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Wanstead teenager opens phone box street library in Forest Gate to help youngsters keep reading

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:58 26 June 2020

Niamh Connole has set up a street library at her father's workshop in Forest Gate. Picture: Niamh Connole

Niamh Connole has set up a street library at her father's workshop in Forest Gate. Picture: Niamh Connole

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A teenager has started a telephone box street library in a bid to help people escape reality through reading.

Connole Street Library is in Station Road, Forest Gate. Picture: Niamh ConnoleConnole Street Library is in Station Road, Forest Gate. Picture: Niamh Connole

Niamh Connole from Wanstead opened the doors to the service outside her dad’s workshop in Station Road, Forest Gate on Saturday, June 20.

By the following Monday, passersby had added more titles, a bunch of flowers and homemade, reusable face masks.

Niamh said: “I’m really pleased with it. I think with Covid-19 everyone wants to go out and have adventures, but can’t. Books are a way of doing that.

“We’re all trapped in our rooms, but we can escape to a land of monsters, or travel to strange lands or find out about people with incredible lives in books.

Niamh raided her mum's book collection to help fill the shelves. Picture: Niamh ConnoleNiamh raided her mum's book collection to help fill the shelves. Picture: Niamh Connole

“It’s also been really good at fostering a sense of community.”

The red phone box itself was built by Niamh’s dad, Kieran, using some leftover wood. It can be found at the premises of restoration firm Connole Brothers.

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It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with bee shaped LED lighting decorating it so people can peruse the titles better in the dark.

Niamh helped deliver books to a school in Ghana last June. Picture: Niamh ConnoleNiamh helped deliver books to a school in Ghana last June. Picture: Niamh Connole

At first Niamh, who went to Trinity Catholic High School, raided the book collection of her mum, Anne, to fill the shelves.

It also includes “an insane amount” of books from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vampire series from Niamh’s collection.

“There’s really a wide selection in there, and hopefully something for everyone,” Niamh said.

But the idea is that whoever takes a book, leaves a title for the next person.

Niamh's dad, Kieran, built the phone box using leftover wood. Picture: Niamh ConnoleNiamh's dad, Kieran, built the phone box using leftover wood. Picture: Niamh Connole

Niamh was not only inspired to open the street library after seeing similar ventures near her home, but also by the example set by her dad, who builds stalls for a local primary school event.

And the youngster, who hopes to go to Exeter University in the autumn, is no stranger to good deeds after delivering books to St Nicholas Preparatory School in New Tema, Ghana, last June.

“Dad is always saying you can’t always take, you have to give back. That’s really important in teaching us to help others, especially in London where we can be quite isolated from each other,” Niamh said.


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