The Local Conversation is a collective voice for the village’s residents to amplify their concerns to the local council, and to work with likeminded community and voluntary social enterprises to support Merstham to flourish.
Through the Local Conversation project, and a deep engagement process, residents got together and decided on the priorities they wanted to address. The four areas of work identified by residents were the need to maintain and make local green spaces more usable, to create more activities for local people, to create a stronger voice for Merstham through a campaigning group, and to develop a digital community.
Under this umbrella, residents run an IT buddy service, a community allotment, and a small fishing project that brings young people and older people from all walks of life together in a peaceful setting to fish, discuss life, make friends and learn new skills.
They also run a popular Repair Café once a month, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, and is going from strength to strength.
The Repair Café boasts a number of volunteer repair experts who get together on the second Monday of each month to help repair people’s possessions, free of charge. Tools and materials are provided, and they are happy to take a look at anything from toasters and teddy bears to bicycles, clothes and crockery.
By working to repair items that need just a little attention to be almost as good as new, the Local Conversation is helping to cut down on waste in the area, which Charlotte Emery, Project Lead at Merstham Community Facility Trust, says is a particular problem in Great Britain.
We throw away piles of stuff in Britain. Even things which practically have nothing wrong with them, and which could easily be used again after a simple repair. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that they can have things repaired. The Repair Café wants to change all that.If you repair a bike, a CD player or a pair of trousers together with someone you may not have met before, you look at that person in a really positive light the next time you run into them on the street.
Repair Cafés are a Dutch concept, originating in 2009 in Amsterdam. Martine Postma, who opened the first one in the city, went on to found the Repair Café Foundation, which provides support to local groups around the world that are looking to run their own Repair Café. One of those they support is the Repair Café in Merstham.
The Local Conversation in Merstham is funded using money raised by The Health Lottery in the South East.