What does it take to run a successful repair café? This question has been on the minds of Forest Row Repair Café’s newly appointed committee and chair Tony Lewin, ever since Sara Smart, the Café’s co-founder and chair, decided to step down this March for a well-deserved break.
Since being founded by Sara and Tony in 2018, Sara has handled the lion’s share of all the invisible work that goes into running an efficient operation and navigating the complex regulations around it.
Taking over from Sara, none of us knew what that might entail until she sent over her ‘crib sheet’ – a spreadsheet jam-packed with what to do and when. There were articles to write and social media posts to create, in order to ensure a good flow of customers each month. There was our ever-ready workforce of talented volunteers to keep in the loop; they always have to be on hand to fix almost anything.
Less excitingly, there were policies to familiarise ourselves with, from health and safety to data protection. On a practical level, there was the stock of repairing essentials to be on top of – if a volunteer can’t fix an item because we’ve run out of new fuses, that’s an unnecessary fail chalked up on our scoreboard. No organisational stone had been left unturned – we even needed to remember to recruit enough volunteers to bake enough cakes so that the ‘café’ part of the Repair Café would be able to cater for visitors waiting for their turn.
All this work now being shared between a committee of six volunteers had previously been done single-handedly – by Sara. Special mentions go out to Ros Poulson (our incumbent Treasurer), Karen Nelson (who oversees our branding and external communications) and Ruth Steed (now a committee member), and many others who supported Sara behind the scenes over the years.
As Forest Row Repair Café’s new committee, we strive to continue where Sara left off, to maintain the smooth running of one of Sussex’s very first Repair Cafés. The café itself is the one thing that we’d rather not have to repair.
For more information visit their Facebook page at @RepairCafeForestRow