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This letter about Repair Cafes was sent to us by TLT member Martina Holmes, and is reproduced here with her permission

Dear TLT

I hope you don't mind if I tell you a little about a Dutch repair cafe which Don and I visited (by bicycle of course) when we were in Holland this month on a family visit. You may forward this to anyone interested.

We visited the Repair Cafe in Harderwijk, a town of about 45000 in the east of Holland, not far from where my mother lives. I wanted to see how they did it in the country where it all began.

To my surprise it happened to be the actual Grand Opening Day (ed: video clip below with commentary in Dutch) so the local press was there and all the volunteers and supporters of the new venue. It was held on the first floor of a very large modern glass building on an industrial estate on the edge of town. Next door was a large DIY warehouse (one of their sponsors) where visitors could obtain materials and spares. The place was also already a large recycling shop and one corner of this had been reserved for the repair cafe. Tea/coffee and cakes were provided by another local sponsor, a cake bakery.

As soon as I came in I was kindly welcomed by someone at the entrance. There were a few speeches and then one by one the 15 or so volunteers - men and women - were introduced to the bystanders and presented with a special apron with its own logo printed on it. It all looked very professional, but everyone was really nice and enthusiastic. There was a terrific atmosphere.

I spoke to several people there, volunteers and visitors alike. The local press had been covering the story since December. They'd had a trial run among the volunteers (which we will do in Llandrindod also). They offered various repair skills, such as for electronics, bicycles, sewing, woodwork, computers. Quite a few people were retired, one husband and wife couple had also joined.

The things I saw being brought in for repair were 2 bicycles, a vacuum cleaner, a jumper with holes in it, a broken wooden garden chair, an old radio cassette recorder and a coffee maker. All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I was ever so impressed by the way they threw themselves into it. You could see that months of preparation and publicity had preceded the startup.

I have also been in touch regularly with (TLT supporter) Jackie, who has recently visited a Repair Cafe in Haarlem, in the west of Holland. This was one which had been running for 2 years and was held in a restaurant of an old people's home, but they began originally in a garage. She told me that about 50% of goods brought in were repaired, a decent number I think! Some repair cafes specialise in mending certain things such as furniture. Some volunteers work for several cafes. This particular cafe typically received around 20 to 25 visitors per session and a queuing system had to operate. Coffee and cake is provided while you wait, as is the opportunity to have a chat. The idea behind it is that this venue will also promote social contacts and cohesion in the community.

I hope this was useful and of interest. Best wishes, Martina