Can she fix it?

Meet Bristol’s repair café founder Kate Jerrold (and yes, she really can...)

When Kate Jerrold’s dishwasher broke in 2012, she had a look online to see how to fix it. But she didn’t have the confidence to do it herself. Maybe there was someone else in the local community who could help?

Kate Jerrold - “Globally people care and want to do the right thing"
Photo: Ramona Andrews

I was sitting there thinking why hasn’t someone done this here? This is outrageous! And then I thought, hang on a minute, I’m someone. I haven’t done it

While trying to fix her broken dishwasher, Kate came across a repair café that had been running for about three years already in Holland.

“I was sitting there thinking why hasn’t someone done this here? This is outrageous! And then I thought, hang on a minute, I’m someone. I haven’t done it.”

So Kate set up a Facebook page, invited friends and contacts in the community and now there are three successful repair cafes across the city. The longest running one is in Fishponds, and there are regular sessions in Easton and St Pauls.

Radical reclaiming

“I’ve worked in reclamation for about 15 years, so I was well aware that people wanted to reuse things. “But there was often a barrier. People would wander into our shop and I’d say ‘oh you just give it a sand’ and then they’d look in horror.” Kate observed that some people seemed to lack the confidence to just have a go.

She says there are many reasons why people visit the café. Some are motivated by the environment - not wanting to throw plastic away - others need to save money; while some people want to preserve items with sentimental value.

Quick fixes

Kate sees many digital radios coming in with the same fault, which means the fixers can diagnose quickly and volunteers can learn valuable confidence and skills.

Photo: Ramona Andrews

The cafés also get a lot of toasters coming in. Again often with the same problem - sometimes just running the lifter knob a few times up and down can clear it, as crumbs have stuck in the mechanism. Another common issue is a dry solder. Cheap electrical items are often badly soldered. Some of the volunteer fixers are now skilled in soldering, as well as sewing, woodwork, electrics and, of course, basic tinkering.

“50 or 100 years ago you’d expect a child to take a watch apart or a radio apart. Children built Crystal radios, whereas nowadays we would discourage that.”

Photo: Ramona Andrews

The repair cafés are about empowering anyone to give it a go, with the more experienced fixers there to offer advice and expertise.

Circular economy

“Globally people care and want to do the right thing. We as tax payers want to do something about waste.

“We’re spending about £40 million a year to dispose of our resources. We’re not incentivising reuse or a circular economy, and we’re not upskilling our young people”.

Kate points out that this model of “neighbours helping neighbours” is a way to pass skills on that might otherwise be lost in the community.

“Legislation has increasingly backed up this idea that you buy something new, you exclusively use it and then you discard it.”

“Who says that I want it so cheap that I want to buy a new one every six months? We have the power to say ‘no we will fix it ourselves and we will keep this stuff on the road’.”

Get involved

The repair café at All Saints Church, Fishponds runs the first Saturday of every month. Glen’s Kitchen at Pauls Learning Centre hosts the third Saturday of every month, and Café Connect, Easton hosts the last Saturday of every month. All 10.30-1.30am. Join the Bristol Repair Café group on Facebook to keep up to date on all the news. Plus, the team are always looking for new volunteers, so get in touch if you’d like to help out.

Photo: Ramona Andrews