Adopt a phone box

Since BT launched their ‘adopt a kiosk’ scheme, over 1000 phone boxes have been converted to benefit local communities. So how have these historic British icons been transformed?

22nd July 2011
Courtesy BT Heritage

In 2008, BT launched their ‘adopt a kiosk’ scheme for local authorities and Parish Councils to adopt unused phone boxes and save them from being removed. The closing date for councils and authorities to take up this offer to save a vital part of their heritage is 31 July.

So far, 1,500 kiosks throughout the UK have been converted into useful facilities that are beneficial for their communities. So what ideas have the Great British public come up with to take advantage of this opportunity?

1. The art gallery in North Yorkshire

Queen’s Brian May opened the first exhibition in the smallest art gallery in the world on a village green in the market town of Settle. Roger Taylor, the gallery’s curator said: “The Gallery on the Green project has given the people of Settle a real sense of community and joy, and also helped to put our town of 4,000 people on the map.”
Visit to find out more.

2. The defibrillator in Norfolk

After an aerobics class led to a serious cardiac arrest, this equipment proved vital to a holiday maker here. The Community Heartbeat Trust has campaigned for vital medical centres such as this to be created all over the country. Martin Fagan, secretary to the Trust said, “With something as serious as a cardiac arrest, time is of the essence, and unfortunately ambulance services often can’t reach country villages in time. To install in the disused phoneboxes is ideal, as they are often in the centre of the village, and it means the iconic red kiosk can remain a lifeline and focus for the community.”

3. The grocery store in North Yorkshire

Following the closure of the local post office in Draughton, Lewis Cooke, a Skipton newsagent, leaves goods in the phone box for local residents to collect. His wife Anita explains, "People can ring us up with their requests and if we have got it we will drop it off at the kiosk the next day with their newspaper. It is handy for the elderly who can't always get to the shops easily and we hope it will be especially useful in the winter with the bad weather."

4. The pub in Cambridgeshire

Villagers in Shepreth temporarily turned their phone box into a pub, the Dog and Bone, for a night after the closure of their local pub, The Plough. A triangular-shaped bar was made by a local carpenter, and beer was sold in thimbles to drinkers queuing down the pavement. Alistair Janson, who used to run The Plough said, "It took a little imagination and a bit of cleaning. We gave everything away but people made donations to village hall funds. We must have had 60 or 70 people there. It was great. When the beer ran out at about 10.30pm we called time."

5. The community centre in the New Forest

Locals and visitors in Emery Down can pop in to their booth to learn about the area’s history, borrow a book, buy some veg or give their dog some water, thanks to the scheme. Peter Power, a local resident said, “Everyone in the community has got behind us and worked incredibly hard, donating their own time; the local pub even donated a dog bowl and all the profits made from selling vegetables will be donated to the local church a few yards away.”

6. The book exchange in Somerset

Created by the villagers of Westbury-sub-Mendip, this quirky library houses over 150 books and DVDs. Bob Dolby, a parish councillor involved in implementing the idea, said: “When we temporarily lost the mobile library, we lost an important part of the community,” commented Bob, ”We had the opportunity to not only retain our local heritage through the iconic phonebox, but also create a service that is genuinely useful and benefits everyone in the community.”


7. The walker’s stop in Essex

In Toot Hill, local resident Bill Heffernan won a competition with his suggestion of turning their box into a place where tired walkers can rest and local businesses can advertise. He said "It's an old box, so it's had to have quite a lot of work done to restore it to its former glory. But I'm very interested in heritage, and it's nice to preserve something in the village that can be passed on to the next generation."

8. The wildlife information centre in West Sussex

An ordnance map of the region with marked footpaths, a stack of leaflets on the area, and facts about the local wildlife now fill this phone box in Stedham village.

To find out more and to adopt a phonebox near you, visit BT's Adopt a Kiosk website.


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