Kirsty Levett learns how to bring a new lease of life to our old possessions at the Brighton Repair Cafe:

Toss it? No way! Brighton’s Repair Cafe, our very own branch of an initiative founded in Amsterdam in 2009 by Martine Postma, whose passion for sustainability on a local level suits Brighton’s famous DIY ethos down to the ground, exists to ensure that our desire and ability to reuse and remodel our belongings isn’t completely eclipsed by our desire and ability to shop till we drop.

Hopefully clutching my favourite winter coat, a sorry old fake fur with a serious lining injury that seems destined for the bin, I arrive at January’s repair cafe and fill in the required form to state the nature of my quest before being matched with a sewing specialist, my repair buddy Victoria.

In the tranquil setting of St George’s church in Kemp Town and with the Seven Bees cafe close by to keep repairers and repairees alike well fed and watered, tables are laden with the equipment necessary to breathe new life into whatever you care to imagine.

Clothing, electronics, ornaments – the Brighton branch of the repair cafe has seen it all, and mended it.Victoria Jackson White and co-founder Sam Jarman set up the Repair cafe in 2012, with the shared belief that “repairing is not only a creative and political activity – creating a sense of empowerment and independence – it is also a way of creating community cohesion and reducing waste”.

This sentiment is palpable from the moment I set foot in the church.

The feeling of unity and industry, and the pleasure being derived from shared productivity is truly inviting and invigorating.

Victoria doesn’t visibly balk at the sight of my ancient hamster costume, instead deftly turning it inside out and showing me where to stitch so that the seaming is invisible when turned right way out again.

A dressmaker by trade with two small children, she values the hours that she spends volunteering at the repair cafe sharing her talents.

“I want my children to learn how to make and mend their own clothes, but they’re too young at the moment”, she tells me, “but I don’t think it’s any less vital to teach friends and those in our communities”.

Mattia Cobianchi has three "customers" queuing at his table, keen to harness some of his electrical expertise and walk away with an appliance which could potentially enjoy a new lease of life, as well as acquiring the fondness developed for objects that respond positively to our attempts to keep them going.

Due to the popularity of Mattia’s skill, the repair cafe would love to recruit further electronic gurus.Another volunteer, well-known in craft circles throughout the land as Tom of Holland, is working on darning a large pile of colourful knitwear. His ‘visible mending’ technique, as well as being a wonderful example of the innovation of craftsmanship, is beautiful.

His work shows that there is a distinct and joyful beauty in a garment that says, “I was presumed not fit for use, but now I am better than ever before!”Presently, the cafe is sustained on little to no funds. The volunteers give their time and the people who cannot fail to come away from the experience feeling edified give discretionary donations.

However, there is no grant in place to aid the Repair Cafe with any growth of interest it may experience now that people are becoming increasingly aware of the need to promote a future that condemns current waste levels.The idea of reciprocity is strong at the Repair Cafe, too.

I knit, and while I’m deep in a stitching reverie working on my coat, Victoria is working on one of the other volunteers’ jumpers. She asks my advice on turning a stitch around a tricky little corner.

Unfortunately I’m totally unequipped to answer, but I feel that I’d certainly like to extend my knitting knowledge to accommodate repair work, rather than simply making items and frogging (a knitting term for destroying your work in a rage following a calamitous error) them, and bring it to the cafe’s Saturday sessions in future.

My coat is piled on my lap in disarray, but I’ve completed the stitching, guided by Victoria, and when it’s shrugged back onto my person it looks and feels like a loveable entity again.

Thrilled and beaming with pride, I stuff my hands in the pockets and show off a bit. “Oh!” says Victoria, pointing at something, “there’s a hole there…”

Delighted at the news, I sit down to carry on repairing.

The next Repair Cafe will be held as part of the Brighton Science Festival on Saturday February 22, 10am to 4pm at Brighton Waste House, University of Brighton, Grand Parade.

For information visit

Donations of any kind, including tools are welcome, and volunteers readily received.