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Repair at the heart of the community

Repair Café Belfast runs pop up community events where skilled volunteers help people fix their broken items. The team has run monthly events across the city and fixed hundreds of electricals, bikes, clothes and more. In response to interest from across Northern Ireland, they are now sharing their experience and helping other communities to start their own local repair café.

What they did

It’s frustrating when something breaks: the cost, the waste and the feeling of having little choice but to buy a new one. But in Belfast at least, there is an alternative.

Repair Café Belfast was started by a group of volunteers in December 2017. They run monthly community repair events, where volunteers offer their skills to help members of the public get their broken stuff fixed.

The whole project operates on a pay-as-you-feel basis - there is no charge for repairs and everyone is welcome, no matter how big or small the job. While you wait to be matched with a ‘fixpert’ who has the right skills, a café with donated home-baking and freshly brewed coffee is an important part of the day.

Somehow, as people come together from all kinds of backgrounds for a common purpose, a bit of magic and a spirit of community emerges. The chat in the café or as you sit with your repairer is just as important as the repair itself. Often visitors and volunteers alike go away feeling restored, as well as with their repaired item. This sense of community spirit keeps people coming back. 

Sharing repair has the potential to slash our environmental impact by keeping things working for longer. As well as reducing the waste headache of disposing of broken items, it is cutting the resources needed to extract materials, make things and transport them in the first place – as your broken item gets fixed instead of replaced. Repair can have even more impact than recycling and repair cafes are giving people easy, local and joyful ways to take care of their stuff, while saving money, resources and cutting waste.  

So far, repair café volunteers have looked at over 1,000 items, fixing around 60% of them, everything from data projectors to giant bean bags, tandem bicycles to 100-year-old antique dolls, DVD players to backpacks. For many of these items, there was nowhere else to get a repair. In other cases, the volunteers, who act as a ‘first aid clinic’ for broken stuff can give a diagnosis and direct visitors to repair businesses who can help, helping to build up the wider repair economy.

Since last year, the team behind Repair Café Belfast have been supporting other communities to start their own repair projects, rooted in their place. Three more areas have held their own repair events and it turns out the appetite for getting repairs and the skills to fix things are everywhere.

For more information: or follow Repair Café Belfast on social media:

Twitter: @repaircafebfast

(Photo: Campbell Photography,