People

Tony Allen

Tony Allen arrived at speaking via anarchist politics and the West London Theatre Workshop; an agitprop group. He was already aware of Speakers’ Corner as “a way of educating yourself” and heckled there throughout the `70s. Heckling determines a controversial style of debate, he says, but it can also simplify the argument and lead speakers …

Martin Besserman

Martin Besserman has a light-hearted comedy style. He was drawn to Speakers’ Corner as a teenager in the 1980s by the eccentricity of the environment. Martin says he craved attention for his poems after his parents divorced when he was eleven and was made to feel welcome at Speakers’ Corner. It was a place where …

Ishmahil Blagrove

Ishmahil Blagrove, writer and film-maker, has been speaking in Hyde Park since he was “a bone fide hood rat,” menaced by police brutality and skinheads in the 1980s. He was bright at school and gifted at poetry, but was not pushed academically. Still, he did “several PHDs” at Speakers’ Corner. Roy Sawh’s “forensic knowledge of …

Adam Buick

Adam Buick participated in Speaker’s Corner as a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB). Before enrolling at Oxford University, Adam joined the SPGB in 1962. He started making regular trips to London to promote socialism in Hyde Park, as well as other open air speaking places like Tower Hill and Lincoln’s Inn …

Michael Carolan

Michael Carolan, a retired head teacher, adored reading as a boy and went on to a Jesuit grammar school. His father was Irish Catholic and conservative “with a big and small ‘c’.” His mother had a working class Salvation Army background. The family fortunes were affected by anti-Catholic prejudice. Michael’s father, drawn to “a dynamic he had …

Ruth Eastwood

Ruth Eastwood was taught to question and to separate the truth of a statement from the identity of its utterer at an orthodox Jewish orphanage where she spent some of her childhood. She heckles in order to test the strength of arguments, not to destroy them. She says Speakers’ Corner was where “she learned to think.” …

Jonathan Fitter

Jonathan Fitter spent several years at sea. When he left the merchant navy, he travelled round the world on his own, during which time he learned to play the tin whistle. He is a busker by trade. In 1992 he began promoting animal rights and veganism at Speakers’ Corner. After a trip to the Middle …

Abdurraheem Green

Abdurraheem Green was brought up a Catholic and spent many years as a young adult exploring spirituality and philosophy. He first encountered Speakers’ Corner as a recent convert to Islam in the 1990s, and was irritated by a Christian preacher. He researched critiques of the Bible and heckled Christians for one year. Once he started …

Leslie Griffiths

Leslie Griffiths spent the first ten years of his career as a Methodist minister in Haiti, returning to London in 1980. In the mid-1980s he became superintendent of the West London Mission where he met Donald Soper who was still very active, despite officially having retired. Leslie first went to Speakers’ Corner under the joking pretext …

Anthony Gomm

Anthony Gomm’s Catholic upbringing made his early visits to Speakers’ Corner, with its free thinkers and atheists, a profound shock. “It became my open university,” he says. He has been a regular visitor since 1959, listening to speakers like Donald Soper and Jacobus Van Dyn. He remembers a hippy who spoke about the joys of …

Kathleen Humphreys

Kathleen Humphreys is a Christian socialist who joined the Labour Party in 1945 with her twin sister. She observes that political young people today are more likely to “go for the fringes” than join mainstream parties. Kathleen taught in Kenya in 1954 at the height of the Mau Mau insurrection, leaving in 1963, the year …

Richard Headicar

Richard Headicar visited Speakers’ Corner as a young man in the 1950s. Now an atheist, he was inspired at an early age by the oratorical flair of three Methodists: Donald Soper, Leslie Weatherhead and William Sangster. His first platform was the light hearted “People’s Retrogressive Party,” but he became serious about nuclear disarmament after hearing Donald Soper …

Tim Kendall

Tim Kendall is the grandson of the Reverend George Kendall who preached from 1926 to 1956 on the Public Morality platform which was established in the late nineteenth century. Earlier Reverend Kendall had overseen the exhumation of “The Unknown Warrior” in strictest secrecy. Tim reads from his grandfather’s unpublished memoirs, a witty chronicle of Hyde …

Chris Kennett

Chris Kennett, who first visited as a schoolboy in 1961, regularly cycled all the way from Harrow to Marble Arch and back. The exuberant personalities and exotic atmosphere gave him a buzz. Chris kept his Sunday visits secret from some of his school friends who would not understand Speakers’ Corner’s appeal. He took detailed notes …

Heiko Khoo

Heiko Khoo joined the Labour Party Youth at seventeen. While studying at Portsmouth Polytechnic he spoke at street meetings, for which he was once arrested. His first memory of Speakers’ Corner is from his Malaysian-Chinese father’s shoulders, aged three or four, watching a Marxist speaker with a red scarf. In 1986, he ended up on a …

Edna Mathieson

Edna Mathieson, a retired sociology lecturer, first went to Speaker’s Corner at the age of eight with her family in the 1930s and was “bored stiff.” Her parents were very active members of the Bermondsey Labour Party, and her grandfather liked to heckle the religious speakers. She returned as a teenager in the 1940s and …

Patrick Mc Evoy

Patrick Mc Evoy has been a regular speaker since 2011. After losing his job as a carpenter in the 2008 financial meltdown, Patrick started going to Hyde Park in search of answers and opinions. He was keen to start a debate that would help him and others understand why the current capitalist system was preventing …

Sharley McLean

Sharley McLean was born into a political family persecuted by the Third Reich and escaped to Britain in 1939, on a “Kindertransport”, which rescued children from Nazi Germany. After the German family she lived with were interned, Sharley was supported by Catholic organisations and then trained as nurse. She was a Speakers’ Corner regular from …

Julian Meek

Julian Meek had speech difficulties as a child, so communication subsequently became very important to him. After intensive speech therapy he had a calling to use his gift of speech. Though bright, Julian grew up with dyspraxia and dyslexia, as well as dysphasia, at a time when these conditions were little understood. Speakers’ Corner was …

John Palmer

John Palmer, retired journalist, was born in England and brought up in Ireland. He found Speakers’ Corner to be “an intensely political forum” and an “education in left wing ideas,” some of which were emerging in response to the crumbling of Stalinism. He first spoke in the late 1950s for the Irish National Union against …

Bob Rogers

Bob Rogers stumbled upon Speakers’ Corner as a teenager, and was intrigued by the “babble of voices.” At that time, Speakers’ Corner was a refuge for people “whose lives had been disturbed and disorientated” by the Second World War, homeless people and those with mental health problems. Bob talks about nineteenth century protest movements which …

Jean Saunders

Jean Saunders’ mother Sharley McLean took Jean and her brother to Speakers’ Corner as small children in the 1940s and 1950s, often treating them to rum baba afterwards. Even then, she found some of the speakers charismatic, especially the anarchists. Philip Sansom and Robert Ogilvie were her favourites. As a teenager, Jean got involved in …

Roy Sawh

Roy Sawh was born on a sugar estate in Guyana (then British Guiana), “the next thing to slavery,” which galvanized his fight against racism and injustice. His Indian-born father was indentured to the plantation at the age of six; Roy and his siblings worked there too. He worked at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch, and …

Clifford Slapper

Clifford Slapper, composer, writer and pianist, joined the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) in 1981, aged 20, and spoke on their platform regularly through the 1980s and 1990s. He was drawn to the SPGB because of its democratic structure and its rational response to the threat of nuclear war: “War will be there as …

Marko Stepanov

Marko Stepanov is an artist from the former Yugoslavia who occasionally speaks on libertarian-anarchist themes or recites poetry. He came to London in 1986 and the first place he visited was Speakers’ Corner. For Marko, it was a mythical place because of its associations with the speeches of those condemned to hang at Tyburn. “Tyburnite” …

Tom Tickell

Tom Tickell, journalist and diarist, first visited Speakers’ Corner at the age of sixteen, in 1958.  He spoke on absurd topics like umbrella worship and yak transport in a variety of accents, partly in order to mock speakers he saw as “pop-eyed fanatics.” Tom remembers eccentrics like Jacobus Van Dyn, who had a snake tattoo …

Reinhard Wentz

Reinhard Wentz first visited Speakers’ Corner as a student in 1960. He became a dedicated regular and sometime heckler from the mid 1960s, undaunted by xenophobic put-downs like: “We have Domestos, which kills 95 per cent of all known Germans.”  He says it is hard to make generalisations, because Speakers’ Corner is “not a homogenous …

Edmund Wheatley

Edmund Wheatley is a retired headteacher who came to Speakers’ Corner after attending the Methodist chapel where Donald Soper ministered. Impressed, he set up his own platform in 1960 called the British Association for World Government, arguing for a democratic chamber at the United Nations. He still speaks now. His wife attends out of “marital …

Myk Zeitlin

Myk Zeitlin attended Speakers’ Corner from 1977 to 1983, after seeing an advert in Peace News. His first impression was that Speakers’ Corner was “an offshoot of London zoo.” Myk’s model, aged 20, was Franz Kafka who worked in an insurance office by day and was a radical by night. He was inspired by Tony Allen’s …

Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, London.

About the project

Sounds from the Park is a unique oral and visual history of Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park: the UK’s last great open air oratory site.

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© Chris Kennett

Exhibition

Our exhibition can be seen online here or read our booklet about Speakers' Corner.

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© Philip Wolmuth

Radio show

Our radio show can be listened to here.

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Young man talking at Speakers' Corner, 2013 © Sophie Polyviou

Education resources

History and Citizenship resources for Key Stage 3 and 4. Complete with a timeline of events at Speakers' Corner and other resources.

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