Could your community ‘adopt’ one of the three iconic red phone boxes up for grabs in Bedford Borough?

A disused phone box near Rugby has been transformed into a thriving book exchange

Residents of the Notting Green, Pavenham and Yelden in Bedford Borough are invited to take up BT’s offer to ‘adopt’ the iconic red phone boxes in their villages, for just £1.

BT has today (Monday) revealed that nearly 300 of its iconic red phone boxes across the East of England are up for grabs – as it urges local communities to take advantage of a scheme to help transform them for the 21st century.

Since 2008, a total of 907 phone boxes across the region have been taken on by communities for just £1 each through BT’s Adopt a Kiosk programme.

Redundant phone boxes, once a lifeline of communication before the arrival of mobile phone networks, have been transformed into everything from defibrillator units and mini history museums to art galleries and book exchanges.

BT will also consider adoption requests to house defibrillators in modern glass phone boxes, a potentially life-saving conversion.

Jon Pollock, BT Enterprise unit director for the East of England, said: “With most people now using mobile phones, it’s led to a huge drop in the number of calls made from payphones.

“At the same time, mobile coverage has improved significantly in recent years due to investment in masts, particularly in rural areas.

“We’re currently rationalising our payphone estate to make it fit for the future, and the ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme makes it possible for local communities in the East of England to retain their local phone box, with a refreshed purpose for the community.

“Thousands of communities have already come up with a fantastic array of ideas to re-use their beloved local phone box. Applying is quick and easy and we’re always happy to speak to communities about adopting our phone boxes.”

From Aberdeen to Plymouth, the Community Heartbeat Trust charity is working with BT and local communities to install lifesaving defibrillators in local kiosks.

Martin Fagan, National Secretary for the Community Heartbeat Trust charity, said: “BT’s phone box kiosks are iconic British structures, and repurposing for this life saving use has given them a new lease of life. To date, we have converted about 800 ourselves, with another 200 in the pipeline.

“Placing the equipment in the heart of a community is important to save on time. Kiosks are historically at the centre of the community, and thus great locations for defibrillators.”

Former phone box becomes book exchange

A book exchange has been created inside a former BT red phone box in a small Warwickshire village.

The traditional kiosk opposite The Old Smithy pub in Church Lawford, near Rugby, was taken on by the parish council for £1 through BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme.

It is now a thriving book exchange which is used by residents young and old alike. People donate books and take away others to read before returning them.

Jeremy James, chairman of Church Lawford Parish Council, said they had taken inspiration from a nearby village – Stretton under Fosse – where the community adopted their local phone box and turned it into an information booth with details on local history, as well as local walks and footpaths.

Jeremy added: “We wanted to add the book exchange element as the mobile library only visits briefly once a month, and this aspect has really taken over.

“I have been pleased by the level of support it gets. Those people that use it appreciate it, and the only real maintenance needed is periodic tidying up of the book supply.

“At Christmas we installed lights on the green for the first time, powered from the phone box, and we also installed a sound system with carols and songs written about the village during the Covid-lockdown.

“If another village were considering adopting their phone box, I would say it is very worthwhile.”

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