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A very large group of people look up at the camera and hold large tool props.
A group photo at the end of the day – with giant tool props! Photo: Mark A Phillips CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

This was Fixfest UK 2023

What a day! On Saturday 30 September, over 120 representatives from community repair groups, universities, repair businesses, public bodies, waste agencies and more across the UK braved the train strike to gather in Cardiff for a memorable day of conversations, stories and inspiration. We were thrilled that so many could also join us the evening before at RE:MAKE Newport, Wales’ first dedicated community repair space and sharing library.

Thank you to everybody who came to Fixfest UK!

Together, we discussed how to bring repair to our communities and (re)normalise it nationwide. From high level campaigning to hyper-local tactics, our conversations centered around our shared love of repairing: the joy it creates, the people it brings together, the skills it teaches and the environmental benefits it yields.

We also revealed the new UK Repair & Reuse Declaration that many of us have been working on over the last few months. The Declaration will launch on International Repair Day (21 October 2023) and serve as a springboard to engage MPs and other decision makers in the lead up to the next general election.

Update: The Repair & Reuse Declaration launched on International Repair Day with over 100 signatory community repair groups. Since then, signatures have more than doubled, with many more groups and MPs having signed up.

Updated December 2023

Keep reading for a summary of Fixfest UK. But first, here are some additional ways to catch up on what happened:

Connecting repair to the community

A key theme at Fixfest UK was the many ways we can bring repair to more people in our local communities.

Our first panel focused on partnerships (notes here). We heard how local authorities in Cornwall and Cambridgeshire are supporting networks of repair cafes directly, as well as how such networks are helping repair cafes with the practical work of running events. Fixfest UK sponsor, SUEZ recovery and recycling UK, shared their perspective too. They have been expanding their operations to incorporate repair and reuse in recent years. We also touched on how universities such as Nottingham and Lancaster have been working with local community repair groups.

In parallel, a number of sessions explored strategies that community repair groups are using to make repair more accessible. Perhaps the most popular of these was about how to engage the next generation. After hearing from six different educational initiatives, we shared experiences, activities and ideas for getting young people fixing more. Check the notes for all the details. This was followed by similarly informative sessions on sharing libraries (notes) and dedicated community repair spaces (notes).

We rounded out this theme with an unironically fascinating session about insurance (notes), a wonderfully restorative conversation about how to avoid needing repair ourselves (notes) and an instructive, hands-on darning workshop.

Normalising repair

Our next key theme was how we can come together as a national movement to make repair the norm once more.

During a second panel, WRAP and Circular Communities Scotland shared insights from separate pieces of research into the public’s attitudes and behaviours around repair and reuse; both found that a huge majority of people are receptive to the idea of repairing things, but only small minorities are taking actions. Some of those people are involved in the emerging Repair Cafe Northern Ireland network, which we learned is working at the grassroots level to close this gap. Matt Marchant also shared his experience of bringing repair to people in his roles as a repairer, TV presenter and local authority worker. Find the full notes here and the recording here.

As well as bringing repair to more people on the ground, we talked about the system-level changes we need to normalise repair. In one of the day’s first sessions, we examined how collecting repair data can not only help individual groups measure their impact, but when combined by the Open Repair Alliance can also be used to super-charge Right to Repair campaigning and have a real impact on government policy (notes).

With a general election on the horizon, this kind of campaigning was another important topic. So in one of the day’s final sessions, we took the time to strategise how we can raise the profile of repair and get it on the political agenda using the new UK Repair & Reuse Declaration (notes).

In fact, if there’s one key action to take away from Fixfest UK, it’s to sign the new UK Repair & Reuse Declaration.

Visualising repair

While much of the day involved talks and conversations, we were delighted to display a thought-provoking exhibition on repair and reuse from unbroken.solutions (Mark A Phillips). Mark also handed out free ‘Act Now’ zines containing many of the exhibition photos along with concrete actions that local councils can take to support community repair groups! If you missed out on the day or would like more zines, get in touch with Mark at: [email protected].

We were also thrilled to screen the beautiful documentary ‘Turning the Collar‘ (2022) from Repair Acts, a road trip around the rural county of Westmeath, Ireland featuring craft, restoration, and repair professionals speaking about their work.

Thank you!

Overall it was a packed day! Thank you to everybody who made it despite the transport chaos. We hope you came away feeling as inspired as we did and keen to build on this momentum. Be sure to sign up for updates below for news of future Fixfest events.

Fixfest UK 2023 was jointly organised by The Restart Project and Repair Cafe Wales in close collaboration with other members of the Community Repair Network. Together we’d like to extend a special thank you to our event sponsor, SUEZ and to our funder, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, without whom Fixfest UK would not have been possible.

Fixfest will be back. But in the meantime, here’s a reminder of more ways to catch up on Fixfest UK 2023:

A selection of photos from Fixfest UK 2023

All Photos by Mark A Phillips, free to use under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

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Fixfest UK 2023 was…

Brought to you by

The Restart Project

Repair Cafe Wales

In collaboration with

Community Repair Network

Funded by

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Sponsored by