Caught by the River

Final Call

12th August 2023

Final Call, the latest project of William Arnold, sees the photographer documenting — and trying to save — the telephone boxes of the Isle of Mull. He writes:

‘As mobile phone coverage becomes near-universal, the BT telephone box is seldom used and under threat. On a recent trip to the Isle of Mull, I was saddened to discover most of the rural kiosks in a very dilapidated state. These former nodes of communication have evidently made or received fewer than the 52 calls per year required for BT to maintain them.’

Most of the way through his tour of the island’s boxes, William has been fighting to preserve what once brought ‘such comfort to the lonely hill walker’ by using them where possible, hounding BT on Twitter about their upkeep, and, where they have fallen into permanent disrepair, recording their presence in the landscape.

‘I genuinely feel they have a similar sort of pathos to an empty automated lighthouse — the lost idea that somebody is there, connected in a physical sense on the end of a line.’

Nearing the end of the project, William adds:

‘I have been quite disappointed just how few phone boxes are operable on Mull despite having a seemingly functioning line when one dials the number. I’d hoped to have using the phone boxes and speaking to people as a larger part of the work but BT really seem to have let Mull go! It’s a double pity because some of the boxes are in remote areas with bad signal and could be genuinely important in emergencies.’

William has been photographing each of the phone boxes on Polaroid film, and advises that for just ten pounds including UK postage, you can own your own piece of unique analogue photography and telecommunications heritage. Buy yours / find out more about the project here.

Follow William on Instagram here.