26 Feb 2012

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Telephone Box to become a gallery?

A series of old-fashioned telephone boxes are to be placed around London over the summer.
The boxes - nearly 100 in total - will not have phones in them or be red in colour - instead they will be decorated by artists and designers - see BBC short news item here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17047805

Well locally for some months Parish councillors have been working on what to do with the empty telephone box at Double Spout, Ruscombe....Chris Gardner, one of the Parish councillors has pulled together the various ideas including a successful example from Settle -  he has put them in a paper - he kindly has let me reprint it below - click on read more. It looks like there is Parish approval for a very small project - I'm looking forward to hearing more - if anyone is inspired to get involved do contact the Parish Council.

Ruscombe  Telephone Box Proposal 2012.


As we all know the Ruscombe telephone box is an underused and tired looking object situated within the heart of Ruscombe. It has been left to decay for far too long and is in need of a radical make over to bring it up to scratch and to be given another useful life within the parish. With this in mind, I have over the xmas period done a little research and put together the following information and proposal for your perusal to be read and then discussed at the next Parish Council meeting in February 2012.


Many other parish councils throughout the country have bought and converted their old telephone boxes into useful objects. Some of these include:

- As an art gallery
- As an information point
- As an exhibition box
- As a poetry box
- As a book exchange box

And of course, there are many more. Taking this on board I have looked further into making our telephone box as much a creative/inspirational/educational box as possible which, I think, would serve the parish well. And so I contacted Roger Taylor:

Gallery on the Green
Settle BD24 9HG

The Settle Example:

This is a rough outline in bullet form of his thoughts/experience

-       The position of the box is important. This will dictate to a greater/lesser extent what you do to it. In a quiet location (like Ruscombe) where it is overlooked and not next to a pub is ideal for a gallery box.
-       They have been going for 2 years. The box is open 24 hours/7 days a week. It is never locked, has a complete open policy and has never been vandalised.
-       They repainted the box pillar box red ( There are companies who do this, but they did it themselves. They replaced the telephone box signs with “Gallery” signs, using the same type face as the original signs. They have done some art work on the ceiling and mosaiced the floor.
-       If the box has the original glass in it, keep it.
-       For the internal display board, they have fixed backboard where the telephone, etc used to be. They use a large postcard plastic display wallet to display all the art work. This means that the art work has to be the size of the wallets to fit into them
-       They have created a no charge  parish art gallery space.
-       It costs virtually nothing to run it
-       They have a small team to help run it and keep it up to date which takes very little time or effort. These are all village dwellers. The team then covers: Posters/publicity; maintenance; curator; electrician.
-       They have a website to help with publicity, promote up and coming exhibitions and show some of the work, etc. The curator can be contacted through this too. This is good for promotion and sustaining visibility. Resident created the site for them.
-       Anyone can exhibit. It is non elitist and open to all.
-       It is low tech, low key and low risk
-       They have a flexible running of exhibits. No set length, depends on the curator and what coming next, etc 
-       The exhibitions really take off from may onwards, with January, feb march being quieter months. So this year they have just started with an exhibition on the theme of Paris, and  are exhibiting old photos/post cards of Paris.
-       They have all kinds of exhibitions throughout the year covering all sorts of themes, etc and including writing/drawing/printing/painting/etc…For xmas 2011 the “Settle Flag Makers” had models of the Three Kings inside, each one with a bowl and offering sweets/gifts for the local kids. They are having digital exhibitions in 2012, and will be installing a digital photo frame, etc. Brian May also did an exhibition on his photos using a 3D viewer in the telephone box. Nothing was damaged or stolen….
-       It has done nothing but good for the village, giving people a sense of discovery for those who come across it, and adds to the experience in Settle. It is great for publicity and public relations, and gives people a sense of ownership. It is a private space allowing people to be still for 5/10 minutes. Very positive, and is the only gallery that is full to capacity 3 times a day!

This got me thinking about what we could do here, but also linking up with Whiteshill school. So in December I had a brief meeting with the head of Whiteshill school, Mrs Bainbridge, and she thought the idea excellent…..the idea being getting the school involved in exhibiting throughout the year….an exhibit every season, perhaps starting off with “The History of the Telephone Box”….She saw it as a very useful and creative way to encourage the children to exhibit their drawings/poetry/creative writing/ etc on various themes relating to the curriculum….as well as an exciting way to learn and discover some history, local and national about the telephone box.


To run with the Settle example, turning it into a creative gallery space, linked with the school.
Some topics this year could be:
-History of the telephone box
-School to also do exhibitions on response to the seasons, and the changes within the parish….spring/summer/autumn/winter

I feel this is an exciting opportunity to do something really creative here, which will also benefit the school and local community. Naturally there would have to be a restoration period first turning the box back into a new shiny red box, with a mosaiced floor (I have already had an offer from someone to do this for free), as well as perhaps neatening the grassy area the box is on, planting some bulbs, putting a bench there?

I look forward to your thoughts and response at the next meeting.

Chris Gardner


Nick said...

What a great idea! Why can't it be all 5? It has 4 walls. I'll walk down later & leave a book to get the book exchange going.

- As an art gallery
- As an information point
- As an exhibition box
- As a poetry box
- As a book exchange box

Andy said...

Or maybe rotate some of the ideas?

Anonymous said...

What a great idea - how can we exhibit?