Steve Horton’s eyes are fixed firmly on a wire sticking out of an old record player. The 66-year-old poked and prodded the 1960s HMV record player with his trusty screwdriver for a good two hours.
Finally, he smiled triumphantly. ‘Let’s see if it works!’ he declares.
Inside the big wooden cabin where he works, it’s a real hive. The volunteers, mostly of retirement age, grapple with an array of broken objects in the hope of giving them new life.
The Breakdown Squad: Journalist Adele Cooke (centre) with (lr) Roseanne Steedman, Karen Pool, David Leyland and Steve Cousens
One holds an antique lamp with faulty wiring; another attacks a marine radio that no longer turns on; and a third beaver on a troublesome cassette player.
And despite the looming autumn morning skies in Market Harborough, ten shoppers are already queuing outside, eager to see if the volunteers can work their magic and save their precious household items that were destined for the landfill.
Meet the Market Harborough Fixers – a group of 20 regular volunteers, mostly over 65s, who gather every Saturday morning on the outskirts of this medieval Leicestershire town.
Their repair cafe is similar to the BBC TV show The Repair Shop, which recently saw the King join Jay Blades and the team with a piece of pottery that had been made for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and an 18th century clock in need of some attention. .
Market Harborough repairers aim to repair ten items a week – mainly electrical and mechanical appliances, computers, sewing equipment and jewelery – that would otherwise have ended up in landfill.
The service is free except for the cost of new parts and any donations customers wish to make.
The growing popularity of coffee reflects a growing “do-it-and-fix” mentality that is sweeping the country as the cost of living soars.
The average person in Britain throws away around 400kg of rubbish every year. But according to management consultants Deloitte, half of us have repaired an item in the last 12 months instead of replacing it; and two in five also bought used or refurbished items, rather than buying new.
The government last year introduced new “right to repair” rules, requiring companies to make spare parts available even after the warranty expires, so that broken devices can be repaired.
The Market Harborough Fixers group was set up three years ago by chemical consultant Steve Cousens, 69.
“I love doing it – it’s a break from my day job and I love putting my skills to good use and seeing objects given new life,” says Steve. ‘Fix it, save waste, save money and save the planet. It’s our motto.
About the song: The band repaired an old HMV record player from the 1960s. The café’s growing popularity reflects a growing ‘make and fix’ mentality sweeping the country as the cost of living soars
After a resurgence in popularity, Steve hired office worker Roseanne Steedman, 65, to help run the group, which has a Facebook page. Other volunteers include husband and wife David and Jackie Moore, both 67.
The group proved to be a huge hit with the locals. Matt Irons, 73, whose broken record player was being worked on by repairman Steve Horton, said: “My 15-year-old grandson Charlie decided he wanted to play vinyl records, and we had this old broken record player sitting in the attic for 20 years.
The vinyl player had been a 21st birthday present from his parents for Matt’s wife, Diane, but it didn’t work and he didn’t know how to fix it.
Matt says, “We were going to throw it away, but my wife is very sentimental and didn’t want to lose it. She’s gonna be thrilled, and Charlie’s gonna love it too.
Steve Horton saved Matt and his wife by buying a new record player for their grandson, which would have cost at least £50.
To celebrate, Steve plays the opening bars of Olivia Newton-John’s Hopelessly Devoted To You – vinyl he often uses to test out his repair work.
Items brought to repairers come in all shapes and sizes.
On the day of Money Mail’s visit, a Russell Hobbs kettle with a broken heating element was being repaired, along with a cassette player and lamp.
Shining on: Volunteers were able to fix this old lamp
Even local MP Neil O’Brien had his three-year-old son’s favorite red Roberts radio repaired.
Most visitors contact the group via its Facebook page. The Market Harborough hub is part of a network of around 250 ‘repair cafes’ across Britain, involving thousands of volunteers.
The team has successfully repaired 115 items since May, including 92 electrical items.
Founder Steve Cousens says that so far he has saved 433kg of waste from going to landfill.
Among these items was a Janome sewing machine brought by Clare Gassman.
The pregnant mother-of-one collected the machine from Freecycle – a recycling website where people often list items for free to declutter their homes.
She picked it up for the Ukrainian woman who has been living with her family since September after fleeing Putin’s invasion of her country.
The woman, who has two young daughters, had her own clothing business in Ukraine.
However, she could not bring her clumsy sewing machine to Britain with her.
Clare says: “I saw that someone else in the group had brought in a broken sewing machine and it was fixed, so I thought I would do the same. We hope she can use this machine and work again.
The machine was repaired after a piece of wire jamming the foot was removed.
A new Janome machine can cost up to £850, but getting it repaired at the Repair Cafe cost Clare less than a pound.
All items are evaluated by volunteers before being accepted. Customers must sign a waiver of liability for damage to the item during repair.
The group operates on a donation basis, but customers must cover the cost of any parts needed when repaired.
Roseanne Steedman, who helps run the group, adds: “We are passionate about waste and recycling, so the repairers will hopefully help stop filling landfills with broken things that can be fixed, while saving money. money to people.”
Why not start your own cafe?
- Search repaircafe.org/en/visit to find your local site.
- If you’re setting up a local cafe, find a suitable, cohesive place for your group to meet and agree in advance on the use of the premises.
- Make sure you’ve hired several volunteers who know how to fix things before you publicize your cafe.
- Consider what insurance you will need and sign up before opening your group.
- Create a form for donors that includes a release of liability for damage to their item.
- Spread the word on social media platforms such as Facebook by creating your own page.
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