THE ARTIST behind Harwich’s art phone box reveals how public art can inspire residents in their daily lives and better society.

Rachel Mathews explained how as a “local artist by night with a day job like anyone else” she has always been interested in community and public art – which is “accessible to everybody”.

This January, the council agreed to fund the insurance of the phone box for another year due to the “very successful” community art space.

But Rachel explained that the contents are up to her to find funding for whether that be by business sponsorships.

For example, Gallop windfarms funded the current rainbow exhibition.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Rainbow - The current phone boxRainbow - The current phone box (Image: Rachel Mathews)

Rachel explained how in December, 2022 the phone box on St Helen’s Green caught her eyes and there was in fact a sign inside saying if anyone had any ideas for the space, that they should write a proposal to the council.

Rachel said the first thing she did was put a Christmas tree in the red telephone box which got lots of “positive reactions”.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Festive - The Christmas telephone boxFestive - The Christmas telephone box (Image: Rachel Mathews)

This was then followed by Rachel filling the space with extremely popular ball pit balls and she said: “Lots of children enjoyed the sense of mischief”.

“They all wondered how did the balls get in there.”

Later, Rachel with the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust (HKMLT) and other schools, created a workshop which asked children what I meant to be refugee.

Children drew illustrations on luggage tags and were asked what belongings they would bring if they were in the situation of refuges, with the Mayor also coming to visit.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Educational - School children's work on refugees in the telephone box Educational - School children's work on refugees in the telephone box (Image: Rachel Mathews)

Rachel revealed she had numerous ideas for future phone box exhibitions including a glow in the dark night-sky constellation which especially in winter “wouldn’t look that much during the day, but at night it would be glowing”.

Rachel said other potential ideas – depending on funding – would be to maybe fill the phone box with flowers come summer and also to put the balls in again as “I have a shed full of them”.

Rachel added: “Everywhere I go in Harwich I see spots where I want to art in”.

“Harwich is beautiful but all sorts of alleys, brick walls, and bits on the sea front that can be used. Its making them something out of nothing”.