The other day I was asked why I had started Simply Repair South Lakes. It got me thinking and I realised that my original purpose has expanded to encompass many more good reasons to carry on repairing.
When I organised my first pop-up repair workshop back in November 2017 the main motivation was to reduce waste, reduce the amount of clothing, electrical goods and other household items that are condemned to ‘landfill’.
Many of you will have seen Stacy Dooley’s tv programme Fashion’s Dirty Secrets which exposed the disastrous environmental consequences of fast fashion and WRAP have calculated that £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill in the UK each year.1 Unsurprisingly, electrical goods are the fastest growing waste stream in the UK, growing by 5% each year, however, almost 25% of waste electrical and electronic equipment that’s taken to household waste recycling centres could be re-used.2
The thing is, it’s often quite easy to mend clothes and electrical gadgets (although admittedly manufacturers don’t always make it easy with regard to electricals; that’s another story…) but the skills required are being lost. Over half the population don’t have the confidence to sew and 1 in 4 people can’t sew a button on.3 It was when I read this last statistic that I decided I wanted to do something.
I’m grateful that I inherited sewing skills from my Mother and I know other people of my generation and older that have acquired similar skills from their parents and grandparents. Many younger people haven’t had the opportunity to develop these skills but the good news is they are apparently keen to learn! So my plan was to bring the generations together in pop-up workshops where we could pass on skills and start a repair revolution in South Lakes! It’s been a great success so far with over 20 people volunteering their skills (this includes a couple of very skilled young people), more than 100 items of clothing repaired, nearly 100 electrical gadgets mended, several cuddly toys remade, some precious pots fixed (kintsugi style) and many happy customers who have learnt new skills.
Build resilient communities
To begin with I was less aware of the positive knock on effects of the repair workshops. It was clear that bringing the generations together to share skills would help the ‘fixers’ feel more valued. Some of our volunteers now have a new found enthusiasm for their ‘craft’ and have been inspired to go on courses and develop their skills even further. Thanks to funding from UnLtd, five of the volunteer electrical experts have trained to become PAT testers, and sewers have been inspired to experiment with new techniques and invest in new equipment.
What was less clear was the role that the pop-up workshops play in bringing communities together, but fixers and fixees alike have commented on the “wonderful, friendly, educational, helpful, fantastic” nature of these community events. It’s heart-warming to see people, who have come to get help with repairs, make friends with others over a cup of tea and then come back to future events to soak up the atmosphere. Dorothy has become a regular visitor and now happily works on her own repairs with a little guidance from the experts. Whilst I haven’t yet persuaded David, another regular, to have a go at sewing he did volunteer to do the washing up last time! The workshops attract people from all walks of life and all generations but everyone enjoys a shared sense of accomplishment having taught or learnt a new skill, fixed something or had something fixed, saved something from landfill and saved money on buying something new! It’s incredibly satisfying to see communities coming together over the simple purpose of mending things.
Improve health and wellbeing
But it’s not just ‘things’ that are mended. Anyone who loves to unwind with a creative activity, whether it is knitting, sewing or upcycling a piece of furniture, knows how wonderful it is for relieving tension and pent up stress. Research has shown that the often repetitive and focused nature of crafting can send the body and mind into a zen-like state that is similar to what is achieved when practising yoga or meditation.
At the repair workshops we encourage people to watch, learn and have a go at mending things themselves, and learning does wonderful things for your brain. To get scientific, when you learn something your brain forms new synapses between neurons, this keeps your mind flexible and can help ward off age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 4
So what are you waiting for?!
Through joining our repair revolution you too can reduce waste, help save the planet, save money, make new friends, learn new skills and improve your health and wellbeing! Do come and join us at our next pop-up event either as a volunteer or as a punter and start to reap the multiple benefits of mending.