Earth Notes: Repair Café Kingston Report to the TTK AGM (2023)

Updated 2024-03-28.
Learn how our first three months went fixing all manner of domestic things!
Pushing on an open door with amazing volunteers, support from the council and library. And a stream of visitors being gifted fixes and advice! This is a brief report to the Transition Town Kingston (TTK) AGM held on how the first three monthly sessions went.

Back in the mists of the idea of helping people fix things from their homes rather than throw them away started to form. To help people save money. Also to reduce resource consumption and carbon footprint.

The idea was discussed in TTK meetings. Initial possible volunteers seemed very keen. So Marilyn M in particular put in a lot of legwork researching what schemes might be available, and what was already going on nearby that might be relevant.

One of us had already had dealings with The Restart Project.

In the end we decided that we would follow the Repair Café template as Repair Café Kingston (RCK).

We picked a time (the first Saturday of each month) not to clash with nearby events.

Then with quite a lot of effort from paperwork and finding a venue and whole bunch of repairer volunteers, we were ready to go.

(Thank you volunteers and organisers, and thank you Maya especially!)

Many thanks for seed funding from John Lewis (and TTK core funds). Thanks also to Kingston Library for being a keen and patient host!

With some trepidation, not knowing if we'd be overrun or ignored, we set the first RCK for .


There have now been three RCKs: , , and . Yes, April Fools' Day!

We like visitors to book if possible. Booking helps us gauge demand and avoid long queues. When booking a ticket a donation can be made too. Donations can be made on the day in cash and electronically. Including for coffee / cake / etc!

Categories are textiles, appliances and tech and other, and that broadly matches the benches we have laid out in the library. ("Other" also serves as triage.)

The repair Café ethos is "watch and learn" and "have a go". Visitors should not dump items to be repaired walk away. Instead visitors are expected to be present and maybe participate, giving them the opportunity to learn and to make a fix themselves in future.

MonthItemsRepairs... or Advice
repairs to 202304
Items repaired (more than one quarter) or where advice was offered (about three quarters).

More than a quarter of the items that come to RCK are fixed.

For about another half of the items, we can offer advice instead.

We seem to be achieving similar rates to similar groups. We are avoiding items going to landfill and/or having to be replaced.

Fixes have been as simple as a chewed plug on an otherwise fine vacuum cleaner. Also teddies and other toys, and even a record player.

Financially we need to keep an eye on donations to cover running costs. And there will be some more capital expenditure such as for a replacement Zettle reader (we are borrowing one). But in general, so far, all seems manageable.

More Formally

To sum up (thanks Hilary G):

  1. Stats:
    • In February and March there were 25 and 27 repairs attempted; in April fewer visitors attended (20) which we assume was due to the Easter break.
    • Repairs fully completed each month were respectively, 28%, 37% and 40%. We understand that 25% is a typical percentage for Repair Cafés.
    • If we look at repairs part-completed / advice given, where typically the visitor goes away very happy with the progress made / information received, the percentages reach 60%, 78% and 80%.
  2. Funding/outgoings: we are fortunate to have the support of the council, which has provided some support to advertise RCK (mainly via social media) and use of Kingston Library for free. Further, outgoings have been kept to a minimum by asking volunteers to bring along some tools themselves, though we anticipate we will need to purchase our own PAT device which we have been borrowing thus far. We have acquired two sewing machines and purchased some basic supplies (eg sewing threads) and we ask visitors to bring anything else needed for their repair (eg electrical fuses, zips). We supply biscuits and tea / coffee for visitors and buy a snack for any repairers and other volunteers who want it; this outlay is broadly covered by our cash and Zettle donations from happy punters. In all, in true Transition Town tradition, we operate pretty economically and sustainably and do not require much funding, though we are looking at sources of funding — for if we have to relocate to bigger premises, for example, where we may have to pay fees.