#LastCall – our red phone box project

There’s been such a warm and enthusiastic reception for our red phone box project, that Feral Productions and me sprang into action to find it a proper name! Our project is ‘Last Call’. Or #LastCall.

#LastCall seems to us to capture the fragile state of so many of our red phone boxes just now, when their first purpose is eroded and so many of them have been abandoned to the weather. But it also suggests that sense of voices on the line, indeed of that very last voice caught in the wires, even as the telephone itself is stripped from the box. We’ve been so struck by the interest and affection for Britain’s red phone boxes. Thank you everyone who’s been in touch already to tell us stories – about a phone box saved by a resident’s (actual) sit-in, and the photo of another one with placard-bearing demonstrators ranged protectively in front of it. Yes, in deeply rural Herefordshire.

Just before lockdown, I spent a day hunting red phone boxes in north Herefordshire. When I tracked them down, I parked the car, took camera and notebook, heaved open their weighty doors and spent some cold minutes writing inside each one.

I found only one with a working dialling tone, in Pembridge. It looked loved. I wrote:

You tune to the comfort of the dialling tone,
that burrs in the ear like the accents of home.

Others were sadly decrepit, particularly this one at Mortimer’s Cross. This phone box lives where one of the fiercest battles of the Wars of the Roses took place in 1461.

However, not all #LastCall phone boxes are in trouble. In Bodenham, at England’s Gate, is this beautifully cared for box. I liked its red clock. And wrote:

now I have no wires but shelves
I have no speech but words

In Weobley, the phone box was hiding up a ginnel that was turning into a muddy footpath towards fields. But the box looked very tidy, and when I got up to it, I saw it had been fitted with a defibrillator. My photo looks towards the field, but this #LastCall box has a great view back into the village square.

Suddenly impressed by the defibrillator, I thought of love, and village life, and wrote:

Here you can find your heart restarted,
even if you thought it was too late.

And there were more! But now I’m looking at the lists of tempting #LastCall boxes that Estelle from Feral Productions is tracking down south of Hereford. She really did find a dog in one of them. We are making a shortlist. And I’m setting to work over some poem drafts.

Please do look out for #LastCall on social media – and we hope you’ll tell us more stories of your own #LastCall phone boxes!

6 thoughts on “#LastCall – our red phone box project

  1. Back in the early 1970s, 4 of us would cram into our local phone box to listen to dial-a disc, which played one of the top 3 or 5 records from the charts on a loop, changing each day. Best 2p we ever spent each day!

  2. Hi Jean I have been asked to let you know about 2 of our local phone boxes. I live in Little Dewchurch and in about 2016 the Parish Council took the opportunity of buying our box for the village use from BT, I guess as many villages did, I helped as part of a group to refurbish and convert it into a book swap facility which it still is today and widely used.
    Following on from this a neighbouring village of Wormelow, through Rosemary Rigby, asked me for help and advice on their box which they had aquired. I again provided and fitted the shelves for this to convert into a ‘library’ for them. Of particular interest in this case, as the box was really derelict, Rosemary had all the glass panels replaced with local people and business sponsoring each glass panel, and each panel was engraved with the sponsors name which was a nice touch. I have photos of both boxes if required. Andrew

  3. Hi Andrew, thank you for getting in touch! What lovely stories. If you can send us the photos, I’d love to share them as part of the response to our #LastCall project. (You can contact me through the Contacts page on this website). It seems really to have struck a nerve, so many communities feel strongly about their phone boxes. I particularly like the way this action spread from village to village…
    All best wishes, Jean

  4. A group of us in Garway adopted the phone box on the common several years back, raised money with a 400 celebration of Shakespeare in the village hall and refurbished the box with volunteer help. It has become the K6 Art Centre (K6 being the model number of the box). We began by asking people to write down their memories of the phone box and these we exhibited in the box; some funny, some poignant. Before widespread landlines and mobiles, these boxes were places where people got bad news, good news, flirted with sweethearts, dialled up discs to listen to (really!) or just sheltered from the rain. The Hereford Times covered the grand opening and the poet Fiona Sampson cut the big yellow ribbon and declared the box to be the cultural heart of the village. We’ve had numerous
    exhibitions since that including a display of broken crockery found in peoples’ gardens, art work from Garway school and a photographic exhibition of our corrugated tin village hall and its events from 1920 to the present day. It’s bare at the moment, largely due to Covid but it will be back. Soon, we hope. I have photos if you would like some Jean!

  5. This sounds wonderful Corinne! #LastCall has demonstrated the strong affection that communities have for their phone boxes. I’d love to see photos! Can I share them as part of the response to this project? You can email them to me via the Contacts page on this website. Thank you for getting in touch! Best wishes, Jean

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