Repair & Renew: an interview with Anna Sibbald of the Aberfeldy Repair Café

Repair & Renew: an interview with Anna Sibbald of the Aberfeldy Repair Café

by Bethany McDonagh

At Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters, we are always on the lookout for ways to be more sustainable and make sure what we do and how we live has a positive impact on our environment. In fact, as a B Corp-certified company, it’s a key principle of our business. So when local resident Anna Sibbald told us about a project that encourages people to bring in their broken items for repair, we were thrilled at the opportunity to provide a space for the local community to come together to do this. 

The Repair Café is hosted here at our roastery on the third Saturday of each month, with the next café coming up on Saturday 19th August from 2pm-4pm. Customers can bring their things in to be fixed and chat to the experts whilst enjoying a tasty cup of Glen Lyon coffee.

The Repair Café is a global initiative with the aim of reducing waste and encouraging people to repair things rather than throw them away. It all started back in 2009 in The Netherlands, where founder Martine Postma wanted to create a sustainable movement to encourage people to give a new lease of life to items they would usually get rid of. It also created a space where people can learn how to fix things for themselves and gives individuals with expertise in a particular field the chance to utilise their skills to help others.

Now with over 2,500 cafés worldwide, the initiative has been successfully running for several years and we are lucky enough to have one right here at the roastery in the heart of Aberfeldy. We sat down with Anna who started the Aberfeldy Repair Café back in 2020. “I’ve been passionate about the environment for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I knew the concept of the Repair Café existed, and it just made so much sense that we should be repairing things, not throwing things away. I looked at their model and in January 2020 we ran our first Repair Café in the Breathe Lounge in Aberfeldy.”

The Café is overseen by Anna and supported by a group of talented volunteers who give their time to help fix a variety of items, ranging anywhere from small pieces of jewellery to large pieces of antique furniture. The skill set amongst the team is vast and as Anna states, “We’ve got everything and everyone we need.” From watchmakers to tailors, electrical geniuses and masters of furniture repair, the volunteers bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the community.

The impact of the initiative goes beyond simply giving items a new lease of life. By repairing things instead of throwing them into landfill, we are cutting our CO2 emissions by creating less demand for the raw materials and energy needed to make new items. It can provide a fresh perspective on the things we own and an opportunity to appreciate their value after a bit of TLC. 

Anna points out that about 96% of the items brought in are fixed. “People often come and say, ‘I don’t think this can be fixed’,” she says. “You might as well try and more often than not, it can be. Nearly all stuff can be fixed in some way or another.”

One of the key concepts of the Repair Café is to ensure local skilled workers are not being put out of work but to instead signpost customers towards them. “We don’t want to take away from anyone locally earning a living so we’ve got a list of professional people who, if a job is a little bit too big, we’ll send people to them,” Anna explains. “For example there’s a couple of clock makers in Perth and Blairgowrie. We’ve got a list we can give to people so they have the name of somebody who actually does the job professionally.” 

As well as having a place where people can bring in things to be fixed, Anna notes that the space also provides somewhere local for the community to come together and socialise. “People come in and they love the atmosphere. They love the gentleness of it. It’s a really social space.” 

Anna explains how the Repair Café initiative has had a “very positive impact on local communities around Scotland and the space it has created for individuals to think about how the things they own can still have a lot of life in them.” Perhaps it saves people from re-purchasing goods unnecessarily, or teaches them how to fix things themselves. “I hope that more and more people are thinking more about not chucking stuff out,” she says. 

Alongside the Repair Café, Anna is involved in several other social initiatives in Aberfeldy which aim for a sustainable future such as the Climate Café and the Have Your Say Aberfeldy Project. The Aberfeldy Climate Café is a community-led initiative which provides a space for people to come together and discuss ideas and solutions on how to get involved in climate action. The group meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month and each month there is a presentation and discussion on a different topic. Recently, our very own Fiona Grant from Glen Lyon Coffee spoke on Sustainable Businesses.

Anna is also looking forward to an exciting related project in the works with a local shop which will hopefully be up and running by the end of the year. “We’re starting to set up a reuse project at Handam. It’s a small version of Remake in Crieff. I was so excited when I first went to Remake, I thought, we need one of those in Aberfeldy!”

Come join us for the next Repair Café (and a delicious coffee) here at the roastery in Aberfeldy on Saturday 19th August from 2pm-4pm, and be sure to bring your broken items.