Always held on the first Saturday of the month in the Annexe behind the Town Hall from 10am until 3pm. You’ve been seeing posts like this on Facebook for a while now, and maybe you’re wondering who we are and what we do – well, as a part of the Alston Community Workshop we’ve been holding a successful Repair Café in the Annexe now for about a year and have taken a look at almost 200 items in that time, from baskets to trousers, e-bikes to e-readers, as well as lamps and kettles of course and just about anything else that can be brought in to us, all with a success rate of around 75-80%.
Phones, ‘Tablets’ and laptops can be tricky for us to repair, and there are local specialists in the area that excel at these, but we’ve seen and repaired quite a number of other items including: coats, jumpers, trousers, electrical items (all 240v items are PAT tested for safety) like toasters, power tools, irons, vacuum cleaners, small televisions, also electronics, jewellery, shoes, gardening tools including hedgetrimmers and lawnmowers, and we can also sharpen kitchen knives and scissors and repair furniture and wooden items - generally if you can bring it into the Annexe we can probably fix it.

Most of these can be fixed while you wait, and you’re always welcome to stay and learn - however some people do like to leave the item with us whilst they shop in town and call back later, which is fine.

We don’t keep any parts here, but we can advise you of anything required and the best place for you to source it with the approximate cost, and then help you to fit it at the next session.

Many items are actually available at the ‘Mad Hatters’ hardware shop just across the road. We currently have around a 20% failure rate where either the item requires parts that are currently uneconomical to replace (a sub-£100 hedge trimmer requiring a £70+ gear) or are just plain ‘past it’, but we’re always happy to take a look, and well you never know!

From the environmental point of view, that’s an awful lot of CO2 saved, but more importantly we’ve rescued lots of items and given them another chance to be useful, and that has to be the ultimate in recycling! We are all volunteers at the Repair Cafe, and all repairs are still free of charge – but we do like to rattle the ‘Donations’ pot for our services.

The donations have been very generous so far and pay for our insurance, a lot of our tools and equipment, and are a generous contribution towards the rent on the hall. Recently we have been given a few vacuum cleaners with faults, several of these have been repaired and handed over to the Food Bank to rehome on a ‘long term loan’ arrangement, so that should the client experience problems with the device or find that they no longer require it, it will find its way back to us for refurbishment and redistribution.

With the additional space that we hope to get soon, we hope to extend this service to cover other items as well - but there just isn’t sufficient storage space in the Annexe right now to allow this. Last year we held a number of successful ‘pop-up’ Café’s at the Alston Market, and as this is again at Fairhill this year, some slots have been booked. These proved to be a very good venue to promote the activities of the Community Workshop and advertise the main event at the Annexe, as well as to perform simple fixes of a few things and do some PAT testing at the stand, useful for the ‘Car Booters’ of course. Despite the best efforts of our insurers to discourage this, we are hopeful that we can continue this service.

The Alston Moor Repair Café is just one branch of a Community repair service started in Amsterdam in 2009, and there are now more than 2,500 held worldwide – if you’d like to know more see:

Meanwhile we would love to hear from anyone who would like to join the team and help us, not only with ‘fixes’, but also with admin and other behind the scenes stuff - we all have ‘hidden skills’ after all, and you never know - one day we also hope to be able to live up to the ‘Café’ side of our name and serve teas, coffees and cake . . .