Red phonebox revamped as a an art installation

Steven Wheatley at the phonebox.
Steven Wheatley at the phonebox.
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THEY are iconic red structures that will always have a place in the heart of Britons – even if those same admirers have left them abandoned and unwanted.

But the love was not lost for landscape architect Steven Wheatley, who jumped at the chance to turn an under-threat phone box in Portobello into a piece of public street art.

The Porty Light Box near the junction of Portobello High Street and Bellfield Street was to be decommissioned by BT.

Now, as one of only 50 red kiosks remaining in the Capital, it will be restored thanks to the efforts of a band of residents led by Mr Wheatley who have raised £1720 for the project.

The architect combined forces with Portobello Community Council to buy the phone box as part of BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme.

He said: “I’d seen this phone box and always wondered what we could do with it – maybe turn it into a greenhouse or something.

“I got wind that BT were decommissioning it and I then had to convince the local community council to adopt it, to which they agreed.

“I guess it was my suggestion that got the ball rolling. There was another one down at King’s Road, but that’s gone in the last couple of weeks, so I think this kiosk is the last one of that type in this area.”

A new door and lock has been fitted to the booth, with the internal walls sanded down.

The next step will be to install LED lights and white, transparent acrylic panels to give the booth a festive feel in the countdown to Christmas, before turning it into an one of the Lothians’ most unique art galleries from spring next year.

Mr Wheatley said the plan was to initially showcase a mix of images by schoolchildren. Each piece of art will be visible from the outside of the kiosk, rather than visitors having to queue to enter one at a time.

Mr Wheatley said: “There are other community projects where you go in and it’s like a book shop or a gallery where they have little pictures inside.

“We might be able to do that, but our first thoughts were because of the higher risk of vandalism, we’ll have to keep it locked to begin with and see how it is treated and how people value it.”

Portobello is not the first community across Scotland to have rallied to save one of the classic red kiosks.

Residents of Kilmuir on the Black Isle formed a human barricade to stop their own red telephone box from being taken away. Cars were used to block access to the booth, with a rota ensuring it was protected at all times until BT allowed the kiosk to be “adopted” for £1.

Mr Wheatley said he had been equally determined that Portobello’s last kiosk would remain part of the street’s 
heritage.

He said: “You’ve got two parts of the local community. The older part, they’re quite nostalgic, they quite like it.

“And then you’ve got another part who can see the creative, artistic and fun side of it. It pleased multiple groups.”