Red telephone box

Editor’s comment

At Critical Mass we are delighted to learn of the success of the Telephone Box Community Hub in Lewisham. Just over a year ago a disused old telephone box was carefully restored and created into a hub for the local community by Ray Woolford and his colleagues at Kath’s Place in Lewisham. We have no hesitation in celebrating this success and acknowledge the enormous appreciation felt about this and similar endeavours in many communities. It has been a brilliant addition to the support Kath’s Place is providing to local people. 

Ray itemises the impressive range of basic necessities which are offered to people who need them. His list indicates clearly how poverty has made it impossible for so many people to manage to purchase even such simple and vital items.

All over the country there are communities gathering together and supporting each other and demonstrating the enterprising and generous qualities that many human beings possess. A number of activities and facilities have proved a huge success, and many of them are run without local council or government support.

It is heartening to see these enterprises being set up and proving so successful, but at the same time there is undoubtedly something deeply flawed in a country where these initiatives have become essential lifelines for so many. The shameful level of inequality that persists in the UK, and indeed the world over, indicates something seriously amiss with our values and morals. So, while we will always support and encourage the local community groups that are providing lifelines of this kind, it is essential that we keep striving to make radical changes to society to one based on socialist principles, so that it is no longer necessary to support families and individuals in dire need, support which at the moment means the difference between life and death, between hope and despair, to so many.

Jo Buchanan

It is one year since we turned an unloved abandoned phone box on Deptford High Street Into a 24/7 Community Hub .

Who would have thought anyone could turn an unloved abandoned classic British phone box into an invaluable facility for the local community? Under The Rainbow on Deptford High Street is just and was given to the community of Deptford in Lewisham by the We Care Food Bank team at Kath’s Place. It is a Kath Duncan outreach project on the aptly named Friendly Street and, ever since the project began, it has made people smile, has been the cover image of The Big Issue, had been featured not only on ALL UK TV channels, but has also gained fans globally from Sweden, Netherlands, USA, and Japan. Finally it was awarded a prize for the best use of a phone box in Britain. 

Since its launch on Valentine’s Day 2022, the phone box, bought for just £1, has given advice and signposting through its up-to-date local help advice directory on the wall which once had a phone. In just 12 months in this tiny space, it has given away and swapped 1,234 books, 460 Sanitary Towels, 280 condoms, 11 packets of incontinent pads, 56 eco nappy packs, 38 Boxes of Bric a Brac such as pots and pans and cutlery, mugs, and plates, 84 Winter Coats, 76 handbags and rucksack bags, 97 pairs of shoes, 53 jumpers, 111 T-Shirts, 116 coffees, 48 shelf loads of fruit and food, 52 lots of pet food, 35 boxes of children’s toys, 11 sleeping bags, 23 pairs of trainers, 17 umbrellas, 7 Children Scooters, 70 woolly hats, 34 scarves, 5 clocks, 11 kettles, 16 coffee makers, 7 slow cookers and 240 soft toys. It has helped find one missing cat via the in-phone box noticeboard and helped two Syrian women refugees learn to cycle. These figures do not include the staggering number of items donated to the phone box daily by the local community, sandwiches, books, clothes, unwanted gifts, and the odd £10 note. 

When we took over the phone box everyone said a community hub left open 24/7 without security or staff would be trashed. During the first few weeks I checked on our phone box daily, and one year on we clean and spray the entire phone box once a month. Today it’s the people of Deptford passing by who pop in to drop off the odd gift, borrow a book or just tidy the shelves, whilst the children love rooting through the kid’s box with toys, books and the occasional packet of sweets. Meanwhile, not to be overlooked is the advice and information on the walls which helps women contact support to flee domestic violence. Those new to the area can find access locally to food, advice and support and even a loo. Tenants with an unscrupulous landlord can get the number of a lawyer who will fight their corner for free. 

It’s amazing how powerful the kindness of strangers is when you have a project that can be enjoyed and used by everyone living, working, or enduring homelessness in Deptford, and also amazing what you can do with just one square foot of space with thought and love.

You can support this project by donating to We Care go fund appeals or buy a £1 Lewisham Community Lottery Ticket that helps fund our work and other grassroots organisations during this cost of living crisis.

Kath Duncan Honoured in Kirkcaldy

We have other news from Ray Woolford. After 100 years the LGBTQ civil rights hero, Kath Duncan, has been honoured in her hometown of Kirkcaldy. Kath Duncan was a communist, a particularly prominent activist in London in the 1930s, who has largely been overlooked by history. This mural was completed recently by London-based artist Boudicca Collins and local residents for LGBT History Month. With love from Deptford.

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