If you’ve ever wondered what can be done with an unloved and unused phone box just look at what the community in a small village near me have done with theirs.
Crossmichael Community Council bought the village’s BT telephone box for the princely sum of £1 and turned it into a 24-hour library, now known as the Wee Book Hoose. For non-Scots speakers that translates into The Small Book House.
It’s been a very successful community project in which adults in the village and school pupils have all been involved. I was delighted to be invited to attend the opening ceremony and watch Crossmichael resident, Jean Galloway cut the ribbon and declare what may be the smallest public library in the country open for business.
She was then supposed to enter the library but the heavy door proved problematic – I’d forgotten how heavy old phone box doors are – until John Nelson, chair of the Crossmichael Community Council came to the rescue. Jean then entered the library to choose a book and I was particularly impressed by how she homed in on not only one but two of my books!
Both I and another author and publisher, Jayne Baldwin, had been invited to say a few words about reading and we were highly amused when John Nelson in his opening speech mentioned several times how delighted everyone was to welcome two famous authors to the event.
He stopped us from becoming too swollen-headed by telling the assembled company about how his granddaughter quizzed him beforehand on the identity of famous author. She asked: “Is it J K Rowling?”
“Roald Dahl? Oh, no, he’s dead, can’t be him. Julia Donaldson?”
At least Jayne writes for children and has more chance of being recognised as a real writer amongst primary pupils than I have. It is as well to keep one’s feet planted in the earth.
The project received lots of support both locally and from further afield from authors who have donated books and sent letters of support. Local bookshops gifted books as well as shops in Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town. Tesco provided prizes for the winners of a children’s competition.
Four competitions were run in the village prior to the opening of the Wee Book Hoose. Young primary children drew pictures of the Wee Book Hoose while older children were asked to think about 101 uses for a phone box and submit a poem, story or art work. Members of the youth club were invited to enter the competition by imagining they have only one phone call to make: who would they call and what would they say?
Adults were given the opportunity to reminisce about the first phone call they made or received. Community councillor Alexandra Monlaur, one of the main project organisers, judged the adult competition and said some of the entries brought a tear to her eye. She is planning to collect them into a wee booklet.
I’d asked several local authors to donate a book to the library and was delighted by the response. In my brief talk, I told of how reading had taken me from adventures with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to visiting countries I’ll never see, from solving crimes along with fictional detectives (or never quite solving them before the end) to enjoying the tears and smiles of countless ‘happy ever afters’. I ended by saying (particularly directed at the pupils – who were probably still wondering who I was) that any writer will say they were avid readers before they ever wrote a word.
Home baking is elevated to an art form – and I intend to pile my plate as soon as the photographer disappears. Photo courtesy of Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com
The church bakers had been busy and an array of wonderful home baking awaited the guests in the village hall. All the competition entries were displayed around the walls and Jayne and I handed over the prizes to the winners.
It’s a fantastic project, which has really captured everyone’s imagination. Next time you walk by a little-used telephone box think about what a wonderful library it would make.
And a wee plug for the photographer Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com who has recently published a superb book of landscape photos in homage to Dumfries & Galloway.