Film-makers put out the call for public's phone-box anecdotes

 

TWO YOUNG film-makers are travelling the length and breadth of the country collecting anecdotes about public phones.

Dubliners Aideen Ó Sullivan and Ross Whitaker plan to film a short documentary for the Irish Film Board on the huge, but often understated role played in Irish society by the phone box.

The project comes as the number of public phones around the country is slashed as part of an Eircom rationalisation plan which began in April. The plan will see the removal of more than 1,800 of the country’s 4,850 public payphones.

Ms Ó Sullivan said the stories are flowing in fast.

There is the Kerry family who never bothered to get a house phone – they just used the phone box outside the house to make and take calls; the man who remembers getting news of the birth of his daughter over a payphone; or the switchboard operator who recalls how young couples separated by emigration would plead with him to give them “just another minute”.

In the past two weeks alone the duo – who must have their documentary in the can by the end of August – have driven more than 1,100 miles (1,800km) cross-country collecting the nostalgic, heart-breaking or just plain funny recollections of those who used Ireland’s public phone network over the decades.

“The idea is kind of ‘A People’s History’ – and we are looking for anecdotes that we can piece together to make a film that reflects the importance that the phone box used to hold in Irish society,” said Ms Ó Sullivan.

“Of course, a lot of the phone boxes are being removed at the moment,” she says, adding that the pair hope to get a “good mix” of stories from all over the country.

“We’re appealing to people to get in touch with us and to tell us their stories,” she says.

The anecdotes will make up a 12-minute documentary funded by €15,000 from the Irish Film Board.

“For many years the phone box was at the centre of Irish life. It was our connection to the outside world and we used it for so many purposes,” she says.

“Sadly, though, the time of the phone box has passed due to the advent of house phones, mobile phones and e-mail and as Eircom rolls out its plan to remove many of the kiosks they are quickly disappearing from the landscape.”

People with phone box stories should contact Ross Whitaker at info@truefilms.tv, via phone on 0860816004 or by post at 7 St Johns Wood, Castle Ave, Dublin 3.