There’s something magical about lending a friend a book you have enjoyed, the shared experience of a different reality, of romance, mystery or adventure, is a great way to strengthen any friendship. It’s a nice gesture, to pass on something that you’ve loved for someone else to enjoy. So, imagine a town where these sorts of interactions are commonplace, where neighbours look out for each other and where strangers share what they have, knowing that others will do the same. If you’re looking for a symbol for that sort of town, you could do worse than consider Banbury’s phone box library.
Since its official opening in June 2015, Banbury’s phone box library has enjoyed continuing success as the town’s favourite book sharing scheme.
Situated outside St John’s Church on South Bar, the phone box came to national att ention when BT issued an eviction order to the original “library”, citing health and safety fears about falling books. After a passionate online campaign, BT agreed to work together with Banbury Town Council and local engineering fi rm Hawkins to provide, fi t and install a brand new iconic red phone box next to the original to house this popular community resource. Nearly three years later, the phone box library is still going strong, fi lled with books for anyone to borrow, share or even just help themselves to.
The man who was behind the original library, Tom Christy, Head of Art at Middleton Cheney’s Chenderit School, continues to champion the scheme: “Reading, sharing and community is what the phone box library has always been about. It’s been wonderful to see how the idea has really caught everyone’s imagination over the last few years. Like events such as World Book Day, the phone box is there to celebrate a love of reading and to get people talking about books that have made a difference to them.”
Tom has gone one step
further this year, writing and illustrating a children’s story centred around the phone-box. “I wanted to organise a phone box library story time event for parents and kids during the summer holidays, the sort of thing that the real Banbury library does so brilliantly, and my wife suggested that I write an original story to make it more special.”
“Writing a children’s story is something I’d never attempted before, and it took a long time to get right. Centering the story on the phone box made the challenge even harder. I found myself writing a story where my hero couldn’t move or talk!”
“The book ended up being about a whole host of visitors to the phone box: a mum and her baby, a clever spider and even a bride on her way to St John’s church. Each one finds a book and unexpected adventure after stepping into the phone box. The story time event was a great success, the kids seemed to love the story and the pictures of Banbury while the adults enjoyed all the literary references that are hidden within the text. The message of the book is one that is particularly pertinent to children, when we share what we have, we all end up better off .”
Tom arranged for the book to be printed as gifts for family members at Christmas time, but has been surprised how popular the story has become. “The response has been staggering. I thought there might be a few people who would be interested but have had to print more copies to meet the demand. It just shows where a love of reading can take each of us.
Copies of the book “Banbury’s Phone-box Library” are available through the phone box library’s Facebook page, facebook.com/ phoneboxlibrary.