Speakers’ Corner Hyde Park
Author: Bob Handford
Speakers” Corner is an oddball institution that is little publicised to visitors, but is well worth the effort to check out if you are in the area.
Speakers’ Corner is located at the north east tip of Hyde Park by Marble Arch. The action happens on Sundays only, starting up late morning then building up into the afternoon.
Speakers Corner is the traditional place where people who had something to say, went to be heard. You can say pretty much anything you like, however controversial. A myth has built up that you can say anything you want with immunity from arrest, this is not the case, but it would take something like a formal complaint to the police for anyone to step in and evaluate curbing what you are saying. The most effective censor though is the public themselves and heckling the speaker’s viewpoint is all part of the fun.
In the past, well known political and influential figures have practised their trade here including Lenin, Marx and George Orwell. Today, speakers are a mix of ‘colourful’ eccentric characters from the general public and politically and religiously committed individuals and groups.
It takes some courage or perhaps foolishness to find a bit of spare tarmac in the crowd, stand on a small step ladder or platform you have brought with you and then start speaking. Hopefully you have something interesting to say and a crowd will soon build around you. One of the saddest sights is to see someone who has been talking for some time and still has no, or perhaps one person (his wife?) paying any attention.
The good speakers soon get a large crowd and mix their viewpoints with good humour and banter and are very entertaining, especially when a witty member of the public starts heckling in a constructive and good natured way in return.
The subject matter does tend to be divisive, religion, anti-capitalism, politics and generally putting the world to right, but it’s all done for the most part in a very good humoured manner.
There are some very seriously committed speakers pushing a cause in a committed and earnest manner with no humour and somewhat intolerant of challenges, but just give them a miss – there are plenty others to hear.
There tends to be a general leftish, religious, anti-capitalist, conspiracy theory bias – a staunch Republican from the USA would be a brave or perhaps foolish person to start airing their views, but there is nothing stopping you.
Just bring along a box or small step ladder so we can see and hear you.
There is a Speakers’ Corner Hyde Park web site, (link below) that includes videos and articles of speakers that will give you a good flavour of the kind of thing you will hear.
Below also, you will find a short video shot about 1 p.m. just as things were starting to get going and the scenes are pretty typical of what you can expect to see.
Speakers Corner is at the north-eastern corner of Hyde Park by Marble Arch. Marble Arch Underground is here and Oxford Street, London’s major general shopping street starts opposite.
The event takes place year round every Sunday in all weathers. Most speakers start turning up about midday and it goes on most of the afternoon.