INTRODUCED in 1935 to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V, thousands of the iconic red K6 telephone boxes have now been sold off by British Telecom because of dwindling public usage.
Since sales of the kiosks began in the 1980s, they have been bought for use for everything from libraries and sculptures to stores for life-saving medical equipment.
The box in Stichill, near Kelso, was bought for a £1 by the local community council under BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme, launched in 2008.
Located in the village’s main street, at the foot of Alec Black’s garden, its cast iron frame and teak door were restored by Mr Black and neighbour Len McDermid last summer.
Since then the box, which weighs three-quarters of a ton, has been used as an information centre, with displays of historical photos of the village, a potted history of the Stichill area by Margaret Carlaw, details about local wildlife and an exhibition about Ednam Primary School’s centenary.
This month and next it is being used by Kelso Camera Club for exhibitions of members’ work.
Mr McDermid says it is a real asset for the community and one which people are being encouraged to use.
“Once the community council had agreed to buy the box from BT for a pound, I said I’d look after it,” Mr McDermid said. “With the help of my neighbour, Alec Black, we restored it last summer. It is a visual amenity for the village and now it is an asset as well.
“But restoring it and looking after it is one thing, making sure it gets used another. So we were delighted that the Kelso Camera Club accepted an invitation to put on an exhibition in the kiosk during July, with another planned for August.
“The aim is to make it a real showcase for local creative talent and a community asset for the village.”
Mr McDermid says there is the added luxury of the kiosk benefitting from electric lighting 24 hours a day due to a quirk of the process whereby the boxes were sold off. “Before they were sold, the kiosks were just allowed to become run down and eventually the electricity was turned off, with BT saying it was because they were not being used enough.
“But when they came to sell the Stichill one, it had to be certified by an electrician, which meant the power had to be restored.
“It means, for now, the kiosk is lit all the time, although the electricity will be permanently turned off at some point in the near future, I would suspect.”
Kelso Camera Club chairman Ian Topping says mounting an exhibition in a phonebox has been quite a challenge.
“Len McDermid had been to our last exhibition and had been impressed by what he saw and asked if the club would be interested in using the phonebox,” Mr Topping said.
Used to showing off more than 90 photographs in its big exhibitions, the club had to select only nine prints and on a much smaller scale than members were used to.
“That was the challenge, but we saw it as another super opportunity to show what the club’s members can do and the fact that it will be one of the smallest art galleries in Scotland also made it a bit special.”
BETWEEN its introduction in 1935 and when the last one rolled off the production line in 1968, there were nearly 70,000 red K6 phone boxes across Britain.
K6 means it is the sixth design – kiosk number six. It was designed by architect Sir Giles Scott who was responsible for Battersea power station in London.
The Royal Fine Arts Commission approved Post Office red as the standard colour, though Scott had apparently wanted the outside of urban boxes to be silver and rural ones dove-grey.
By this spring, only 11,000 of the 51,500 public kiosks in the UK were the traditional red boxes.
In May, BT announced plans to sell 60 of the classic red boxes, giving private individuals their first chance in 25 years to own a piece of British history for £1,950.
BT is giving 400 boxes in London and Weymouth a facelift, using 1,500 litres of red paint, for the Olympic Games.
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