The Box ringing the changes after five successful years

A telephone box which is keeping the 'lines' open with Skegness' twin town in Germany is set to ring the changes again - for a major flower show in 2022.

John Byford with Ingrid Lohmann at the Yellowbelly Box.
John Byford with Ingrid Lohmann at the Yellowbelly Box.

The Box - an art project by local photographer John Byford - has been connecting Skegness with Bad Gandersheim for five years now - with the most recent 2019 project, 'Catch a Falling Star', depicting that although the UK is leaving Europe, our friendship will go on.

There is a long-standing relationship between the two towns which goes far beyond the period The Box has been a popular attraction in the picturesque market town.

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Last year, Skegness and Bad Gandersheim celebrated a 40-year friendship with a visit of civic guests from the German town.

The 'Catch a Falling Star' box reminding us that our friendship will continue beyond Brexit created a huge media interest.

The former red telephone box - which was originally in the car park at the Royal Hotel and was donated by the Bola brothers - is situated in a beautiful market square next to Bad Gandersheim Cathedral.

It .has changed colour for three art projects during the past five years..

2014 - Yellow , celebrating Lincolnshire Yellowbellies,

2017 - White, a commemorative box in the colour of peace marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which contained the names of the fallen in both countries.

Former Mayor of Skegness Coun Sid Dennis read out names of the fallen from WW1 at the 2017 box illustrating peace.

2019 - Blue, with the stars of the EU, containing books from across Europe, including Skegness.

Discussions for The Box 2022 are at the early stages, but the project will promote the Landes­garten­schau Flower Show - an event the equivalent of Chelsea Flower Show in which Skegness has been invited to exhibit a garden.

"I am extremely proud to have been involved in The Box - it is hard to believe where the five years have gone," said John.

"Skegness has been twinned with the German town of Bad Gandersheim since 1979 and The Box has helped strengthen our friendship through the language of art, creating opportunities for artists of both towns to showcase their work on an international platform.

Mayor of Bad Gandersheim Franziska Schwartz with a copy of the Skegness Standard celebrating the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 and the names of the brave featured on The Box of 2017. A copy is now part of an exhibition in the Bad Gandersheim museum.

"The aim of The Box, although the telephone has been removed, has always been connectivity and to encourage residents of Gandersheim Badersheim to visit Skegness and for more people from here to visit our twin town.

"'Catch a Falling Star' - my blue box - has been especially poignant because of its message that although the UK is leaving Europe, our friendship will continue.*

At the moment, The Box is being used as a book exchange, with its publications from Skegness and across the EU constantly changing. Two benches are conveniently positioned nearby where visitors can sit and read.

""It is especially important during lockdown to be able to remember our friends overseas too and that hopefully before too long we will be able to visit once more," said John.

The Box featured in the local paper in Bad Gandersheim.

"It's also nice to know that the residents of Bad Gandersheim are very protective towards The Box, and if a lot of people have borrowed books someone always goes along to tidy them."

Ingrid Lohmann, of Bad Gandersheim, has been involved with the project from the beginning. "The Box has become an important part of Bad Gandersheim and it would be difficult to imagine the town without it now," she said.

"All of the designs have been popular with people looking inside but the Brexit Box is especially successful because it is interactive.

"There isn't a day goes by without someone going in to use it.

"We are looking forward to changing it again to promote the flower show and hope we can make it interactive in some way too.

"This year we are unable to welcome visitors from Skegness because of coronavirus, but in these difficult times it is even more important to keep our friendship alive and The Box helps us do that."

One of the most emotional moments at The Box was nearly two years ago when it was painted white for the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

On November 13, the Mayors of both Skegness and Bad Gandersheim - Coun Sid Dennis and Franziska Schwartz - were united at The Box to read the names of the 186 brave souls from both countries who died in the conflict, which were part of the exhibit.

The project was supported by the Skegness Standard and the article about the trip now forms part of an exhibit in the Bad Gandersheim museum.

An artwork containing the names has also been presented to Skegness Town Council and will hopefully be put on display in the new offices at Tower Pavilion when it opens in Tower Gardens.

"These young men didn't just sacrifice their life, but sacrificed their future during the Great War, and their names will be permanently displayed both here in Skegness and in Germany as tribute to their bravery," said John

"Whatever happens with Brexit it is important the friendship that has lasted between the two towns goes on."

Anyone interested in finding out more about Skegness Twinning Association should contact chairman Brian Chapman on 01754 761617.