Art exhibition opens at South Lopham phone box

It played an important role in village life for decades before falling out of use as a result of advances in modern technology and communication.

However, an abandoned iconic red phone box has been returned to community use at a south Norfolk village as one of the county's smallest public art spaces.

Norfolk's newest gallery opened in South Lopham, near Diss, last week after being decorated with the drawings by local schoolchildren.

The opening of the exhibition of work by pupils at St Andrew's Primary School, in nearby North Lopham, comes after South Lopham Parish Council bought the disconnected phone kiosk for �1 earlier this year.

The artwork by Year 3 pupils is to be the first in a series of community projects at the small red box, off Church Road, which include plans for a swap shop and a book exchange.

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The initiative comes after parish councillors bought the box, near the village war memorial, as part of BT's adopt a kiosk scheme after it was deemed too costly to retain it as a pay phone.

Pupils from the Church of England school were invited to add some extra colour to the box after being inspired by the work of artist Kate Neal's interpretation of the Creation stories in the Bible.

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However, the gallery space was so small that staff could only fit drawings illustrating four of the seven days of Creation into the newly-adopted box.

Jenny Vere, community governor at St Andrew's Primary, said the colourful artwork, which was created by the seven and eight-year-olds, would be on display for the next month.

'I think they are quite chuffed that people, apart from their parents, have seen their work.

'These sorts of phone boxes are listed buildings and it is brilliant to see this one being used.

'I think people are pleased that it is a listed building being recognised,' she said.

More than 140 red phone kiosks have been saved by communities in Norfolk and Suffolk since BT announced that it was scrapping hundreds of underused and not profitable pay phones.

'Parish councils were invited to adopt their disconnected box for �1 to keep it in their towns and villages.

Robert McCaw, chairman of South Lopham Parish Council, said the kiosk was rarely used as a phone and it was nice to see it being put to good use after the council bought the box more than six months ago.

'It was felt that they are a real feature of the countryside and it adds to the appearance of the village and we did not want to lose it.

'The main reason to keep it is that it is a traditional part of the countryside.'

'We will have a go as a book exchange, but it depends on whether the local residents want to support it. It is a little project to get villagers involved and I think it is rather a nice touch.

'We have asked people for their views and hope it will be supported and has received an enthusiastic response from the school,' he said.

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