British Phone Boxes Converted Into Libraries, Art Spaces

The iconic red phone boxes found all over the UK are beginning to disappear. Competition from mobile phones and the Internet are reducing the need for them and many are being carted off for scrap.

Luckily BT, which owns the phone boxes, has started an Adopt a Kiosk program so communities can save the familiar red boxes and reuse them. Since 2009, more than 1,500 phone boxes have been turned into grocery shops, florists, wildlife information centers and art galleries. The Community Heartbeat Trust charity has even installed defibrillators in some boxes so you can save someone’s life. You’ll need to call the paramedics on your mobile, however.

The blog Thick Creamy Discharge has an extensive report on phone boxes converted into libraries and book exchanges, providing locals and word-hungry travelers alike with reading material. Since most have been created in the past year, it appears to be a growing trend, perhaps in response to the decline in public funding for libraries in the UK.

Because the red phone box is such a recognizable design, many have been altered into works of art. This summer, BT celebrated the 25th anniversary of Childline with the ArtBox project. Leading artists altered replica phone boxes into all sorts of crazy designs and used them to decorate London’s streets. The phone boxes were then sold and the proceeds donated to Childline.

Check out the gallery for examples of some of the clever things artists and local communities have done with their defunct phone boxes.

[Photo courtesy Bruce Stafford]