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The Revival of an Icon



The distinctive red telephone box was once commonplace in the UK. Unfortunately, due to advances in technology, the ‘Oh-So-British’ red telephone box is a much rarer sight these days.  So what happened to the 92,000 or so BT owned kiosks that once graced our highways and byways?

Many have been recovered from telephone box graveyards, refurbished as mini snack bars and art galleries, or have become tiny shops selling small items such as postcards, hats or sunglasses.  Two such kiosk shops can be found at the end of Brighton Pier.

Some are used to display flowers and at least one was used to house a Christmas tree. In a field opposite his home, one slightly eccentric chap mounted a 20 foot high sculpture composed of three telephone boxes mounted at different angles.  Apparently his neighbours were not appreciative.

As part of BT's "adopt a kiosk" scheme, communities are able to acquire a decommissioned telephone kiosk for £1.  Kiosks in remote areas have been fitted with defibrillators, small devices which can deliver an electric shock to a person in cardiac arrest, helping them to regain a normal heartbeat rhythm. If a defibrillator is used within three minutes of arrest, the chance of survival could be as high as 70%.

In the Cambridgeshire village of Shepreth, one redundant kiosk briefly became a pub as part of a protest at plans to turn the recently closed local watering hole into housing.

Benjamin Shine, an award winning artist, turned one kiosk lengthways and transformed it into a highly original Chesterfield style couch. It went on display in various parts of London and was to be auctioned off at a later date in order to raise money for a charity.  

A fair number of defunct phone boxes have been converted to hold ATM cash machines, a much more attractive housing than a bank wall. 

Many have found their way into private gardens and one resourceful chap converted his phone box into an outside loo. One hopes he made some effort to block the view of the interior.

One kiosk is home to Scotland’s smallest internet café. Visitors can make themselves a cup of tea or coffee and use the internet. 

During recent years, many libraries have closed their services.  Numerous localities have transformed phone boxes into book exchanges.  A kiosk can house well over 100 books.  Locals bring along books they no longer wish to keep, pop them on the shelves and help themselves to others.  One advantage over traditional libraries is that they are open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.  If you are privileged to live where there’s a local red telephone box book exchange/library, you’re never stuck for a read, even in the middle of the night, though you will need to take a short stroll in the dark.

As a writer, if you live in a village running one of these mini libraries it’s perhaps a great way to get your work and your name noticed.  Pop a few copies of your latest novel into the kiosks around the locality and wait for feedback from the locals.




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