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Skipton Town Hall iconic red telephone boxes get a creative make over

Artists and Theatrical Designers, Caitlin Mawhinney and Charlotte Murray were commissioned by Skipton Town Hall to create installations within two historic red telephone boxes.

Double nominee for The Stage Debut Awards: Best Designer 2022, Caitlin – who hails from North Yorkshire, has a portfolio of work including notable Yorkshire cultural organisations such as Slung Low, Hull Truck Theatre and Leeds Playhouse. Charlotte and Caitlin have also recently undertaken co-design projects together for two National Trust properties.

The Skipton project was undertaken as part of the restoration of the front of Skipton Town Hall, funded by Skipton Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) which is part of a national programme of around 60 heritage-led regeneration projects, focused on revitalising high streets.

The iconic telephone boxes have stood at the main entrance to the building for over sixty years and are much loved by the town and its visitors; Skipton Town Hall wanted to create a space to celebrate Skipton’s local history, creativity, and community. The artists were selected after creative practitioners were invited to submit proposals for the unique art and heritage project to transform the two spaces.

The artists worked with Greatwood Community Primary School, and visited local community groups, to gather stories and inspiration for the installations. In the Gallery phone box, artwork was created at artist led creative workshops where pupils were invited to explore what they love about being part of the Skipton community.

For the Museum phone box, the artists created dioramas, following a timeline of six scenes inspired by memories and stories gathered from the local community about their time living and working in Skipton, both past and present. Recreations detailing scenes such as Craven Museum, local dances in the 1950s and Skipton Puppet Festival are displayed against a mural backdrop. This includes a painted excerpt from the diary of local cotton weaver in the 1800s, Richard Ryley – a much loved object on display in Craven Museum.

Caitlin Mawhinney, phone box artist, said: ‘’Having run workshops with a local primary school and collected stories from local residents, the artworks capture the community heart of Skipton – showing the town through the eyes of its children and recreating memories of local history from people who live and work in the area. We brought this to life through miniature dioramas and painted murals and we hope to spark joy and evoke memories in a quiet moment of reflection for visitors to the phone boxes.’’

Megan Hickes, Arts & Cultural Development Officer, said: “It has been fantastic to work with Caitlin and Charlotte on this project and to have the opportunity to share these installations with our visitors and community. We loved hearing the stories from local children and adults from the creative sessions – everything from people’s favourite places to go with their family in Skipton, to memories of attending dances and concerts.

We are excited to be able to creatively repurpose the telephone boxes and create an extension of Craven Museum and Exhibition Gallery – inspired by, and celebrating our local heritage and community.”

The telephone box exhibitions will have the same opening times at Skipton Town Hall, Monday to Saturday, 9.30am – 4.30pm.