Britain's Iconic Red Telephone Boxes Get A New Lease On Life

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Red Kiosk Company via Facebook.

Big Ben, London taxis, double-decker buses... and red phone booths.  On English city street corners, popping out of nowhere against a stone wall in the countryside,  vivid red telephone boxes are part of Britain's visual signature. 

Now almost obsolete, their best purpose today seems to be as a feature of postcards or pics on social media that scream 'my trip to England!'.  Their worst purposes as unused, abandoned spaces are... ugh (let your imagination run wild).

But imagine going up to a red phone booth for... a cup of coffee?  Takeout curry?

A new initiative means that's exactly what some of the UK's endearing red phone booths are now offering up. 

With the help of a real estate firm, these famous enclosed nooks are making a comeback -- some as (literally!) small businesses like miniature cafes, newsstands and souvenir stalls, while others are repurposed for noncommercial uses, such as "defibrillator cabinets" or community book exchanges.

British Red Kiosk Company (RKC) Estates is purchasing neglected phone booths, fixing them up, and renting them out to small business owners. According to Frommer's, there are fewer than 10,000 booths left in the country, and about half of those are no longer used. 

After initial set-up expenses, the monthly rent for one of these booths is around £150 (about CA$250) for a location on a busy street. As Britain faces an urgent need for cheap commercial rent options, it's a win-win situation for British heritage - and business owners or communities with big ideas for small spaces.

Tayyab Shafiq, a 25-year-old mechanical engineering graduate, tells Daily Mail he was able to secure three in a row to open what he calls the "world's smallest takeaway" in London.

"I thought it would be a great benefit to turn a place where people vomit on Friday nights into a useful thing," he said.

"From afar it looks like a small telephone booth but it has refrigeration, drinks, cookies, curries, biryani, samosas and kebabs. We have a wash basin too, and we had a full hygiene inspection with a good response."

Re-imagined into new purposes rather than disappearing from the landscape, these symbols of traditional British life will now live on... in more ways than populating tourists' instagram feeds.

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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