BT today revealed that more than 330 of its iconic red phone boxes across Yorkshire and The Humber 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 443 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.
Sarah Walker, BT Enterprise unit director for the North 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 Yorkshire and The Humber 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.”
As part of plans to modernise its payphone estate, over 400 payphones across towns and cities have also been upgraded by BT to digital units, called Street Hubs, offering free ultrafast public Wi-Fi, free UK phone calls, USB device charging, environmental monitoring and more. BT’s Street Hubs also play a vital role in sharing public information, for example during the Covid-19 pandemic Street Hub units across the country have displayed key advice from Public Health England and local councils. Street Hubs form part of BT’s plan to transform the UK’s high streets with a digital communications service designed for the 21st century.
Patrick Brompton Parish Council – Defibrillator, Richmondshire
A traditional red BT phone box in the North Yorkshire village of Patrick Brompton has been turned into a defibrillator unit, a conversion which could help save lives.
The former payphone, situated centrally in the village, was adopted for just £1 by the parish council through BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme. It now houses a defibrillator which can be used in emergency situations.
Brian Whitehead, vice chairman of Patrick Brompton Parish Council, said: “As a council we were really keen to adopt our red phone box and we didn’t want to see it go.
“It’s a fact that no-one really uses payphones anymore, but they look quite iconic, especially in rural areas like ours, so we wanted to retain it from a heritage perspective.
“The defibrillator we did have in the village was behind the 18th Century school room, so we’ve moved it to the phone box and think it’s a much better place for it.
“Thankfully, it’s never had to be used but it’s reassuring to know it’s there in case we ever need it in an emergency.”
Scarborough Maritime Museum, Scarborough
In Scarborough the local Maritime Museum also spotted an opportunity to adopt the last red phone box on the sea front.
Mark Vasey, Chairman of Scarborough Maritime Museum, said: “With the help of local people, and grants from the county council and businesses, we restored the phone box and turned it into the world’s smallest heritage centre. It is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year and has a recorded five-minute history audio commentary triggered upon entry.
“The phone box also features many images of Scarborough harbour in its fishing and shipbuilding heyday. We are very glad to have played our part in restoring this red kiosk, giving it a renewed purpose as a tourist attraction for our local area.”
Originally published on www.yorkshire-business.co.uk by West & North Yorkshire Chamber