Town Hall Phone Boxes (Middlesbrough, Giles Gilbert Scott, C.1936)

The iconic red telephone boxes behind Middlesbrough town hall have been a familiar sight in the town for decades (and surely a part of every five-piece band’s promo photos).

Designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1936 (that’s referring to the K6 model seen here – there are earlier designs dating back to the 1920s), only about 8000 of the red phone boxes remain in use. Many have been converted for use as pop-up libraries, defibrillator stations or – as Middlesbrough’s were in 2021 – art installations.

Stephen Hurrel’s ‘Transmit, Transform, Translate’ was part of the wonderful Middlesbrough Art Weekender, and saw the five boxes fitted with coloured lights which lit up in response to sound and movement. The piece was initially commissioned by Creative Factory for Middlesbrough Borough Council, and eventually produced with Navigator North.

Photo from the artist Stephen Hurrel

Here is a description of the work, sent by the artist.

Resonant of a past age, these redundant yet iconic phone boxes have become triggers of memories for an older generation and perhaps objects of curiosity for a younger generation. 

They signify a transition, or leap, from an analogue world to a digital world, from objects full of life and sound to the silent relics of today.

Now, for the dark winter months the artist has reactivated them using light, colour, sound and movement.

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