|Robson was cool|
The opening of the Red Box Art Gallery in Hexham, Northumberland was a big success. Lots of media, local Press and TV attended and our very own Geordie celebrity Robson Green, (Casualty, Soldier Soldier, Robson and Jerome, Wire in the Blood, Strikeback) was charm personified as he pressed the flesh, did several interviews, and made it sound like he was opening a new branch of the Tate Modern. I’d put him in charge of my SAS unit anytime.
|TV Royalty arrives on the red carpet|
A young ceileh band from the local high school played some infectious Irish music, a very cold butler served everyone with bucks fizz and a jolly time was had by all.
No one uses our iconic British red phone boxes much any more due to the relentless march of the mobile phone so, since 2008, BT has been selling decommissioned red phone boxes to local communities for just a £1 under its Adopt a Kiosk scheme, enabling villages across the land to preserve part of theirs and Britain’s Heritage.
In 2002 there were 92,000 BT phone boxes on our streets, now there are 51,500 kiosks, including 11,000 traditional red phone boxes, across the UK.
One such unloved box was turned into the Red Box Art Gallery – the smallest art gallery in Hexham – in fact it is probably now one of the smallest art galleries in the world. A 1930’s K6 phone box – a design classic – was languishing in a side street in the Northumberland market town of Hexham, looking just a bit scruffy next to the grit bin earlier this year unaware that its fortunes were about to change.
|Only the grit bin for company…|
Allendale Forge Studios Art Centre to the rescue. The team there decided to try and buy the box and turn it into an art gallery and offer local businesses and and artists a space to create and display their work. A few things needed to happen however, before the transformation could take place. Once BT agreed to the purchase, planning permission for change of use from the council was needed and all kinds of people helped with the Cinderella like transformation of the lucky box.
|No one was calling home|
The telephony was removed and the box was given a lick of paint by BT employee Joe Boyce, who paints all their phone boxes. It’s a good job he likes red. A huge team of volunteers and helpers came together to help out and donate equipment and services for the launch. The young entrepreneurs from the Forge sorted out the artwork for the box. Local woodwork work wonder Tony put up the shelves, Linda the church secretary sorted out the car parking, Kevin the community Policeman was on hand to manage the crowds, Norman contributed the new glass panels, the local Allen heads iron monger fixed the door and BT agreed to keep the box lit for 5 years free of charge. Apparently the group found it hard to insure the box as a gallery but the Hexham NFU (National Farmers Union) came to the rescue, ‘once they stopped laughing’ that is. It really is a true community venture.
|The Van Gogh of phone box painting|
The iconic phone box is a K6 and was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1935 to commemorate George the Fifth’s Silver Jubilee and now basically becomes like any other art gallery.
As one of the very few smallest public art galleries in the world it has its own curator and volunteers to make sure each month there’s something new to view. It even has its own cleaner to keep it in tip top condition. And of course thanks to the lovely Robson Green for opening the box to the public. He is a native of Hexham has recently been seen in his latest series Tales from Northumberland which certainly shows this beautiful part of the world at its best.
|Ever tried wrapping a phone box on a windy day?|
Check out the video of Robson opening the smallest art gallery in the world!