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If it ain’t broke: Relearning the art of repair

3 min read

If it ain’t broke: Relearning the art of repair

3 min read


If it ain’t broke: Relearning the art of repair

Reacquaint yourself with the invaluable practice of repair and reuse at Repair Acts Ireland’s free four-day Caring for Repairing exhibition in Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath this November 3rd-6th.

From the wartime attitude of ‘make do and mend’ to the old adage of ‘waste not, want not’, the practice of extending the lifespan of our possessions used to be as everyday as brushing our teeth. With built-in obsolescence and a market flooded with cheap and quickly-delivered goods, the notion of repairing what you’ve already got has become something of a 21st century rarity.

One such project intent on remedying that is Repair Acts Ireland. One of Creative Ireland’s 15 Creative Climate Action Fund initiatives, their work is a collaborative exploration of ‘repair cultures’ and their role in consumption, consumerism, and the recycling of materials. The initiative’s commendable aim is to foster vibrant and restorative repair cultures in Ireland by connecting past stories about mending and fixing to what we do today and how we envision our future.

Hands using sewing machine


Caring for Repairing

To get us all back up to speed on the invaluable practice of repair and reuse, Repair Acts Ireland is celebrating mending and fixing at a free four-day exhibition in Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath this November. The Caring for Repairing exhibition and féile takes place across the midlands town from 3rd-6th November.

With the Repair Acts Ireland team led by Kilbeggan natives, artist and researcher Teresa Dillon and geographer Alma Clavin, the focus over the last 10 months has been on Co. Westmeath. In partnership with Westmeath County Council and UCD, the team have been carrying out archival work on the history of repair and have been delivering workshops across the county. 

And the public have been keen to get involved too. From cookers to bicycles, shoes, toys and tools, the Repair Acts Ireland website hosts a People’s Archive that’s already home to over 100 examples of people’s own repair projects.

"The exhibition takes people on a journey from the 1930s to the present day, reflecting on the changing nature of the repairability of our material worlds"

Situated in Kilbeggan’s 1944 minimalist architectural gem St James’s Hall and the local community hub, the free Caring for Repairing exhibition takes people on a journey from the 1930s to the present day. The exhibition also reflects on the changing nature of the repairability of our material worlds over the last eight decades.

The Caring for Repairing event programme is jam-packed with debates, workshops, film, music and art. Highlights include the premiere of Turning the Collar, a documentary on professional repair practices in Westmeath; the launch of Ireland’s First Repair Declaration and the Repair Debate; free mending and repair workshops; outdoor activities for all ages, and community conversations with guest speaker, Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh inventor of the world’s first mouldable glue Sugru, as well as performances from David Kitt, TokTek, Manchán Magan and Neil Moran.

Man repairing guitar


The Right to Repair

On foot of the United States’ Right to Repair legislation introduced earlier in 2022, which ensures that consumers can get vehicles, electronic devices and agriculture equipment serviced by independent outlets and limit built-in obsolescence, the Kilbeggan event programme will also feature a unique Repair Declaration and Debate. 

For almost a year, the Repair Acts team has been collating people’s ideas on what they would include within the first ‘Repair Declaration’ for Ireland. These statements and suggestions for actions that could support Ireland’s move towards repair-centred practices will be displayed at the exhibition while a debate on Friday 4th November will see invited local councillors, business representatives, artists, young people and academics give their responses to the declaration itself.

Broken mobile phone being repaired

With farmers having been at the forefront of the Right to Repair movement in the US, Mullingar computer repair business Sherwood Technologies has expanded its services to include agricultural and industrial tech too. Keen supporters of farmers and their right to repair their machinery, Steve Sherwood of Sherwood Technologies will take part in a Community Conversation with local and national farming communities on Thursday 3rd November.

The Right to Repair movement is a global movement that aims to make sure everyone has the right to fix the products they own. A recent Eurobarometer survey found that 77% of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones but that they ultimately have to replace or discard them due to the excessive cost of repairs and a lack of services provided. 

Archival research carried out by the Repair Acts Ireland team revealed that in Co. Westmeath, access to repair businesses and the once-varied selection of these services has significantly decreased since the early 20th century.

Freshly made leather man's shoe at shoemaker workshop


The daily reality of maintenance and mending that was once so commonplace has all but disappeared and the loss of this practice has also contributed to the waste we send to landfill. Statistics show that household waste generation in Ireland increases as the personal consumption of goods increases and that 40% of all waste collected goes into the black bin for incineration or landfill.

“What we mean by repair cultures”, says Teresa Dillon, “is how we mend, fix, care for and maintain objects. It covers the history, economies, craft, practices and processes of how we mend items, and we are really interested in connecting the past, present and future stories around these topics. We would love for you to share your story with us about what you repaired and how you did it.”

Why not resurrect your own repair skills this November? It’s good for the pocket, good for the planet and hugely satisfying to boot.

Explore Repair Act Ireland’s work to date and celebrate the practice of mending at the free four-day Caring for Repairing exhibition and féile across multiple venues in Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath | 3rd-6th November 2022

For more information and to view the full programme, see

Find out more more about the 15 Creative Climate Action Fund projects here

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