Disused Borders phone box given new lease of life and transformed into swap-shop

Phone box in Newtown St Boswells has been transformed into a community swap shop

It may no longer ring, but people are still calling at this old phone box in Newtown St Boswells. 

After years of lying empty, it's been given a new lease of life and is once again providing a vital service for locals.It's been transformed into a community 'swap shop' and is stocked with food, toiletries, books, and puzzles.Items are donated by locals and can be taken by whoever needs them. They can be swapped for other things, or borrowed and brought back.It was set up last March when lockdown hit, and those involved say that for some it's been a lifeline during the last 11 months.

Fiona Macpherson, who's a member of the community council and local initiative 'Outside the Box,' helped bring this project to life.

"When covid hit, there was an awful lot of isolation for everybody, and the phone box was empty and we kind of thought why not put in things that's going to help with boredom," she explained."Friends and other residents in the village started to drop things off either to the house or directly to the phone box and there were bags and bags being put in daily. "It's become a lifeline for some people, I started to see people were still struggling with food. "People are very private about losing their jobs, being on furlough, and not having the money they had before. It meant there was a place for people to share food without anybody knowing they needed it. and the stigma was gone."

It's kept stocked up with tinned and fresh food, books, and puzzles.

As well as donations from residents, the phone box is kept stocked up with the help of The Scottish Borders Social Enterprise Chamber (SBSEC) who also support the village food bank.Fiona regularly updates the village Facebook page when there's been a big restock, or when there's fresh fruit and veg up for grabs.

"There's also books, DVDs, board games, jigsaws - jigsaws are one of the most popular items because a lot of our older people like sitting in the house with a jigsaw and they're hard to actually keep stock of," continues Fiona.

"There were baby clothes at one point nappies, dummies, baby toys. And residents round about here keep an eye on it and they let me know if there's any need, if there's something missing, you know 'there's no beans can you bring some more beans down!'"

Items are free for anyone in need, can be swapped out for something else, or borrow and brought back.

They've become a British icon and for decades they played such an essential role in our lives, but these days traditional phone boxes have become somewhat obsolete. 

Recently there's been a trend of villages across the UK reclaiming and repurposing them after BT said it was going to start getting ride of them in areas in which they were no longer used.

In other towns we've seen them transformed into miniature libraries, and even bakeries.This one was bought by the community council 20 years ago for just one pound. And has once again connected this community at a time when we've all been kept apart.

Giving people an opportunity to help, and be helped.