Some of our volunteers

Some of our volunteers

27 March 2020

March 2020, Repair Cafe

 We had initially thought that our March event would be really busy, building on the success and the publicity we had for our participation in the Big Fix 2020. A few days before the event, we learned that our two IT repairers and our Jewellery repairer couldn’t come. We’d already taken the decision to cancel our April 2020 in the light of the Coronavirus threat. That threat was building exponentially and had the event been one day later, we would probably have cancelled it. Would anyone come?

As if by magic, just the right number of people came to keep us occupied. We saw 64 repairs – we usually get 75 – 90. We had quite a few new volunteers ‘in training’ in the café area, giving out forms and helping people to fill them in. We had new volunteers on Mechanical, Electrical and Sewing repairs too. Bernie’s husband Paul stepped in make tea and coffee for us as we are lacking a volunteer in that role. “Steve the Treasurer” had admitted to having media studies skills and camera and video equipment so he recorded some video clips, with a view to eventually making a documentary about Repair Cafe Weymouth. 

We love the stories around the items that people bring for repair. One gentleman had brought a metal detector that had cost him £400 20 years ago. A silver engraved hairpin he had found was now in a museum and both he and the landowner had been handsomely rewarded.

Phil had worked on a fish-shaped glug jug at our last few events and I caught him using a hairdryer that volunteer Maggie had brought in for repair, for another stage in the invisible repair process. I knew that Phil built models but I didn’t appreciate the extent of his skills until I saw him repair a resin model of a waiter.

Lady holding repaired waiter model

It had a big hole in the elbow. Phil put him on the operating table, masked off the area around the hole and somehow fixed a bit of card under the hole. I saw him sprinkling his magic black fairy dust into the hole. He must have melted that and shaped it. Our visitors described the repair as “Absolutely amazing!”.

Jim had taken home a model boat after our previous event, to untangle the ropes, add more eyelets and fix the ropes in the right places, make a copper strap for the boom and make a stand for the whole thing!

Match box sized music boxes

A lady had brought in 4 tiny music boxes that had been given to her children. They are smaller than matchboxes. Our clock repairer Alan has an eye for ‘fiddly’ jobs, and he quickly got 3 of the 4 working. 

Our visitors seem to love come to our events. One gentleman said it was his third visit. I hope we will soon be back together in the Palm House. Meanwhile, both repairers and people looking for advice on repairs can join the virtual Fixit Clinic

Stay safe!

Ros Dean

06 March 2020

The Big Fix 2020 – Blog 2

We had invited the Councillors of Weymouth, Portland and Dorset councils to attend The Big Fix 2020. Five or six came and one brought a chain saw for repair. Councillor Jon Andrews is also the mayor of Sherborne and he plans to start a Repair Café. When interviewed by Peter Lythgoe for our live Facebook video he said he has premises and he can ensure free parking. We discussed parking for Repair Cafe Weymouth events with Weymouth and Dorset councillors and they approached Dorset Highways on our behalf, but they feel they cannot set a precedent. We also sowed the seed of a “Library of Things” for Weymouth with the councillors. Donated tools could be hired out at minimal costs, because we do not all need a shed full of ‘stuff’.

Councillor Giovanna Lewis is keen to start a Repair Cafe on Portland and two ladies from Winfrith came along with a view to starting one there. Just the result we had hoped for! We are happy to help.

So what interesting items were fixed? A lady had contacted us about an old wooden doll, now in pieces and sadly missing two feet and leg. A picture on eBay showed us what the feet should look like.

Wooden Doll Repaired and repainted

Our dedicated PAT tester and electronics expert Jim responded to my email and offer to whittle parts in between jobs. We didn’t expect it to be so tiny – about 4 inches high. He did it and sewing volunteer Jane managed to restring the doll. The happy visitor subsequently painted the feet red and sent us a photo.

The jury was out among our electronics volunteers about whether a Binatone games console circa 1980’s could be adapted to play ‘ping pong’ on a modern TV. I often consult our volunteers in advance by email for jobs we have been contacted about, to ensure we assign them to the most appropriate repairer, in this case, Robert.

1980s Binatone TV master games console

“All I had to do was connect a coaxial cable to the summing point of the diodes to provide a composite video output, compatible with a modern television. Luckily the sound uses an integral speaker, so I didn’t have to worry about that.” Our happy visitor is now playing ping pong with his sons.

We have a new clock repairer Nicholas, who can also advise on antique furniture restoration. His partner Jeanne offered to repair a gold picture frame on which the moulding was cracked and had bits missing. We were amazed at the result –the moulding repaired and gilded using a range of gold paint hues to recreate shades. New volunteer Audrey discovered the moving story of the chocolate coloured labrador that was the subject of the picture. The owners Issy and Rod made a generous donation online.

Jason West of Weyforward brought donated smart phones for Repair. They are for a Social Learning Club project that teaches people from disadvantage backgrounds to use smart phones for learning. Luckily reporters from community radio station Air 107.2 were keen to record an interview with him. They were broadcasting live from the Repair Cafe and as their appeal is generally to the under 25s, we hope for more young people at our next event!

Ros Dean

05 March 2020

15 February, 2020 - The Big Fix

The Big Fix 2020 was a national event in which 74 Repair Cafes in the UK planned to participate to collectively smash the record for the number of items fixed in a single repair event. They were all to hold Repair Cafes on the same day – but Storm Dennis, bringing floods and high winds, meant that some had to cancel and some will hold their session on a different date.  The aim was to encourage lots of press and media coverage to raise awareness of repair cafes, encourage more to open, increase footfall and promote the repair culture.  It was organised by Catherine Causley of Devon County Council, and the record to beat was 268, set by Devon Repair Cafes in 2019.

We’d like to give a big shout out to BBC Radio Solent (103.8FM in Dorset) who interviewed me (Ros) and a visitor, turned volunteer, Jacqui Gisbourne just prior to our January event. A few days before the Big Fix, reporter Laurence brought along a clock that had belonged to his father. He recorded 4 interviews with some of our volunteers Alan (clocks), Andrew (gluing), Steve Fox (Mechanical and sharpening), me Ros (founder and Chairman), and Colby, whose family have recently taken over the Old Ship Inn in Upwey, Weymouth, complete with a mantle clock of local interest. The interviews were broadcast on Friday 14 February. Another reporter subsequentlyrecorded an interview from which ‘soundbytes’ could be broadcast during new bulletins on Saturday 15th.

Wessex FM promoted the Big Fix both in the radio programmes on Saturday and on their website and we were in the Dorset Echo on 2nd February. That’s not all… We worked really hard to promote the event to local Facebook groups we had not used before and delved into Instagram and Twitter posts a little. We are now being followed by Repair Cafes in Sydney Australia and Paris …  Well we needed to be sure that our repairers would be fully occupied during our double length event! The day came – and we were ready for it. 34 volunteers of which 19 were repairers and 15 were putting our usual processes in place to make it run smoothly, with no queues.

Repair cafe volunteers look at a fixed clock

By 40 minutes after we officially opened at 10:30, over 100 items had come through the door. Our repairers were fully occupied and despite, howling winds and lashing rain, 152 of the 156 items were seen.

We witnessed some amazing repairs – a new foot and leg for a tiny wooden doll, a ‘ping pong’ games console from the 1980’s was adapted for display on a modern TV, a gold photo frame with cracks and chunks missing was fully restored, and a plastic ‘Tetley’ teapot clock with sentimental value was repaired.

I am amazed at how far smoothly it all went. We achieved our aims and got new volunteers, and the possibility of 3 more Repair Cafes opening soon. A little more detail follows in Part 2.

Ros Dean