Kiosk owners open door for new Police Box Festival

Tupiniquim Brasilian crepe stall and juice bar, owned by Fernando and Gardenia Miranda (left and right). Picture: Greg Macvean
Tupiniquim Brasilian crepe stall and juice bar, owned by Fernando and Gardenia Miranda (left and right). Picture: Greg Macvean
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They are the iconic blue kiosks that inspired Doctor Who’s world-famous time-travelling Tardis.

And while police boxes are still a common sight across Edinburgh, many are overlooked as mere street furniture.

The boxes used to serve the community and now we want that to happen again

JONATHAN ELDERS

But time lords at this weekend’s Edinburgh Police Box Festival aim to transport people back to an era when these quirky cabins offered a vital service.

A group of owners, many of whom bought them during a Police Scotland sell-off, have clubbed together for the inaugural event to celebrate not only the history of the police boxes but their future too.

Many of the once-neglected structures have been given a new lease of life as florists, art galleries and even a costume-making studio. Artist Johnathan Elders, who bought the Pier Place box at Newhaven Harbour last year, is among the collective behind the free showcase.

He said: “We want the boxes to be seen as part of the community. They used to serve the community and now we want that to happen again. They are really special and this is a chance to celebrate them.

“They are fascinating, iconic spaces but for so long they have been closed doors, a bit of an enigma.

“I imagine people coming in from abroad wonder what these things are and, while there are police boxes elsewhere, there aren’t many in the UK.

“Edinburgh has kept hold of them which is in itself unusual and there is still a lot of curiosity about them.”

The Edinburgh Police Box Festival will be held tomorrow and Sunday from 11am until 5pm at the various boxes. Owners of nine Edinburgh police boxes – ranging from a mini costume-making studio at Bruntsfield Links to a tiny florist in Canonmills – have signed up to the festival and hope that it will become an annual event.

Each of the units will offer something different, including jazz music, jam sessions, art exhibitions and food and drink.

Among them are the owners of Tupiniquim creperie, a green police box in Middle Meadow Walk.

Fernando Miranda and Gardenia Silva launched an 11th-hour fundraising campaign when it went up for sale for £20,000. Mr Miranda said: “It’s great to be able to engage with the community, and it’s exciting to get together with all the other police box owners. We are very supportive of each other and that is one nice aspect of this event.”

Tomorrow will see two musicians inviting members of the public to jam with them, offering a choice of 35 musical instruments laid out on a table outside the police box.

Mr Miranda added: “Even people who don’t know much about music can have a go, even if it’s just on a glockenspiel.”

From 10pm on Saturday, the police box will double as a projector for two short films, while on Sunday people will be invited to make their own crepes.

Unique to Edinburgh, the police boxes were designed by Ebenezer MacRae between 1931 and 1933. He created 85 in total, and they were made of cast iron at the Carron foundry near Falkirk.

The police boxes were used as “mini police stations”, predating radio and mobile technology, featuring a small desk, telephone, doocots in the walls for filing papers and a sink.