New Repair Cafe in Horrabridge met with huge popularity

By Liam Davies   |   Reporter   |
Sunday 15th May 2022 6:00 am
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Ali Mansfield and Neil Wylie welcoming residents to the cafe

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Horrabridge’s new Repair Cafe has only been operating for three sessions but it is already proving to be hugely popular and successful with residents in the village.

Operating on the third Saturday of every month from 10.30am to 12.30pm at Horrabridge Village Hall, local residents bring any broken item or possession of theirs that they wish to be fixed along to be assessed by a specialist team free of charge. Upon arrival, the item is logged and then assigned to the repairers (a team of ten, all of whom come from a range of engineering and textile backgrounds) that the person can sit with and tell them more information about. The Repair Cafe has already fixed a huge range of items including: computers, toys, games, clocks, a lawnmower, tables, antiques, a Phillips CD player from the 1980s and a horse massager. Tea, coffee, cake and other refreshments are also available to everyone.

Saturday’s session was the third so far since the Repair Cafe opened in March and it is faring to huge success. The Cafe was set up by Neil Wylie, a villager and long term member of the Tavistock Methodist Church, who wished to give something back to the community as he approached retirement. He ran his idea by methodist pioneer and community worker Ali Mansfield, who facilitated the Repair Cafe’s creation, which now operates as part of the Horrabridge Love Your Neighbour initiative. Neil brought his engineering prowess and many members of the repair team to the outreach. The Repair Cafe also serves as a thriving community hub which helps to strengthen local networks and can offer visitors signposting for other services. The session had had a visit from David Palmer from Kings Church and ROC (Redeeming Our Communities) who also helps to lead the Tavistock Men in Sheds project. 

Ali said: ‘The Repair Cafe is helping people in the community through rising costs of living by allowing them to get things they need fixed for free and encouraging them to re-use items. We’re utilising the idea of repairing things and restoring relationships following Covid by getting people back together again and meeting others.’ 

Conrad Jones, an engineer who works as one of the repair team said: ‘Neil first came up with the idea last November and the two of us travelled to Bristol to see how a repair cafe there operated. We see so many items, but it’s not just a case of fixing them or assessing whether they’re economically viable. There’s a great deal of sentimentality involved, every item is precious to its owner and comes with a story. One lady we helped tasked us with fixing christmas tree lights her mother owned. She hadn’t seen them in use since the 1960s and wished to again as it reminded her of a very happy time in her childhood. When we got the lights working, she was completely overwhelmed with emotion.

‘People also come to the cafe to receive advice and to make friendships too. Not everyone has someone in their household who is very dexterous or technologically minded, so it’s good that local residents know we are here for them in the community. It’s a great place to reach out to others. One lady joked that she was going to deliberately break something of hers just so she had reason to come back and speak with the “dishy man” who helped her last time!’

Julian Mildren, another member of the repair team who specialises in IT, said: ‘Every job is different, it’s very rare that we’d see two items that are the same. Armed with our tools, we all work together as a strong team, sharing knowledge and intervening as appropriate which is why the cafe is so successful - we have a hive mind. It’s great fun, I get such a buzz from it when seeing the positive feedback we receive. We never have problems, only solutions.’

Every session, the group stage a reveal (which is also livestreamed on Facebook through the Horrabridge Love Your Neighbour page) to show how well an item they have fixed is now working. In Saturday’s session, Ali’s son Henry was presented with his hoverboard, which the group had successfully repaired. Without their help, it would have cost £150 to be professionally fixed. At the next session, which will take place on the third Saturday, June 18, the group will be presenting a 100 year old teddy bear to its owner. To cover holidays, there will be no session run in August.

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