A bi-weekly talk show by The Restart Project, plus a monthly documentary series produced by brilliant podcaster Dave Pickering, based on fixing triumphs, heartbreaks and wisdom shared at our community repair events – called Restart Parties – here in London.
We go into real depth about good and bad design, obstacles to repair of electronics, emotional aspects of ownership, environmentally irresponsible business models, and the “end of life” of our gadgets.
This podcast is for you if you'd like to fix your relationship with electronics. Let’s rethink, restart.
Restart Podcast Ep. 80: Voices of Fixfest 2022
From 30th September – 2nd October, members of the repair community from all over the world gathered together to share their ideas and passion at Fixfest 2022. From fixers and tinkerers, to academics and activists we all had something to teach and learn from each other. It was a chance to explore new ideas, hear different perspectives, and – perhaps most importantly – interact in person for the first time in a while.
In this episode, we wanted to make the most of this rare opportunity. We spoke to 7 Fixfest attendees about where repair is now and where they hope to see it in the future. You’ll hear a host of different voices including:
Clare Seek from Repair Café Portsmouth, UK
Nathan Proctor from PIRG, USA
Melina Scioli from Club de Reparadores, Argentina
Leanne Wiseman from Griffith University, Australia
Purna Sarkar from Repair Café Bengaluru, India
Mathew Lubari from Community Creativity for Development (CC4D), Uganda
Mike Kavanagh from Repair Café Pavia, Italy
What does Repair Everywhere mean to you?
The theme for 2022’s Repair Day, also celebrated this October, was ‘Repair Everywhere’, and we wanted to know what this phrase meant to our community. To some it was an aspiration, a desire for repair to be visible everywhere – in schools, community centres, in our media, on high streets, and even in prisons. For others, it represents the overwhelming prevalence of repair in our lives and culture. Our speakers argue that it’s not that repair isn’t happening, rather that it’s not being highlighted as the essential tool that it is.
Repair’s impact on cost of living
The cost of living crisis has been all-consuming recently. We know that repair and reuse will be integral tools to tackle this issue and help those who cannot afford to buy new. But we’re curious to know how this presents in other parts of the world.
Looking to the future of repair policy
We also delved into the state of the Right to Repair movement across the globe. We are all at different points in our fight for a real Right to Repair. For some, the movement is almost non-existent in their country. Mathew tells us how excited he is to be the first person to bring this issue to light in his country. In the US, it seems that public opinion is in firm support of Right to Repair, now it’s time to push for this right to be legally supported and protected. Leanne tells us about the burgeoning movement in Australia, and the steps that have been taken by their government to put the wheels in motion on what the Right to Repair could look like in their country.
Ultimately, we’re all at different stages of our journey towards Right to Repair. But one thing that Fixfest showed us is how united we are in the goal of bringing back repair.
That’s a wrap – Fixfest 2022
‘We Will Fix It’ from Fixfest 2022
Our previous interview with Mathew Lubari
[Feature image by Mark A Phillips, licensed under CC BY 2.0.]
Restart Podcast Ep. 79: eSpares wants you to clean your filters
This month, we had a very handy conversation with some friends from our sponsor eSpares. Eleanor Cochrane and Mariya Peynova are the Brand Manager and Social Media Manager for eSpares, respectively. We took this opportunity to properly introduce our listeners to their work and also answer a few questions about household repair and maintenance. In the process, we learned that there is probably a lot more regular maintenance that we should all be doing.
This advice came at a perfect time, as we’re encouraging everyone to give their things a new lease of life in the lead up to Repair Day on 15th October. You can learn more about how we’re celebrating and get involved here!
Dare to repair
First, we chatted about how eSpares are empowering their customers to fix their own stuff. They tell us about the trove of repair manuals, tutorials, and more that can be found on their website. Eleanor also shares her own stories of initial DIY repairs and her experience of the concerns that many beginners will have. They hope that the content on their website and the support that they provide will give customers more confidence to give repairing a go.
“What we do try and do is educate people about their rights…this should be something that they’re entitled to. Choice is something that we should always have when it comes to machines that we have bought.”
We discuss accessibility of spare parts and the way that consumer calls for repairability have progressed over recent years. Mariya posits that due to the rising cost of living, people are more keen to repair their things. They also share an anecdote which proves that this is definitely the right thinking. One of their customers managed to repair a second-hand range oven and save thousands of pounds in the process. Eleanor and Mariya use these types of stories to prove that repair is really possible for everyone (even if manufacturers make it difficult on purpose) if you have good support and learning materials.
Maintenance: a very good place to start
In the second half of the episode, Eleanor and Mariya answer repair queries sent in by the public. They share the most common and first port of call fixes that are likely to be causing the problem. A lot of these fixes are related to maintenance of your machine. They recommend that you regularly check the filter of your washing machine, tumble dryer, and vacuum cleaner. It’s a super helpful reminder and encouraging that a relatively small fix can be the answer to your machine working 100% again.
If you want to attempt any of these fixes or something more technically complicated, the information and help that you need are on the eSpares site. Eleanor tells us about all the channels that they are using to spread repair information and tutorials. There are so many written tutorials on their website, or if you are more visually inclined they also regularly post on their YouTube channel and TikTok account.
The key take away from our chat with Eleanor and Mariya is: don’t be afraid to try repair. Even if you’re not feeling confident now, there is a plethora of information out there and often, someone to offer moral support along the way. Now go clean those vacuum filters!
* eSpares website
* eSpares YouTube
* Try one of these fixes on Repair Day 2022
Restart Podcast Ep. 78: Meet our new(ish) Co-Director, Fiona Dear
To wrap up our summer season, we’re giving listeners a proper introduction to Restart’s new(ish) Co-Director, Fiona Dear. You will have heard Fiona’s voice a couple times on Restart Radio in the last few months, and her fingerprints are all over the new projects that we’re working on. Dave spoke to Fiona when she had just joined Restart to have a conversation about how she became the perfect fit for her new role.
A journey through repair
Starting out as a student of repair, Fiona tells us about the differences between experiencing Restart Parties as an attendee versus organiser. Fiona’s repair background is mostly in the realm of mending and upcycling. She tells us about her rather swift introduction to electrical repair after having to repair her phone only weeks after joining Restart. It was a challenge but with the help of both our community and professional repairers, she managed to successfully save her device. She shares how this experience opened her eyes to the importance of in-person repairing and learning from one another.
Conservation at home and abroad
From Costa Rica to North London, Fiona has been making change. She shares her experience of studying conservation of Scarlet macaws in the rainforest and the winding path that led her to focus her masters dissertation on human behaviour.
In her own neighbourhood, Fiona has also been making change. She has campaigned for a low traffic zone, introduced regular Play Street sessions, and organised a waste reduction project. This work in her personal life only shows how massive her impact will be at Restart. Through this, in addition to intensive experience working for The Climate Coalition and on Great Big Green Week, she has built an in-depth understanding of how to engage and mobilise the public.
Shaping the future of Restart
Since she started at Restart, Fiona hit the ground running working on Fixing Factories. With one location already open in Brent and another coming to Camden in the fall, it’s an incredibly exciting project with some brilliant partners involved. The project allows us to push for digital inclusion while engaging further with the public – hopefully, inviting more people into the repair community. A perfect way to pursue Fiona’s goal of making repair mainstream.
“It’s still evolving…it’s all about extending the life of electronics. What’s coming to the fore now is reuse – laptop fixing and redistribution during the pandemic. You’ve got a lot more companies selling refurbished tech now.”
We also discuss the new directions that Restart’s work is moving in. Much of our current work like repair events, the repair directory, data work, are of course, focused on repair. Now though, we are making renewed efforts to support reuse. Fiona explains how this will come to fruition in new projects with palpable excitement.
* The Climate Coalition
* The Great Big Green Week
* Fixing Factory
* Restart Radio: Introducing Fixing Factories
[Feature image by Mark A Phillips, licensed under CC BY 2.0.]
Restart Podcast Ep. 77: Reflecting on our first 10 years
It’s a bumper episode this month but how could it not be when we’re celebrating the 10 year anniversary of our first Restart Party! This episode is an auditory snapshot of Restart as we head into our second decade as an organisation. Earlier in the month, we got together with volunteers, allies, longtime collaborators and supporters to celebrate the last 10 years. While we were there, Dave caught up with some of our guests for a moment of conversation and reflection.
Back to the beginning
So first, how are we all feeling? Ugo and Janet both reflect on the initial goals of Restart and why they started the organisation. They were inspired by their work in the Global South and witnessing how people kept their things going – often out of necessity. Seeing this in contrast to overconsumption in the Global North, pushed them to bring that approach to the London community. Ugo discusses how surprised he was by the enthusiasm they saw at that first event and how it has only continued to motivate our work since. From our founders to trustees, looking back on the last decade is emotional and rewarding.
“We figured out that it was entirely possible, doable, and actually quite exciting and fun. And that has been always at the heart – making sure that it is fun, it’s inclusive, it’s engaging, and it increases your own confidence in trying to repair and save things from getting lost and wasted.”
Ugo says that Restart’s aims have not actually changed very much in the last decade. Rather, they have scaled up and found other avenues through which to make change. While the community events that Restart was founded on are still key to our strategy. So is Right to Repair campaigning, data interpreting and system change at scale.
How has fixing impacted you?
We hear from trustees and historic volunteers about their favourite moments of Restart and their favourite fixes. The overwhelming answer seems to be: all of them! And there is a clear sense that what is gained from community repair is not just the working device but the knowledge gained and skills shared.
“Whatever you are fixing, it’s just as much fun…Even if it’s a simple fix, somebody goes home happy. You got home happy because you found something interesting out about something, had a nice chat with someone. That’s what the important thing is the human relationships.”
Ugo gives praise to our volunteers for always being here to help us learn and grow. Whether it is explaining the technicalities of repairs, to providing essential feedback on how best to run events, our community are vital.
Feeling proud of the past, and looking to the future
Ugo shares some of his proudest moments in Restart’s last decade. He highlights the policy gains that we have made and the growth and influence of Right to Repair across Europe and elsewhere. We have a long way to go but we are more than ready to take this work on. He points out that we will not achieve our goal by relying on manufacturers to make altruistic change. Rather, we need to push lawmakers to legislation that guarantees our Right to Repair. This way, we can reduce waste and make a dent in the massive challenge of the climate crisis. (We’re also super happy to hear that the podcast itself has been influencing policy makers!)
Janet also highlights the need to work more with young people. Whether by upping numbers of younger attendees at events or training the next generation of professional repairers. This work has already begun with the Fixing Factory project and partnerships with amazing organisations like Mer-IT. Getting the public and new faces involved is a big part of how we hope Restart’s message can continue to grow.
Thanks to Janet, Mike, Fidi, Sophia, Ben, Panda, Dave, and Stefania for talking to us. And thank YOU for being a part of Restart in the last 10 years &#...
Restart Podcast Ep. 76: Funky phones and durable design, with Ben Wood
This month, we were super excited to talk to Ben Wood. Ben is Chief Analyst at CCS Insight and also the founder of the Mobile Phone Museum. All this to say, Ben is an expert in the field of mobile phone design and history. We talked to him about some of the coolest phone design trends of the past and what innovation is still happening. He also shared some very encouraging statistics from consumer studies that CCS Insight have conducted. These show that repairability and long-lasting devices are at the front of consumers’ minds.
Why did the Mobile Phone Museum start?
Ben tells us about the inception of the Mobile Phone Museum, a collection of over 5,000 devices. He started the collection when he witnessed the disposal of phones in which he recognised historic and educational value. From then on, he set his sights on saving and preserving these retired devices.
Not all of the phones are truly functioning but they are carefully stored with design integrity in mind. Ben tells us about some of the sneaky swaps they make – like curly cords from guitar amps – to keep the phones looking their most authentic. The phones are all archived on the museum’s website and it’s wonderful to see the array of shapes and colours that purvey older phone design.
In 2021, the collection was temporarily exhibited in person for public viewing and Ben hopes that similar events can start up again soon. They also bring the collection into schools in the hope that it will inspire the next generation of designers. Education is integral to the mission of the Mobile Phone Museum, especially as newer generations grow up with smartphones as the norm. If you would like to explore the collection, each model has been beautifully photographed on the museum’s website.
Resistant and repairable rainbow phones
Early Nokia models like the 2110, and the Motorola V70 are among Ben’s favourite phones in the collection. And he seems to have a penchant for the nostalgic entries. He also tells us about some stand-out designs like a phone modelled after a James Bond gadget, and a rainbow Motorola.
Our big question was: were mobile phones more repairable in the past? Ben says that they were definitely more durable. If your phone screen was less likely to break in the first place, there was less need to repair it. But it is true that the modularity of these older models made them simpler to take apart and replace these broken parts. Ben makes a case for Fairphone being the glimmer of hope for a more repairable future. This return to modularity would make spare part replacements easier and upgrades as well.
Is actual innovation still happening?
Ben believes that innovation in smartphone design has been slowing down rapidly in recent years. In comparison to the massive leaps in camera spec that we might have seen in the 2000s and 2010s. The visual design of phones has also become very homogenous, leaving little variation between models.
“The honest truth at the moment is phones have got pretty boring since Steve Jobs walks onto the stage in San Francisco in January 2007 and pulled the iPhone out of his pocket. And that really established this dominant design of the black rectangle with a touch screen and a camera on the back. And that’s the world that we’ve lived in.”
While not optimal for screen replacement, he is excited by the folding displays that have recently entered the market. We agree that this lack of innovation though may be helpful in slowing down consumer demand. At the moment, it seems that manufacturers are having to use gimmicks like new colourschemes, rather than undertaking real innovation in the sector.
Consumers are calling for repair
What’s really exciting for our work at Restart are the studies from CCS Insight’s Connected Consumer Radar. They found that “compared to 12 months ago,
Restart Radio: Introducing Fixing Factories
We’ve had a busy month here at Restart. On April 23rd, we launched the first Fixing Factory site in the Abbey Road Reuse and Recycling Centre, Brent. It’s a project that we are ecstatic has finally become a reality and we can’t wait to see how it blossoms. For this episode of Restart Radio, Ugo Vallauri is joined by our Co-Director, Fiona Dear and London Network Coordinator, Shelini Kotecha. They have been working closely on the project and shared with us the experience so far.
Self-repair on the horizon
Firstly though, we discuss some recent news stories in the world of electronics repair. Last week, it was announced that the Austrian Repair Bonus was coming into action across the country. This made us more than a little envious. We then cover a study released by Microsoft which makes a surprisingly strong case for increased product repairability (not that that’s news to us). In a similar vein, Samsung, Google, and Apple have all recently announced steps towards self-repair, including the availability of spare parts. We break down how effective these moves might be and what needs to happen next to achieve a real Right to Repair.
What are Fixing Factories?
Fiona and Shelini tell us how the opening of the first Fixing Factory location went. We celebrated the day in Brent with partners on the project and it was wonderful to see the space come to life. Fiona explains how the Fixing Factory project first came about and our collaboration with Possible and other partners to make a longtime dream of Restart come true. We outline the mission to bring repair into view of the public and provide learning opportunities. As part of this goal, Fiona tells us about the school that they visited just ahead of launch in order to promote the project to young people, and get feedback. It’s inspiring to see how passionate and interested the school children were in repair, even after just a couple of hours of tinkering inside a phone.
We’re working with a lot of amazing partners on this project, including Ready Tech Go, Possible, West London Waste Authority and Mer-IT, many of which you may have heard on Restart Radio at some point. Shelini tells us about the work that Ready Tech Go is doing at the Brent site, refurbishing used laptops to donate them to people in need. In fact, if you have a laptop you’re no longer using you can get involved today! You can either drop it off at the Brent site or visit one of our dropboxes at Greenford Recycling Centre or Townmead Recycling Centre. Find the details here.
Lastly, Shelini and Fiona look toward the future and share with us the vision for the second location. In the summer, Fixing Factories will come to a high street in Camden with the support of Possible. We hope to provide a community space for repair and encourage people’s curiosity about fixing. With the support of Mer-IT, we also plan to teach repair skills to future technicians. Through this course and volunteering opportunities, we hope to create career pathways for young people and support a thriving repair economy in London.
* Fixing Factory
* Fixing Factories: And we’re off
* Grist: Apple just launched its first self-repair program. Other tech companies are about to follow
* The Verge: Samsung is working on a Galaxy self-repair program with iFixit
A missing voice in the world
I am so glad there is a team of people working on these issues and even bringing abolitionism into the spectrum of issues that face the mass consumption of gadgetry. Smart and brave hosts. Thank you!