Community News: Avid Interest at the Royston Repair Cafe by Clive Porter

When the Royston Repair Cafe initially opened in 2014 not only was it the first of its kind in Hertfordshire, but it joined just 11 other such outlets in the entirety of the U.K. Today there are over 500 community repair groups open across the Nation.

On Saturday 10th February there was a constant flow of local residents bearing a wide variety of items that either no longer functioned or had suddenly disintegrated with time, arriving at the Coombes Community Centre in the hope that their treasured articles could be restored or returned to working order.

Justly proud of the fact that the ‘Cafe’ was today celebrating its 10th birthday, Chris Lee, joint founder of the enterprise along with Dermont Byrne, explained that over the decade there have been 33 sessions with over 32 different volunteers successfully repairing 600 items, ranging from radios and lamps to record players and clothing items.

“The 10th Anniversary Repair Cafe was, as these sessions usually are, a great success with over half of the 30 items presented for repair actually fixed on the day, or taken away by the volunteer repairers for further work to be carried out on them” he recounted.

Royston Repair Cafe 10th anniversary – Chris Lee

A typical remark from a happy customer who had brought along a faulty leaf-blower machine was “Such lovely friendly people who spoke in plain English, describing the problem, what they were doing, and how I could personally repair it in the event of  similar trouble in the future.”

Rarely are the volunteers normally carrying out the work of their everyday profession. Martin Connolly, for example, who successfully repaired a well loved radio for Kate Whitfield on the day, works in a warehouse at Hoddesdon, and doubles up as a part-time D.J. on a local radio station in his local town. He realised his forte for restoring electrical items five years ago and decided to put his talents to good use.

Retired engineer, John Scott, on the other hand, was deploying his professional merits fixing an elderly pressure washer for Chris Roberts. He spoke of the day that he came along to the Royston Repair Cafe a year ago with a quilt cover for repair, and was so impressed that he decided to support the community event by donating part of his spare time to the project.

Frank Huffer, who was engaged in repairing a troublesome laptop commented, “To me, the most rewarding part of this exercise is passing on the confidence to the customer to be able to fix something themselves in the future.”

Chris Lee was busy repairing a much-loved rocking horse for a local youngster.

The Royston Mayor, Lisa Roberts, and County Councillor, Fiona Hill, turned up to give their backing to the day and were invited to stay for the party which celebrated the decade of repair work for the Royston area.

Chris summed up the mood of the day. “The stars of the repair session are the volunteers who always go that extra mile in an attempt to keep items out of landfill (including taking some items home for further work). One of the more unusual fixes of the day was by repairer Frank Huffer and involved an ancient wooden monkey that was falling apart. Repair Cafes are all about helping people become restorers of their treasured items. The monkey’s owner was so delighted with her visit, commenting that ‘it was a joint effort once we worked out the formula of how to mend it.’

The next Royston Repair Cafe is on Saturday 25th May from 2pm until 5pm at the Coombes Community Centre.

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Copyright – Article & photographs – Clive Porter 
Photos – If anyone is interested in owning any of the fine photos in this feature, please contact Clive Porter: 07594 259 410