Phone box to become a work of art

THEY are considered icons of British design, but many have recently fallen on hard times – unused, unloved and, in most cases, destined for the scrap heap.

But one of Edinburgh’s remaining red telephone boxes has been offered a last-minute reprieve and could soon be enjoying a new life as a work of art.

Portobello Community Council has entered talks with BT to adopt its under-threat Bellfield Street kiosk for the sum of £1, with a range of ideas now being floated for its future use.

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The battered phone booth is being lined up as an exhibition space for local artists or a history and information point for Edinburgh’s seaside.

In the meantime, it will be restored by local volunteers –with the help of BT which had earmarked it for decommissioning – and illuminated to promote local children’s art.

Local landscape architect Steven Wheatley, 43, enlisted the help of community councillors as individuals cannot take forward the adoption scheme and the council will consult with local residents.

He said: “I’ve been walking past it for a while now and saw similar projects had taken place in villages down south, so I thought: ‘Why not?’

“So now we’re going to renovate it, get it locked and have a think about what would be the best way to use it. I’ll recruit some volunteers from the area to help out and hopefully move it forward.”

There are 50 red kiosks remaining in Edinburgh, plus around 35 in East Lothian, 15 in Midlothian and 20 in West Lothian, but Portobello’s is thought to be the first up for adoption in the area.

Similar schemes across the UK have seen boxes turned into miniature museums, art galleries and even libraries.

It is the latest in a string of community-led ideas in Portobello, which have included a beach arts festival and introducing a Portobello currency to boost local retail.

Community council chairman John Stewart said: “Portobello is renowned for things like this. It’s not that other places are devoid of imagination, but Portobello has always regarded itself as being somewhat independent rather than just being part of Edinburgh.

“Everyone appears to be in favour of doing this. It would be locked at night to protect it from vandalism.”

Under the plans, BT would transfer ownership and replace the vandalised door.

The community council would then take on the electricity bills and future maintenance. A spokeswoman for BT: “BT’s ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme has captured the imagination of people up and down the country since it was introduced.

“The programme allows local authorities to take ownership of much loved, but rarely used, red telephone kiosks.

“For only £1, BT removes the telephone mechanism and hands over ownership of the kiosks to the local community.

“Local communities can protect the heritage of the community by retaining the historic structures, which have become British design icons.”