Photograph by Steven Bond.

South West shops support repair research

Shops from across the South West have helped a University of Exeter research team uncover the creativity and community spirit at the heart of the region’s small-scale repair industries.

Following a publicity campaign in autumn 2010, businesses ranging from cobblers to tailors to sewing machine repair shops put themselves forward to be interviewed by the researchers and have their workshops recorded by photographer Steven Bond.

Ten shops from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset have now welcomed the researchers onto their premises and the team has documented their findings on a blog:

Photographs taken for the project will be on display at the South West Image Bank, Plymouth, from 24 June–22 July 2011.

Dr Caitlin DeSilvey, a geographer on the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus said: “The business of ‘making and mending’ is seen by many as a dying art, but our research shows a wealth of expertise and ingenuity in the South West. We’ve been pleased by the positive response from shops and their customers, and are very grateful to everyone who has helped so far.

“We’ve also been touched by the pride people take in this work and the valued role these businesses have in their communities. People entrust these shops with their most treasured possessions, from a favourite pair of slippers to a valuable family heirloom, and workers often put in extra time and care to help mend a special object.”

The project will run until summer 2012 and the research team is still looking for shops to get involved. The project does not yet have any representation from North Devon and North Cornwall, so the team is particularly keen to hear from repair businesses in these areas. Anyone who wants to nominate a place of work or business in their local community can contact Dr DeSilvey on 01326 254161 or email her at

At the end of the project the images will become part of the South West Image Bank (SWIB) based in Plymouth, which is a partner in the study. The research project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

People can also find out more about the project at

The Tremough Campus is shared and jointly managed by Falmouth University and the University of Exeter in an arrangement that is unique in the UK. The University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are founding partners in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC), a unique collaboration between six universities and colleges to promote regional economic regeneration through Higher Education, funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One and Convergence), the South West Regional Development Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall Council.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes hundreds of research awards ranging from individual fellowships to major collaborative projects as well as over 1,100 studentship awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

Date: 24 June 2011

Read more University News