Episode 29

Clare Seek on Repair Cafes

Repair Cafe Portsmouth founder Clare Seek opens the Problem Busters' eyes to the Right to Repair. We learn about the growing, global community of Repair Cafes and most importantly - how to start one in your town.

About the show:

Problem Busters is a show that explores solutions to the biggest and the smallest of problems. Hosts Jonathan Goodwin and Oliver Happy discuss making the world a better place with guests from far and wide.

About our guest:

Clare Seek is all about building community for people and planet. Based in Portsmouth, a city in south west England, she is the founder of Repair Cafe Portsmouth, Green Drinks Portsmouth and other community-based projects besides. Clare lives in Portsmouth UK with her family.

Show mentions:

  • 02:00 A bit about Clare and how a move into motherhood coincided with an interest in the environment and our impact on the planet.
  • Repair is at the heart of walking more lightly on the planet.
  • The sheer existence of my children had a lot to do with my becoming interested in treading lightly, and my community
  • 04:00 Why Repair Cafe? Started in the Netherlands by a woman who initiated what has become a global movement.
  • What is a Repair cafe? A place that brings together people who fix things with people who have things to fix.
  • 05:30 The setting up of a Repair cafe. 200 people showing interest within 1 day!
  • Portsmouth is an island city, one of the most densely populated areas of the UK outside of London.
  • 4 months later, we ran our first Repair Cafe.
  • Starting with people who could repair and fix each other's stuff.
  • 07:30 What is next for Repair Cafe Portsmouth? We are a pop-up event, we hold it once or twice a month. We've had to stop advertising because we are at capacity.
  • Opening up a space permanently, taking it to the next step
  • The library of things concept - we will work it in with that.
  • 09:00 Campaign - The right to repair. A global campaign.
  • Most of the carbon in electronics happens before the first use of the item.
  • The right to repair campaign is focusing on manufacturers and policy makers to provide goods that are designed to last longer, can be fixed, have manuals and spare parts available.
  • Right to repair as a justice issue - lobbying to create a fairer way to consume goods and services.
  • 11:00 Petition - The restart project. And changing where tax is applied.
  • 12:00 Shifting culture from wastage to consumers being able to repair.
  • In France - they have a system that shows on products how repairable they are. Consumers are better informed.
  • [13:00 Jon Coughs]
  • The UK is the second biggest producer of e-waste per capita in the world. It's shocking.
  • 14:30 Why is the UK so high on the e-waste scales? We have an appetite for the latest gadgets, Norway is ahead of us, we are second.
  • 16:00 There is a pressure in our culture to have the latest thing and the best tech for that.
  • 17:00 What do kids learn in school about sustainability? Very little. However, thankfully coming generations are taking more of an interest in the environment anyway.
  • There is very little in schools that leads kids down a repair career path, although elements of sustainability are sprinkled through other career paths.
  • Concept - the circular economy
  • There is a stronger voice from individuals and community groups, than the Government, when it comes to pushing for real change.
  • Episode - Hakim and Aryaana
  • 19:30 Where is the concern in the young coming from? Concern about climate change. Kids are really aware of that. They have clear and vivid imaginations about these things. Kids wonder about the world, they question things. They sense the urgency.
  • Conference: Cop26
  • Extinction rebellion
  • Pester power - from kids to parents, e.g. adding pressure to reduce plastic consumption.
  • 21:00 It's really interesting to talk to kids about career paths in sustainability
  • Greta Thunberg
  • David Attenborough
  • Topic: at what age should children be able to vote? Should it be lowered?
  • 22:30 What benefits does the Repair Cafe bring to the community? It's about a lot more than just fixing stuff. It's all volunteers, there is a relaxed social environment. It's a safe place to volunteer and offer skills, to learn, to welcome people, to serve cake.
  • It's an opportunity for people to get more skills.
  • Building peoples' confidence up.
  • Project - city of sanctuary. Linking into a group who help asylum seekers. They can give back in that way.
  • Community as a way to challenge isolation.
  • 25:00 creating a place that has a purpose, not just being a place to chat, but a place to tinker.
  • website: iFixit (great for how-to guides and spare parts)
  • Jonathan's family friend who learned to repair washing machines. A great example of community assistance that became a business for him.
  • 30:00 How to access spare parts and why does the law in the UK stop at white goods?
  • Having a kit to repair phones in your house.
  • Ifixit guide to repair your mobile phone
  • Campaign - chargers. Aiming to enforce universal chargers.
  • 33:30 What is openability?
  • Phone - The Fairphone. A phone designed with easily replaceable elements.
  • Hair dryers - most are literally sealed shut (manufacturers claim safety), and cannot be fixed.
  • Irons - working out how to open them is very challenging. Repair Cafe Portsmouth is planning on collecting old irons that can't be fixed and start a repository with the tips and tricks on how to open them, to have a chance of fixing them.
  • 35:30 What goods can be repaired? For us, around 67% of electrical, and almost all clothing, jewellery, bikes and lots of toys.  It's great when items have a real story and sentimentality. 
  • Show - The Repair shop on the BBC - a great way to inspire people (although somewhat different to what we do in community repair)
  • 37:30 How to buy with more care. Do you need to buy it? Can you borrow it? Can you share one someone else already has? Check the website of the product "fixing X", see if it can be fixed or not.
  • Petition to sign: The Restart Project (UK). Asking for repairability measures to include everybody, not just for professionals, but also for DIY/community repair groups. Commitment to right to repair for electronics. Reducing the VAT on repairs.
  • Poll - YouGov (UK) - 81% of the public are behind the right to repair.
  • How to get a conversation with your MP - use the website.
  • TheyWorkForYou website to find your MP
  • Knock on their door if they have an office nearby. When they come door knocking, looking for votes, talk to them about right to repair.
  • Look up local repair projects and get involved. Both to get your things repaired, and to help repair things.
  • Website - Repair Café Foundation shows groups around the world as well as The Restart Project
  • 44:30 How to set up a Repair Cafe in your town. Find a few people who are interested in helping you. Get along to the nearest Repair event to you. Look up tools and guides advising how to set one up. We are a helpful bunch!
  • Movement: Community repair network (UK) Bringing Repair to Every Community
  • 47:00 The sharing section
  • Who do you most look up to in the world? I totally admire people and get excited and inspired by them. But I am into everyone being really awesome. Inspired by my kids, by people who are carers, people who helped us get through the pandemic.
  • Film - Belfast. It was amazing! Beautifully shot, poignant, looking at conflict in Northern Ireland.
  • Book - Non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg. About repairing ourselves and our relationships with others.
  • The Problem Busters bookshop - where all books mentioned in the show are available in one list.
  • Movement - Restorative Practice. A fascinating way to bring people together when there are disagreements. A great way to solve problems.
  • Movement - Positive journalism.
  • Magazine/email list: Postive.news. A great magazine to have on the table and to inspire and bring positivity into the house and the day.
  • Tool: Ti.To for bookings (used for repair cafe bookings)
  • The value of turning apps off, unsubscribing to things. Using the unsubscribe button on emails.
  • 56:30 What is one thing you'd like to change in the world? My husband's snoring ;-) Switching to natural bedding (latex and wool duvets). People pausing and engaging the brain a bit more before they do something. Whether that is something they do, say, buy. That ability to slow down in the moment before reacting. Could even lead to world peace.
  • 57:30 What one thing would you like people to take away from this episode? Repair is an option. It's always an option. To set up a repair project, right through to buying things carefully, or repairing what you have first, before buying.
  • https://repaircafeportsmouth.wordpress.com/
  • Twitter: @southseamum

Clare on LinkedIn

Logo and concept by Christy O'Connor

About the Podcast

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Problem Busters
Highlighting people with ideas

About your hosts

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Oliver Happy

Oliver works in tech and builds things that help improve people’s lives. He hosts indie podcasts Old Fox Young Fox, Problem Busters and Gone Workabout. Oliver is a Kiwi, travels a lot, eats a lot and loves sharing good ideas. He is determined to leave the world in a better state than he found it.
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Jon Goodwin

Jon Goodwin works in financial tech implementing clever solutions that help simplify business processes every day. His passions include science, engineering and dreaming up solutions to common problems. In his spare time he is a multimedia producer & friendly co-host of two podcasts the Bouyon Boys and Problem Busters.