In UK, refurbished phone boxes proudly serve the community

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. godsend / ˈgɒdˌsɛnd / (n.) – something good that happens unexpectedly, especially when one needs it the most

    I didn’t have enough money to buy lunch, so my friend’s extra sandwich was a godsend.

  2. on the go / ɒn ðə goʊ / (idiom) – while moving

    Burgers are very convenient because you can eat them on the go.

  3. obsolete / ˌɒb səˈlit / (adj.) – not used anymore

    The development of computers made typewriters obsolete.

  4. repurpose / ˌriˈpɜr pəs / (v.) – to give a new use for something

    They repurposed old cans into small flower pots.

  5. defibrillator / diˈfɪb rəˌleɪ tər / (n.) – a device used to restore one’s heartbeat

    The patient’s heart stopped beating, but the defibrillator helped him survive.


Read the text below.

Once upon a time, the sight of a phone box on the street signaled safety or reassurance. For anyone in trouble, a public phone booth could be a godsend. For people wanting to make a quick call on the go, a pay phone was a cheap and instant gateway to connection. But the smartphone made phone boxes all but obsolete.

Not really, says Britain’s communications regulator, the Office of Communications, or Ofcom. The organization stepped up to save the phone box, even though usage of England’s iconic red boxes is down by 96%. Under Ofcom’s supervision, 5,000 phone boxes are still operable in areas with poor mobile coverage, high accident and suicide rates, and streets where people still occasionally rely on public phones.

Otherwise, those eye-catching red booths are being repurposed by England’s charities and other organizations, giving them a second chance to serve the community. For example, British Telecom has teamed up with the Community Heartbeat Trust to convert 1,000 phone boxes into stations that hold defibrillators, electrical devices designed to save people who have just had a heart attack. BT charges £1 (¥150) to adopt a box and will provide free electricity for the first seven years of the project.

In Kingsbridge, Devon, a phone box gained new life as England’s smallest nightclub, complete with a music system and disco lighting. For £1 per track, a maximum of two people can sing and dance their hearts out — or at least until 10 p.m., when the box closes.

Or how about turning a phone box into a local library-cum-art gallery? In south Devon, Nia Pearson opened the Martin Gallery in 2016, named after a friend who died of cancer. The Martin Gallery asks for a donation of 50 pence (¥75) per book, which then goes to Cancer Research U.K. In five years, Pearson’s project has raised more than £6,500 (¥970,000). (The Japan Times)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • For anyone in trouble, a public phone booth could be a godsend. Even though usage of phone boxes in the UK is down by 96%, Ofcom still stepped up to save them. Do you think they’re worth saving? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • The red phone boxes are being repurposed by various organizations in the UK. Some were made into defibrillator stations, a nightclub, and library-cum-art gallery. If you were given the chance to repurpose a phone box, what would you convert it to (ex. a mini photo booth, a charging station)? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Ofcom doesn’t think that smartphones made phone boxes obsolete. Do you think phone boxes can still be useful in your country today? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What things do you think could become obsolete in the future (ex. paper money, TV)? Why? Discuss.