Photograph courtesy of The Gallery on the Green
The Gallery on the Green
Red telephone boxes are not as thick on the ground as they once were. There were two classic designs, both the creations of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and Battersea Power Station. The first, the K2, appeared in 1929. Its Soane-inspired domed roof and red paintwork were instantly recognisable, but the boxes were heavy and costly, so a competition was run for a more economical design to commemorate George V’s Silver Jubilee in1935, and Scott produced the K6, which is smaller and lighter but still red and domed. Tens of thousands were made, but many were replaced from the 1960s on with more modern designs. Now the rise and rise of the mobile phone means that many more are simply disappearing.
In response to those who mourn the demise of the red box, BT has launched a scheme called Adopt a Kiosk. Local communities can buy a box for a token sum, find a new use for it, and take responsibility for its maintenance. The kiosk, minus its payphone, remains in situ, as a visual amenity, for future generations. Settle Town Council bought this K6 kiosk earlier this year and it has now begun its new role as a visual amenity in more than one sense of the word – as well as remaining an attractive piece of street furniture it is now also the Gallery on the Green, probably the smallest art gallery in the world. Its curators invite postcard-sized submissions and plan to select some for exhibition in the gallery as well as scanning some so that they can be displayed on the gallery website for the benefit of those who can’t actually visit Settle.
This is a lovely idea, one that recycles what would have been a redundant kiosk and will provide a changing visual display that can stimulate, delight, and charm. It needs its committed support in the shape of the local volunteers who run the gallery. And it deserves the support of the rest of us. And perhaps imitation too. How long before there are more phone kiosk galleries, or before people find other creative uses for these beloved red boxes – uses that can delight, provoke, or inspire us all?
For more about the Gallery, go here.