Speakers Corner is the spiritual home of public debate and free speech and to celebrate this historical landmark, Bishopsgate Institute and On the Record are collaborating on Sounds from the Park, a project that will illustrate the locations eccentric history since it started in 1866.
“I have been a member of Speakers’ Corner audiences since 1960 when I first visited as a tourist. I mingled with the crowd, listened to great speakers and enjoyed the wise-cracks of hecklers and the speaker’s repartee. It’s great that this oral history project has now been funded – the spirit of Speakers’ Corner must be celebrated and preserved to help inspire a new generation of budding orators and keep this unique place of public debate and free speech alive. I am happy to be part of this exciting project.”
Reinhardt Wentz, member of the project Steering group
Sounds from the Park aims to collect 20 oral history interviews with diverse speakers, listeners and orators. An exciting programme of learning workshops and public events will culminate in an exhibition, a radio show and a permanent archive of Speakers’ Corner oral histories and memorabilia at Bishopsgate Institute.
The project will provide a new perspective on social and political developments in 20th century Britain. Platforms at Speakers’ Corner have included women’s suffrage, pacifism, socialism, LGBT rights, national liberation and religion alongside comic, often eccentric, speakers who entertained the crowds.
“This fascinating project will uncover and preserve the stories of orators, listeners and hecklers who were at Speakers Corner during its heyday helping to make it a unique example of free speech, controversial debate and public entertainment. It deserves a comprehensive, accessible archive and now this will be achieved.”
Sue Bowers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London
Sounds from the Park was awarded £41,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £2,814 from the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust. This volunteer-led project will preserve and celebrate the heritage of Speakers’ Corner from 1866, when the Reform League tore down the gates of Hyde Park, to the present day.
If you wanted to get involved in this exciting project, On the Record are looking for volunteers from all walks of life, and people with memories of Speakers’ Corner to help them archive material, carry out oral history interviews, conduct historical research, produce a radio show and curate an exhibition. You could also be invited to join the project steering group. If you are interested contact Laura Mitchison at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07787243656