The 144 -year history of one of the most influential corners in the world.4 months, 12 days ago
Tucked away in the northeast corner of a popular London park sits a small site where freedom of speech reigns supreme.
Since 1872, the ordinary and extraordinary have gathered in the unspectacular cement cove in Hyde Park known as Speakers’ Corner to declare their views on an array of topics, many controversial. Everything from Brexit and the Iraq War to gender equality and veganism have been up for lively and spirited speeches and debates.
Men the likes of Marcus Garvey, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and George Orwell have taken a turn at Speakers’ Corner, but most days you’ll find people decidedly less notorious who merely want to be heard.
Despite its serene put, the origins of Speakers’ Corner is little messier.
The location itself may have macabre origins. Hyde Park was once the spot of the Tyburn Gallows, installed in 1196. Onlookers would buy seats to watch the executions. Before people were put to death, they were allowed to make one final speech.
In 1783, the gallows were dismantled and executions were moved to the prison, but speeches and protests in Hyde Park continued. Police frequently attempted to stop the demoes, but the people of London continued to use the space to assemble and protest. Close to 100 year later, in 1872 , Parliament put aside this particular segment of the park for public oration.
For 144 years, Speakers’ Corner has hosted a steady stream of lively orators.
Through their words and photos, you can see some unbelievable history unfold.
1. If you were passionate and well-spoken, it was easy to draw a mob at Speakers’ Corner, especially before the advent of Tv.
2. Some speakers basically became local celebrities, like Charlie in the 1920 s.
3. Religion speakers and proselytizers have always been common.
4. Including rising political leaders of all stripes.
Here, a young Aneurin Bevan speaks to the crowd on May Day 1936. Bevan would go on to spearhead the creation of the National Health Service.
Now, you may be thinking: ‘Hey, wait a second, where are all the women and people of color? ‘
Great question. They have a place in Speakers’ Corner history too.
5. Because free speech was celebrated and encouraged, people of color had the opportunity to speak out on issues too.
Women, children, and families took center stage to stand up for their beliefs too.
6. This girl employed her time in front of the crowd to sing a powerful hymn.
7. And when these women marched for equal rights, their journey started at Speakers’ Corner, quite literally.
Their march to No. 10 Downing Street began near the same spot where suffragettes gathered decades prior.
8. Hundreds of the rights of children marched to Speakers’ Corner during a school ten-strike in 1972.
9. And single-parent households demanded equality in 1975.
10. Even with the rise of blogs, social media, and independent publishing, Speakers’ Corner remains a popular place to share strongly held opinions.
11. Or, at the very least, a place to share the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
Yep, that’s Heather Mills. She brought a truck and a weird ad campaign to Speakers’ Corner.
Whether or not you agree with the speakers’ words or causes, Speakers’ Corner is a festivity of free speech and assembly.
No avatars or pen names to hide behind. Speakers literally stand up for what they believes in. And regardless of whether their sentiments jibe with yours, it’s a powerful remnant from an era long gone.
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