“I have always been proud of Banbury, and in December 2013 I decided to give something back to the town that has been such a big part of my life.
“If I had been a rich man, I would have loved to have made a significant contribution to the town (and I would love it if those that can, would) but as it was I decided to hang some baubles and tinsel up in a phone-box in the hope it might make someone walking past smile. I’ll never know if anyone ever did smile, or if those Christmas decorations were eventually removed in disgust, jealousy or merely by a reveller who’d had more than their share of festive spirit.
“The act of decorating the phone-box was what was important: doing something devoid of selfishness to raise a smile from strangers.
“It reminded me of that classic song from the musical Bugsy Malone: ‘You give a little love, and it all comes back to you’.
“This summer, I wanted to recreate that imagined smile, and so the phone-box library came into being.
“In the past six months, I’ve filled that phone-box with dozens of my books, displayed in various different shelves and boxes.
“I wanted to make people smile, but more than that I wanted to share the experience of those texts, to let other people enjoy reading them: sometimes people discover books unexpectedly, and sometimes the books themselves discover their next reader.
“I wanted people to be surprised by finding those books there, and wanted them to enjoy the experience of the encounter.
“Just like those baubles, I’ll never know what happened to any of those books, but I will certainly remember the happiness I felt the time the first book was taken, and the sadness I felt when the shelves themselves were borrowed.
“I will remember the support of friends and family when they donated their own books to the scheme, and the buzz when the first book was returned for the next reader to enjoy.
“Perhaps more than anything though, I will remember the pride I felt when other people started leaving their own books there for others to borrow.
“It’s a small thing to do, to leave a book that you have loved for a stranger to enjoy, but making strangers smile is a great thing to do.
“I implore everyone reading this to think about what small thing they could do to make our town as lovely a place as it could possibly be.
“Maybe you could join the phone-box library, or plant some flowers where someone else might appreciate them, or volunteer somewhere, or even just pick up a piece of someone else’s litter. It could be merely as simple as smiling and wishing those you pass a good morning.
“As we begin a new year, imagine how different the town might be if everyone made it their resolution to help make each other smile.
“Please get involved. If you are passing by the phone-box, drop in. Maybe there will be something there that will interest you.
“Better yet, if you can take the trouble to leave a book or two there for someone else, then that would be amazing.
“Have a look on your shelf now: is there a book there that you aren’t planning on reading again that someone else might appreciate? Could you be the person able to make a stranger smile?
“I can say from experience: If you give a little love, it really will all come back to you.”