TEN years ago, in the summer of 2009, a former BT telephone box on the village Green in Settle created headlines in this country and around the world, writes Mike Smith.

It was the claim to be ‘probably the world’s smallest art gallery’ that captured the imagination of print and broadcast newsrooms.

BBC Breakfast covered the opening; reporting that Paris had the Louvre, London had the Tate and now Settle had the Gallery on the Green, an art gallery in a converted telephone box.

National newspaper coverage followed and so too did features in publications such as National Geographic . A report in a South Korean publication even led to a group of students from the country visiting the gallery.

Now, ten years on, the Folly Museum in Settle is holding an exhibition telling the story of the Gallery’s first decade. It opens on Sunday, July 7 and runs until September 6.

The story began when BT, faced with the rise of mobile phones, found that it needed to decommission many of its lesser- used kiosks, including the one in Upper Settle.

But rather than just take the phone boxes away BT had the imagination to introduce its ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme. Under the scheme a public body, such as a town council, can take over a kiosk for just £1. Settle became one of the early adopters.

The commitment from local residents to create an art gallery and also to carry out maintenance, including repainting it, gave the council confidence enough to go ahead. It also gave a grant as did Craven District Council. And the scheme even won a £1,000 prize from BT as the region’s most imaginative use of a former kiosk.

A mosaic on the floor added the final touch, though the idea of a Sistine Chapel style decorated ceiling didn’t get off the ground.

Over the years the gallery has hosted nearly 70 exhibitions. Each one is listed in a timeline at the Folly. This also shows that, astonishingly, in ten years the gallery has only been closed for about ten days – once for electrical work and once for a re-paint.

The sheer variety of exhibitions is amazing.

Exhibitors include the famous – Queen guitarist Brian May has exhibited twice, showing rare and fascinating Victorian photographs, one of his many enthusiasms.

Artists and photographers such as Martin Parr and Eamon McCabe are more used to showing their work in places such as London’s National Portrait Gallery or Manchester Art Gallery. But the gallery has also given space to local school students and among the most popular exhibitions are those created by a local craft group including the all knitted 12 days of Christmas and Treasure Island.

The challenge of course has been to scale down work to fit into the box’s very limited space.

Some have produced postcard size exhibits whilst others, such as abstract artist Tom Palin, created a white box within the kiosk and attached works to the structure. Earlier this year we even had a tree within the box.

Our quirkiness is appreciated by most visitors. The visitors’ books, which will be on display in the Folly exhibition, include many generous tributes. One that is truly in the spirit of the gallery says: ‘knocks spots off the Prada’ - Madrid’s world famous gallery.

But there are also some people who expect too much. One commentator on TripAdvisor expressed disappointment at having got a taxi only to find ‘a few postcards’. Perhaps they thought the Gallery had taken over the former police box that became Dr Who’s Tardis.

One big change since 2009 is that traditional telephone boxes have now all but disappeared. Within Settle alone we have one box that provides information about the local churches, another that is home to a defibrillator and most recently the charity, Settle Stories has converted the box by the post office into a ‘listening gallery’.

As the Long Preston experience, recently featured in the Craven Herald, demonstrates the lack of novelty makes it a bit harder now to raise wider interest and that adopting a kiosk for £1 is just the start of what can be an expensive business. But at the Gallery on the Green we do hope that our friends at Long Preston manage to turn their box into an attraction – not least because we could then promote a Two Gallery walk over the old track between Upper Settle and Long Preston.

As for the future of the gallery, our tenth anniversary exhibitor is Mary Woolf. Mary is a 24 year old photographic artist currently living and working in Settle.

Her work explores ideas surrounding perception and experience. Her aim is to inspire people to look a little bit more closely at their surroundings and to take a bit more notice of the experience of being in a place. She is also currently working on a commission for artwork for new boundary signage into Craven District.

For the next ten years we already have a number of artists keen to show their works in the gallery and going back to our roots one of our members is researching a possible exhibition featuring the work of architect Giles Gilbert Scott, who not only designed the iconic phone box, but was also the architect for Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

Big ideas in a small space – a decade on that’s what the Gallery on the Green is still all about.