Our not-so-new Co-Director, Fiona Dear, reflects on an Autumn of bringing the repair movement together.
This Autumn was busy. By September I’d spent 9 months getting my head round the world of electronic repair – and all the issues that link with it. Tech and software. Reuse and digital access. Community repair and data. E-waste, minerals and the waste sector. And our fight for the right to repair. So it was brilliant to have a couple of opportunities to bring this to life this Autumn.
The wonderful world of Fixfest
First up we had Fixfest at the end of October: 3 days of eye opening discussion and, of course, fixing. The event brought together repairers and tinkers from around the world. Bringing the repair movement together gave us a chance to learn from each other, be inspired and chew over the challenges that we’re all trying to fix.
A recurring question was: How can we make repair more mainstream? We all love it, but we know it’s not for everyone. We know the barriers include cost – of spare parts and labour, a lack of confidence in fixing – especially with electronics, knowing where to find repair services. And all of that within a system that makes repair too difficult and has generated an autopilot of buying new when things break.
A world of solutions
Whilst pondering this challenge, Fixfest also offered solutions: We heard about how repair vouchers, which cover 50% of repair costs up to €200, are encouraging more people to repair in Austria. We were surrounded by the wonderful people behind community repair. The wonderful people who offer low-or-no cost repair, and get people involved in fixing their own things everywhere from Denmark to a Ugandan refugee camp. This ecosystem of repair cafes and restart parties has sprung up to make repair more accessible, lower cost and build people’s confidence in fixing things themselves. We talked business models with those that are taking community repair to the high street. And we compared notes on repair directories in Buenos Aires and Vienna with our map in London, designed to make finding a repair service easier.
And what of the root issue of how things are made? We took the fight for the Right to Repair to EU politicians on the first day of Fixfest. We then heard about policies like the French repair index, which clearly communicates, at point of sale, how repairable products are. This is shifting the choices people are making, and manufacturers are taking note. And we got our teeth into some campaign planning.
Taking repair to the world
And we finished, as we should, with a repair cafe. We were blown away by Repair Together’s magical mobile repair cafe. Starting with what looks like a regular trailer, the sides fold up to form a canopy. Further panels fold down and pull out to form work surfaces – with trenches near the edge to stop screws rolling off the worktops. An ingenious coffee station at the back fuels the conversations that bring community repair to life.
There was a healthy mix of big questions posed and thoughtful solutions offered. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t the only one that left with my head buzzing.
Repair everywhere on one day (ish)
Having brought together the people that make community repair happen at Fixfest, we went straight into Repair Day, two weeks later. For Repair Day, we brought the global repair community to life by celebrating fixing on and around 15th October. New Zealanders repaired in trees and Germans repaired by the Brandenburg Gate. Repair cafes got fixing across the world at the same time. New groups engaged their politicians. We saw repairathons, and heard repair stories. Together we showed that repair really is everywhere.
And we celebrated the people who make the repair movement happen. Inspired by Repair&Share’s video of the team singing “We Will Fix It” (think “We Will Rock You”), we got the Fixfest delegates involved for our own rendition of ‘We Will Fix It’. It was a brilliant way to end three days of inspiration, and show off the repair community to the world.
Back to the real world
And now? After bringing the repair movement together for an Autumn of inspiration, we’ve come back down to earth and had a chance to reflect and recover. Now we’re busy turning our conversations into exciting plans for next year. The challenge is huge, but with the size, scale and creativity of the repair movement that has sprung up, to meet it, we WILL fix it.
Find out more, and see videos, notes and photos from Fixfest here.