Speakers Corner – Hyde Park

Speakers Corner has been attracting attention from locals and visitors to the city for the past one hundred and fifty years. It has to be one of the most unusual and unique visitor attractions in the entire city. There is no building to visit or memorial to look at, but if you venture into Hyde Park on any Sunday morning you will find people there ready to share their views and opinions with the world. Gathering at the point where Hyde Park meets Oxford Street, overshadowed by Marble Arch the speakers who come here are following in the footsteps of many orators of the past, and upholding a tradition of public speaking which is in danger of becoming lost to an electronic age of online forums and chat rooms.

Photo by Cory Doctorow
Photo by Cory Doctorow

A Look Back in Time

Nothing about the way that the speakers voice their opinions and grievances has changed since the first speakers took to their soap box here. You will find a selection of Londoners all engaging in open and heartfelt conversation and debate that can occasionally become loud and extremely contentious. This is an example of the right to free speech and freedom of expression at its best. There are no written procedures to be followed here, what happens happens and you will often find locals and tourists to the city caught up in heated debates and discussions. Absolutely anyone can take the floor here and make their voice heard, this is grassroots democracy at its most raw.

No Topic Untouched

There is no set schedule or list of topics that are covered by the speakers, and you will find that as you walk from group to group you will hear heated philosophical debates about religion and politics, the decline in society’s morals and opinions on current affairs. Plus of course where there is a willing and eager audience you will find some of the city’s more eccentric and flamboyant characters. You will also find a healthy dose of Sunday morning religion here too, with everything from the peaceful and love encouraging words of the Buddhist monk to the Hell fire and damnation of the more ardent religious sects, the latter being the group that more often than not is to be found engaging in a battle of wits with the hecklers in his impromptu congregation.

Following in the Footsteps of History

Many great names have taken the floor here and stood their ground, making their voices heard above the hecklers and the debaters. Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, William Morris and George Orwell have all appeared on Speakers Corner, setting the standards for the speakers that followed in their wake. Speakers Corner in London has become the blueprint for other such events across the world giving a public voice to individuals and groups of people who want to be heard by the greater population, to spread their words in the hope of righting wrongs, raising awareness and even in the feint hope of making the world a better place.

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