Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park
It's loud! It's full of bonkers people!
(Photos/words © urban75, 1st April 2007)
Situated in the north east corner of Hyde Park close to Marble Arch, Speakers' Corner is an area where any member of the public is allowed to get on a soapbox and start ranting away.
People can talk about whatever they like, although you'll often find it dominated by religious nutcases supplemented by various left and right wing activists, with the occasional comedian thrown in for good measure.
Some of the speakers are interesting, some are bizarre and quite a few seem completely bonkers, but it's never dull.
Speeches can get very lively, although the police rarely intervene unless there is a breach of the law or members of the public start complaining.
This quietly spoken chap was reading from an old copy of, 'The Romance of the English Theatre' by Donald Brook. Bless.
Yes, that is a paintbrush in his pocket.
Hyde Park has a long association with political activism and public speaking. In 1855, riots broke out in the park after a protest over the Sunday Trading Bill which banned buying and selling on the Sabbath - the only day working people had off.
Karl Marx described the riots as the 'beginning of the English revolution' but he was to be disappointed.
Large violent demonstrations organised by the Reform League demanding democratic reform in 1866/7 forced the government to extend the right to vote to include most working class men.
With protesters demanding a 'right to speak' in Hyde Park, the government delegated the task of permitting public meetings to the Park Authorities (via the 1872 Royal Parks and Garden's Act), and so Speakers' Corner was born (Interestingly, some believe the spot was chosen because of its proximity to the Tyburn hanging gallows where condemned men were allowed to freely speak their last words.)
The Suffragettes also used the park for protests, including an interesting, 'Water carnival for the Serpentine' in 1914:
'Women paraded with decorated sunshades. Others appeared in dominoes, each carrying a letter of the word Suffragette on her chest. One girl in Japanese dress turned up in a rickshaw drawn by a girl companion in knee-breeches.
The Office of Works, shocked by the prospect of of such merry advertising by persons who had banded themselves together for the commission of serious crime, had prohibited the Serpentine to all comers that day, the boats being lashed together in midwater to prevent their use.
Nothing daunted, the Suffragettes flung off their wraps, revealing themselves in bathing costumes, swam out to the craft and cut them free.
The police sprang into boats and followed them, captured the offending navigators, brought them to the banks, and took them dripping in their bathing dress to the police station.'
[source: The Suffragette Movement, Sylvia Pankhurst, 1931]
Offline Club star Ron The Builder was spotted in action!
Does the bus know something about this guy?
Things got lively at this point as an Arab vs Christian shouting match kicked off.
Hyde Park continues to see large public protests, including the 1994 anti-Criminal Justice Bill march and the 2003 anti-war march.
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