Glasgow's Remade Network on repair culture & community
Glasgow's Remade Network is putting the tools to repair in the hands of its community members. We visit the shop to learn how the social enterprise is fighting the climate crisis, capitalism and consumerism
If it’s broken, fix it. Or at least bring it down to Remade Network who will do their best to fix it. Based in Govanhill, Remade Network is a social enterprise advocating for a repair culture in which we try to fix our broken items, instead of throwing them into landfills and buying new. The organisation’s base – a bright, freshly painted shop on Victoria Road – is humming with activity when we pay them a visit in early June: a sewing machine is being used to mend trousers, while technician Ross is wrestling with a broken Wii controller.
“Repair isn’t a new idea,” says Sophie Unwin, Remade Network’s founder. “Communities have been mending things for ages. It doesn’t have to be a shiny consumerist thing. We want to be on the high street with our community, not decrying the modern world but offering an alternative model.”
That alternative model comes in different forms, as shop manager Lauren Hooper explains. There’s the repair service – “we do tech, electrical and textile repairs; so phones, laptops, anything with a plug, any sort of clothing” – as well as ongoing community-centric projects. “At the start of the pandemic, it was clear that everything was online but not everyone could get online,” says Hooper. So, we worked on a desktop distribution project with the Glasgow City Council and refurbished and distributed over 500 computers to charities and community groups.” Alongside the projects and repair service, Remade Network also runs workshops teaching repair methods and sells refurbished laptops and phones in their shop at affordable prices.
Unwin was inspired to get into sustainability work after spending time in Nepal when she was younger. “I lived for a year in a village. It was a remote community and over the year I lived with six other people – we created one dustbin of rubbish. I came back to London, went into a supermarket and had so much worse culture shock coming back. The way we produce and consume is so shocking.”
In London, Unwin was part of the team that set up The Remakery. “I had the idea for it because I saw lots of people fixing things but not earning any money from it,” she explains. “I thought there must be a way you can create a business model around repair education.” After successfully launching London’s Remakery, Unwin moved to Edinburgh and helped set up its sister project, the Edinburgh Remakery, on Leith Walk, before heading west to Glasgow. “I wanted to work in a city where it wasn’t just one project but the impact was more embedded within communities. While it’s great to have a shop, we need to think of radical ways to change the way we work together.”
Remade Network is a slightly different model, one that emphasises collaboration with the local area’s community. At the end of June, a second shop was launched in Cranhill, and the aim is to bring the network to different areas in Glasgow to fit their particular needs. “We don’t want to tell people what to do, we want to collaborate with the talent and skills already in communities,” says Unwin. “It’s so easy to blame people for not doing enough but if the facilities don’t exist for people to behave differently then how can they? It’s often more deprived communities that are the least polluting but have the most pollution to deal with.”
Although the Govanhill shop has only been open since February, the Remade Network team has already expanded to 15 people who have seen over 300 items come into the shop for repair. But despite Remade Network’s quick growth, Unwin and Hooper are keen to build a sustainable enterprise. “It’s a time of growth but also of consolidation,” says Unwin. “We’d like to see affordable repair services across the city. We’re also building on our digital inclusion work and have taken on paid trainees to give them the experience of fixing.”
Remade Network’s ethos leans towards a community-centric solution to the climate crisis, rather than the individualistic mindset that is often pushed by those who want to make a profit from sustainability. Purchasing ethically sourced items is all well and good but, as Hooper points out, we can’t buy our way to a more sustainable world. “I want to find alternatives to capitalist structures and things like planned obsolescence,” she says. “Remade Network offers a service where people can actually fix their stuff rather than blame them for throwing things away.”
“We want to see culture change, not just behaviour change,” adds Unwin. “That’s when you get actual power shifts. Already there’s been a great feeling of solidarity with Remade Network which aims to be practical and radical. You need a big vision to inspire people and make big changes. But the vision on its own is nothing if you can’t back it up with action and something deliverable. We want to be both.”
Find out more about Remade Network by visiting remade.network
Visit Remade Network's Govanhill shop at 421 Victoria Road