The Crowd

Less conspicuous than the speakers, less noisy than the hecklers, yet just as vital, the faithful regulars of Speakers’ Corner mix with tourists to create an international audience. In the past, the crowd was a refuge for individuals “whose lives had been disturbed and disorientated” by the Second World War and those fleeing the drudgery of working class Britain for a few short hours. “Betty the Quiz Queen” who doled out jelly babies in exchange for answers and “Holy Bob the Banner Man” required a call and response exchange with the crowd, who were never passive. People claim the most intelligent exchanges happen on the fringes or permeable borders between meetings, where regulars gossip trade jokes and commentate on form. Keeping the mythology of Speakers’ Corner alive through story telling is as vital as the oratory itself.

Audio clips about the crowd

“It wasn’t just listening”

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“Working class intellectual”

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“Holy Bob”

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“Open air lunatic asylum”

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“Cathartic experience”

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“Like extended family”

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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.

Read more about the project
© Chris Kennett

Exhibition

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

See the exhibition
© Philip Wolmuth

Radio show

Our radio show can be listened to here.

Listen to the radio show
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.

Download education resources