February 27, 2011

Recycling: repurposed English red phone booths



I love the red English phone booths. Like the red doubledecker London buses, they are such national symbols, as much as the Queen and English tea. I also have memories of standing in line to use one of the kiosks to call home and friends when I was studying in England.

Sadly, the increasing use of mobile phones has made many of the iconic red payphone boxes obsolete (I'm sure this is an issue in many other countries: I can never find a public phone anymore when I need one and have forgotten my cellphone at home!). Nine years ago, there were about 17,000 across Britain, but by 2009, there were just 12,500; 58 per cent were no longer    profitable and 10 per cent were used only once a month. And not only is there much less demand now for public phones, maintenance costs for each red box is £800 a year.

Luckily, British Telecoms came up with a grand idea to save them.

repurposed red BT phone box in Westbury via dailymail
This red phone booth in Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset is now a library! Talk about a great recycling idea. In fact the whole Adopt A Kiosk  scheme by BT is plain fabulous. For a token £1 and a good idea, BT removes the phone and passes ownership over to town councils who can then give new life to the red kiosks. BT has received over 1,000 applications from local communities to adopt their phone boxes. In  May 2010, West Hagbourne in Oxfordshire became the 500th parish council to take ownership of a BT red phone booth.

In Westbury, the phone booth is today a popular mini lending library where villagers can borrow over 100 books, CDs and DVDs 24 hours a day.

Westbury phone box library via dailymai

Over in with Stourton, Wiltshire, residents hope their phone booth never becomes as popular. In fact, they would be happy if there is zero usage. This is because the booth is now equipped with a public access defibrillator, supplied and installed by the Community Heartbeat Trust.

recycled red phone booth in Stourton has defibrillator via BBC news
The public can use it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a combination code available from the  emergency services by calling 999. The repurposed phone booth could save lives as ambulances take 40-45 minutes to get to the village.

Great Shelford
call box at Great Shelford converted into a site for arts installations via BBC news
This red booth at Great Shelford in Cambridgeshire is used as an arts  installation. Inside is a mannequin dressed as a seasonal, historical or fictional character suggested by children of the local primary school. The first character in the kiosk was Guy Fawkes. Others include the Inn Keeper in Bethlehem. The schoolchildren  practise their creative writing skills by writing about the phone call  the character might be having. One of these stories is featured in the  parish magazine each month.

The Gallery on the Green in Settle, North Yorkshire, is thought to be the smallest art gallery  in the world. Drawings, paintings, photographs and other artworks no  bigger than a postcard are exhibited in the recycled booth. 

recycled red phone booth in Settle (screenshot from BBC TV)
Brian May of Queen used the kiosk November 2010 - January 2011 for an exhibition of stereoscopic (3D) photography based around his and Elena Vidal's book "A Village Lost and Found. On view were photos of life in an Oxfordshire village 150 years ago.

repurposed red payphone box in Waterperry via thisisoxfordshire
The kiosk in Waterperry, Oxfordshire, is multipurpose. It has been used as a poetry box,where villagers displayed their own and their favourite poems, a magazine swap box, as well as a fruit and vegetable market.

repurposed BT phone box in Draughton via telegraph
For villagers in  Draughton, North Yorkshire, the red box gives easy access to basic groceries, newspapers and everyday items - something they were left without after the post office shop closed in 2008. It works on an honesty system, with people leaving payment for what they take.

Get updates at BT Payphones - Adopt A Kiosk's Facebook page.

A few recycled phone booths elsewhere in the world, found via 1800recycling.com and unconsumption.

phone booth recycled into aquarium in Lyon via Nicolas Nova on flickr

This is one of my favorites: French architectural lighting designer Benoit Deseille and artist-designer Benedetto Bufalino created this aquarium from a phone booth as a street art installation demonstrating urban invasion for the Lyon Light Festival in December 2007. It was later displayed in Mauritius in October 2009.

in the virgin islands
phone booth shower in Leverick Bay, Virgin Islands via anoldent
Too hot in the British Virgin Islands? You could take a shower in this phone booth in Leverick Bay! Cool reuse of the red icon!

in the wildnerness of finland
phone booth toilet in Säppi, Finland via fragment.fi
If you're in urgent need of the loo in the woods in Säppi in Western Finland, well, you could go in the nature or if you prefer a modern amenity, you could sit on the toilet in this phone booth (see the red seat?)! Of course, that's if you don't mind being in full view of wildlife or other humans.

in Los Angeles
recycled phone booth in Yellow Springs, Ohio via telephone booth project
These people are checking out the art installation "Awkward Hugs: An Investigative report", a public service video that explores different types of hugs, their origins and how to avoid them (ahem!). It was on view last year. The phone booth in Yellow Springs, Ohio, was used as an art gallery in the 2009-2010 Telephone Booth Project.

books are a favorite theme, it seems
phone (now book) booth in Highland Park, LA via Half Letter Press
This abandoned phone booth in Highland Park, Los Angeles (corner of Figueroa and Avenue 56) is now the Book Booth, where people are encouraged to donate books, magazines and other reading materials and pick them up to read. Some of the books carry a Bookcrossing ID. Bookcrossing is a great way to share your books if you no longer have any use for them. Register your books at the Bookcrossing site, then share them in whatever way you wish, including simple leaving them at a bus stop, train or any public spot for someone else to pick up. You can follow your book's journey on the website. I wrote an post earlier this month on Bookcrossing. You can find it at postcrossing 1 / bookcrossing ~ liberal sprinkles.

in Germany

repurposed phone booth in Krimmensen, Germany via
The phone booth in Krimmensen, Germany, is a Bücher-Zelle (Book Cell) - a used book  shop and book exchange.

If I had my own red telephone booth, I'd turn it into my personal   library with a little table where I can have my coffee and cake (maybe   tea and cucumber sandwiches!). I could spend hours there, I'm sure!

What would YOU do with a red phone box??

Thanks for reading!

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some interesting phone booth sites
* the payphone project
* telephone tribute
* wikipedia telephone booth

by liberal sprinkles


jocodeane said...

Brill post!
so much better than having them abandoned and used as urinals.
I noticed a graveyard of red kiosks in a field in Oxon a few years back, which made me really sad.
So glad things have taken a turn for the better.Thanks for alerting me.

liberal sprinkles said...

You're welcome! It's wonderful to see them being recycled and often into little places for the local community. I think it's fantastic that BT gives them away for that token 1 pound rather than just dump them or sell them as scrap metal.
Best wishes,

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