Our world has been built around big corporations which suck up profits for faceless shareholders. They sell us products made by people across the world, their work automated into a meaningless slog of sweatshop exploitation. Industrial waste is dumped into the earth, sky and sea. It’s a disposable culture. Cars and fridges get cheaper but […]

Our world has been built around big corporations which suck up profits for faceless shareholders.

They sell us products made by people across the world, their work automated into a meaningless slog of sweatshop exploitation. Industrial waste is dumped into the earth, sky and sea. It’s a disposable culture. Cars and fridges get cheaper but they’re computerised, so home maintenance is near impossible. Phones get outdated. Even simple kettles seem to last only a year. The nasty little secret is built-in obsolescence. Some devices are designed to fail.

Buy a new one? Forget all the fossil-fueled smog, the CO2, mining for materials and stripping our polluted planet? After all, every sale adds ‘value’ to the economy. Corporations win. Politicians congratulate themselves on raising ‘demand’ and ‘growth’, but consumer debt rises and the environment deteriorates. That shiny new product, does it give us the promised warm glow of fulfilment? No, of course not. It’s just a thing that may be useful for a while, until it starts to break down. Like addicts, we’re left empty and shopping for more in a world littered with poverty.

Fixing things gets us off this exploitation treadmill. Doing this with other people is even better, and Sheffield has some great projects to help. Repair Cafe at Heeley City Farm does mending jobs, from toys to toasters, carpets to shoes, a great service based on time given freely by volunteers. Check it out on Saturday 26November.

Access Space now opens every Wednesday under the slogan, ‘Fight For Your Right To Repair’, inspired by a US movement to change the law on repairability. Organiser Jake Harries says, “We ought to be able to fix everyday objects like our parents and grandparents had to. But do we know how? Do we know what kinds of thing are repairable?”

Their answer is a community of people to teach you how to mend everything from laptops to clothing. And for those jobs that absolutely need a professional, they’ll help you to ask the right questions, giving a boost to local repair shops. Toni Buckby and John Moseley, workshop wizards at Access Space, are equipped with tools ranging from an embroidery machine to a laser cutter. What they can’t do, they’ll find out how to do. Also involved is Gareth Coleman, the honoured Sheffield IT genius who’s been steering BitFixit for many years. This initiative helps to keep people’s computers running for free or cheap (Fridays and Saturdays at two venues). Gareth is passionate about “building a better culture than the throwaway one we’ve got, and empowering people through free software”.

St Mary’s Mesters is a new communal workshop opening this month with a slightly different focus. They invite people to work on woodwork and similar projects – their own, or for the community. Development Worker James Starky is hoping some of the older generation can pass on their DIY skills.

It’s all part of a make and mend trend, which may account for the rise in the sale of sewing machines since the 2008 financial crash, according to The New Materialism by Andrew Simms and Ruth Potts. 25 November is Buy Nothing Day. They want December to be Make, Mend and Share Month. We’d all be happier, more sociable and less in debt. The world isn’t ruined just yet, but consumerism must stop. Mending the future is in our hands.

sheffieldrepaircafe.wordpress.com
facebook.com/accessspace
bitfixit.org.uk
timebuilders.org.uk/st-marys-mesters

DIGITAL CREATIVITY FOR PEOPLE WITH AUTISM
Fri 18 Nov | 11am-1pm | Access Space
One of a series of sessions for people on the autistic spectrum, encouraging creativity in a small and supportive group. Participants will be able to design and make items, learning laser cutting and other techniques in Access Space’s workshop. For full details and registration in advance, email Access Space.
access-space.org

TRANSFORMING CINEMA FILM FESTIVAL
19-20 Nov | Various locations, Sheffield
A national film festival, including talks and workshops, focusing on the transgender, gender nonconforming, non binary and genderqueer community, presented by E.D.E.N Film Productions.
transformingcinema.co.uk

Hosted by Alt-Sheff