Once, they were people’s main means of communication, but with modern mobile phones, can Britain’s phone boxes still have a future?
British Telecom announced last week that 37 phone kiosks in and around Scarborough are set to go. The news might not sound very surprising, but for some, particularly those with fond memories of the iconic red boxes, it might be met with a hint of sadness.
That’s why Mark Vesey from Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre is encouraging people to “adopt” one, just like they’ve done with an old and rusty one which was in the process of being decommissioned for lack of use.
“Telephone boxes isn’t our main interest as a maritime centre, but this phone box is right opposite the harbour and it’s the last red phone box along Scarborough’s seafront, so to see it go it would’ve been quite sad,” he said.
After getting in touch with BT, volunteers at the museum bought the K6 kiosk opposite Mutiny bar for just £1. They then refurbished it, repainted it, installed a mosaic on the floor to make it more inviting and transformed it into a mini museum with pictures and a five-minute audio guide telling visitors about the history of Scarborough harbour.
This formerly old-looking phone box has been given a new life as a 24-hour tourist attraction. But with many more kiosks facing removal, the aim now is to invite other people to engage in similar projects to save as many as possible.
Mr Vesey said: “You have to be a registered charity or a community group with a bank account and constitution but the process is quite easy and it’s only £1.
“Yes, it cost us about £500 to refurbish it but we’ve raised the money from local people and local councillors and although we have to look after it now, BT still pay the electric bill.”
As part of the history box project, the Maritime Museum also asked local residents to share their memories of phone boxes.
People mentioned the smell, often anything but nice, of the cabins, the old telephone directories and how they sometimes used them to pass on a message to their neighbours. Among the stories shared with the museum there was also that of a local fisherman who, whenever he’d come into port, used to look for a phone box to tell his mum he’d arrived safely.
“The modern generation won’t know anything about them, it’s amazing how much the world has changed in just 30 years.”