the Bishop’s Stortford Climate Group.

Stortford Repair Cafe organiser Lyn Farrell
Stortford Repair Cafe organiser Lyn Farrell

Lyn is passionate about the repair café concept, saying: “I believe it’s important to pass repair skills down through the generations, to try to end the throw-away life so many of us lead. By repairing household items, we can reduce the energy and materials used to produce replacements and cut down on waste to landfill.”

Visiting a repair café is a collaborative affair. Rather than just handing over items, you are encouraged to stay and chat, and even help with the repair, as experts pass on their skills.

Lyn has put together a strong network of local repairers who can take on everything from sewing repairs to IT. She also has a PAT (portable applicance testing) tester on hand to ensure the safety of electrical items before they are handed back.

The inaugural Stortford Repair Café will be on Saturday April 27, from 2pm to 5pm, at the Emmaus Centre by St James the Great Church in Thorley.

There will be repairers on hand to tackle sewing (repairs and minor alterations), electrical and mechanical repairs, bikes, IT and small wooden items. Customers are encouraged to book in their items ahead of time, to help with the smooth running of the café.

Tea and home-made cake will be on sale if you need to wait for a while. All repairs are free of charge, with the option to make a donation to support the café going forwards.

Lyn said: “I’m so grateful for the advice and support I’ve had from Corinne [Lewis], who runs the café in Sawbridgeworth.

“The response from our community has been amazing – we have all these repairers, plus my wonderful neighbour is helping with social media and people have volunteered to bake cakes and to act as hosts and runners. Now we need customers, so please help us spread the word.”

Follow the repair café on Facebook at Stortford Repair Café. To book in a repair for the café on April 27, visit https://www.repairmanager.co.uk/PreRegistrationEmail/?cafe=7 or click the link on the Facebook page. For more info, contact Lyn at stortfordrepaircafé@gmail.com or on 07379 555684.

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