Phone Box Artist – Jean Goubert – Whitecroft

portrait of Charlie Markwick

Jean Goubert is a French artist who found himself in England after running away to the circus (Giffords Circus). After touring with their shows in the summer and building their showman wagons in the winter for 4 years, Jean decided to move to Bristol.

He is now working as a freelance performer and maker/builder.

Recent credits include We come from far far away by NIE, Chair Play for National Trust Croome Court, The Little Match Girl by The Last Baguette, All at Sea by Acrojou and Tales in the Attic by Open Attic.

He is really interested in communities and how stories can bring people together.

Jean engaged with:

Vicky Bagley; Charlie Markwick; Pam Singer

Research at Whitecroft:

I set out to interview individuals, ask them a few personal questions and then a story in which a public payphone played a role. When I started thinking about the phonebox project I realised that payphones have played a big role in my relationships, with my girlfriends, my friends, my parents. It occurred to me that I even remembered quite vividly the last conversation I had on a payphone. I thought it would be very interesting to dig out such stories in other people.

To achieve my research goals, I went to an open mic night in Bream, close to the Whitecroft phonebox. I told the story of my last conversation on a payphone and at the end asked if anybody would be interested in talking with me about their stories. I also went to The Miner’s Arms in Whitecroft one evening and went up to people telling them about my project. I managed to get a few emails of people interested and set out some interviews. I managed to speak with Charlie but unfortunately the pandemic cut the project shortly after that.


The reason why I remember so vividly my last conversation in a phonebox is because it was a call I made to my parents from England. It was in August 2008 in Minchinhampton Common, I had been touring with the Circus for 5 months and I decided that I was gonna stay! I loved it so much I didn’t see the point in going back to France to finish my studies. I already had a mobile phone but it was way too expensive to call France with it so I dialled from a payphone. As you can imagine it was not an easy call to make but I haven’t regretted it once since.

I spoke to a lot of people “off the record” while I was doing my research and I heard lots of great stories. One that is still with me is about a man who was living so far up a mountain in North Wales that the only way for him to contact someone would be to walk down an hour down the mountain to the nearest phonebox. His friends came to visit but got lost on the way. Tried to reach him in vain so turned back. He walked all the way down to the phonebox to call them as they were late and they were already home.


Listen to interview with Charlie Markwick on Soundcloud

What I enjoyed about the research period and hopes for future development:

The hope for the future is to be able to collect a wide range of stories from different people and set up the phonebox in Whitecroft as a story listening booth. I imagine a kind of phonebook filled with portraits of the people interviewed with a number attached. Once dialled on the phone, you get to hear their stories through the phone.