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Activism

A trashed phone box has been bought for £1 and transformed into a community hub

The converted phone box in Lewisham, south London, now stocks books, food, drinks, toiletries and advice. Activists hope it will save lives.

A group of community activists have bought a decrepit phone box for a pound and transformed it into a miniature community centre.

The phone box has had quite the makeover – from sitting unloved and being used as a toilet under Deptford bridge in south London to being decked out with everything from toiletries and fresh fruit to lists of hotlines and pine cones to tell the weather.

Converted by members of Lewisham’s We Care Food Bank, the phone box is billed as the world’s first 24/7 phone box community hub.

Ray Barron-Woolford, co-founder of the food bank, told the Big Issue: “This phone box will save people’s lives.”

Barron-Woolford contacted BT on Twitter three weeks ago, complaining about the phone box – which was trashed, surrounded by rubbish, and used as a toilet.

The phone box before its restoration. Image: We Care Foodbank

Within three days he had signed a contract to buy it for £1 and turn it into a community hub.

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Launching on Tuesday, the phone box has been transformed – with no shortage of resources and items on offer for those in need.

The walls of the box feature a range of resources, local services, and even a map for a history walk. Image: We Care Foodbank

There are lists of numbers for local services and advice hotlines. There’s also cereal, children’s books, DVDs, toiletries and empty flasks, as well as fresh fruit – today plums and apples, tomorrow mangoes and bananas, perhaps.

The food bank has even teamed up with local coffee shops to give people a free tea or coffee for an hour – with a different coffee shop offering it every day, calling it “Under the Rainbow hour” in honour of the bridge.

Every inch of the phone box has been kitted out with things for sustenance, as well as for joy – such as a DVD of Absolutely Fabulous series two. Image: We Care Foodbank

But above all, Barron-Woolford says: “If you just want to come and scream, it’s a lovely space you can just come in and go ‘aaaaaaaaargh’, because sometimes that’s all we want to do.”

Pine cones – which, perhaps apocryphally, open when the weather is warm and close in colder temperatures – adorn the phone box, as do positive messages and images of birds.

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Beyond helping those in Lewisham, Barron-Woolford believes people will come from all over the capital to see the phone box.

“This phone box will bring people from all over London to this phone box to see what it’s about. So we’re going to boost the local economy for just one pound,” he said.

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