I was in London today to photograph a conference. In the afternoon I went out in search of good cup of coffee and as I walked back to the conference I snapped this photograph of some workmen on a break sitting next to one of the iconic symbols of Britain; a red telephone box.
Oddly enough, this red telephone box, situated at Russell Square, is currently out of work. The phone box is empty. In fact, as I photographed other phone boxes in the area, I noticed most of them were empty.
Of course, most of us now carry smartphones so the need for telephone kiosks has fallen dramatically. Across the UK most telephone boxes have been removed, though around about two thousand still remain after various local councils across the country used legislation designed to protect buildings of architectural or historic importance to keep old telephone boxes in prominent locations.
Many people across the UK are fond of the old red telephone boxes. In fact, there was one outside the house I grew up in, and at some point, my Dad decided that it needed a new coat of paint as it had fallen into a state of neglect. I remember him carefully painting the phone box which looked much better after he had taken care of it. Quirky as that might seem, he’s not the only person I know who did that.
Faced with a legacy of unprofitable kiosks to maintain, British Telecom developed an ‘Adopt a Kiosk‘ scheme in 2008, allowing local authorities to adopt under-used kiosks for just £1, with the community assuming responsibility for maintaining the kiosk.
Since then more than 3500 communities across the UK have taken up the opportunity to do something creative with local phone boxes that had little or no usage. Old phone boxes have been repurposed for all kinds of tasks including rural defibrillator stations, miniature libraries, coffee shops, shoe shine stands, and even the world smallest art gallery.
Stand here using Google street view.