Waste not want not: punters find a fix at the Repair Café

Volunteers come together to mend items ranging from textiles to jewellery to electronics

In the corner of the Repair Café a woman peers in at the innards of a stereo with a look of wonder on her face.

The stereo hasn't been fit for purpose for over a year but with a bit of tinkering Justin Conway, a mechanical engineer by trade, fixes the problem.

Fiona Dowling, the girlfriend of the CD player's owner, is suitably impressed: "It's like you're doing a forbidden thing, you're not meant to look inside it," she says. "I guess it breaks my heart to throw things away, I don't like waste".

It is a philosophy shared by event organiser, Claire Downey, who works in the waste industry. The Australian first ran a similar event in Dublin in March having been inspired by the international Repair Café movement.


Today’s event in the Chocolate Factory on Kings Inns Street, was the fourth to take place in Dublin with others planned for Athlone, Tralee and Clontarf in weeks to come.

“The whole idea is to revive the culture of repair, to get people thinking, ‘well maybe I could use this thing again’,” Ms Downey says.

About 20 volunteers were on hand to fix items ranging from textiles to jewellery to electronics: indeed some 60 per cent of the items repaired at the café are electronic including mobile phones, iPods and computers.

“Electrical and electronic equipment is probably the most important thing to repair because they take the most energy and material to make,” Ms Downey says.

What goes around comes around at the Repair Café and while engineer Justin Conway might be a dab hand at fixing “all things mechanical”, the hole in his T-shirt is a different proposition.

"It's a really good T-shirt and I don't want to throw it out so I decided to get it repaired rather than just chuck it in the bin," he says as Tina Muru of the ReDiscovery Centre fixes it.

Her colleague, Carrie Ann Moran summarises their day's work: "So far we've fixed zips, darned some tops, put buttons onto a coat...".

She said in the past “everything that could be fixed would be fixed” but that this took a knock in the Celtic Tiger years.

“I think pre-recession when something broke people...just chucked it away,” she says but adds that this is changing:.

“We run up-cycling classes and that’s all about redesign and learning how to do your own alterations and we have had a huge response to it”.

Elsewhere two men turn their hand to the repair of a shredder; a gentleman comes in carrying a broken electric guitar; and Parisian Thomas Vulin sits quietly after a busy afternoon repairing computers, some of which required the replacement of a single component to work perfectly.

Then it's my turn. I fish out a necklace gifted to me a number of years ago which broke soon after. Attracta Madden, a former student of the National College of Art and Design has the tools for the job and, on examining the multi-coloured wooden beads and frayed metal chain, decides it is repairable.

Using multiple sets of jewellery pliers she sets to work while talking about her first stint as a volunteer at a previous Repair Café in Sandymount.

“I ended up fixing things like shoes and luggage...anything that involves using nice fine tools I can fix,” she says.

“I think it’s just innate in me: I don’t like broken things. I like to fix them if I can. I like to see things whole and well. It’s a good feeling when you’ve finished, it’s a sense of deep satisfaction.”

More information on the Repair Café and upcoming events can be found at repaircafe.ie.