Lewisham’s Micro-Library: B-riiing your own book

Phonebox library Pic: Chiara Rimella

Phonebox library Pic: Chiara Rimella

A rescued telephone box in Brockley has re-opened its door as a community book exchange.

Open 24/7, and free for all to use, the mini-library was launched last Saturday at an event hosted by the Brockley Society, a community charity for Telegraph Hill and New Cross.

Sebastian Handley, local resident who renovated the Telephone box, said: “I didn’t just want to stick shelves in there. I worked out every nut and bolt to make it a little shrine of magic. I packed extra lights into the ceiling void, put a yellow filter on the down-light and laid a carpet on the floor, so if you stumble across it at night it really is a startling sight, like a miniature light house!”

The book exchange, at the corner of Lewisham Way and Tyrwhitt Road, is one of three phone booths that have been adopted by the community thanks to BT’s ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme.

The initiative sees disused telephone boxes that are costly to maintain sold to charities or local authorities for a nominal fee of £1.

Phonebox library Pic: Chiara Rimella

Phonebox library Pic: Chiara Rimella

Dre MC, Brockley resident and participant in Brockley Max arts festival, said: “It’s innovative to say the least, ambitious as well. At least it preserves the telephone boxes in Brockley – I might even be inclined to donate.”

All local residents are encouraged to leave books for others in what Handley calls “as much a social experiment as functioning library”.

As he inscribed in the kiosk: “It’s not what you get, it’s what you leave behind.”

The other two listed kiosks are at the edges of Brockley Conservation Area on Lewisham Way, one at the corner of Wickham Road and the other at Breakspears Road. For the moment, these two are vacant.

The telephone boxes are Grade II listed “buildings” and were designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, the designer of Battersea Power Station and Tate Modern in the 1920s.

The Brockley Box Collective, a group of local residents, has been searching for a new function for the remaining kiosks since they were acquired in March this year. Different options discussed included the possibility of turning them into wi-fi hubs, greenhouses or art spaces.

Last month, all three telephone booths were used by art collective Senza Fili Project for their ‘Connect’ exhibition at Deptford X art festival. The installations explored the irony by which people isolate themselves in secluded spaces in order to communicate with others.


  1. phil baird December 21, 2013
  2. Keith March 25, 2014
  3. margaret April 11, 2016

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