Speakers’ Corner is a unique attraction in London and is a must for anyone who loves a good debate.
There is nothing to mark the famous place close to Hyde Park, but it can be found easily from the nearby Paddington station. Speakers’ Corner is about 15 minutes’ walk from Paddington and is opposite Marble Arch tube station.
Once a week people gather in the area to hear and give talks about a whole host of issues that they feel passionately about. This can mean some very ‘interesting’ speeches and people are allowed to heckle if they so wish – sometimes leading to heated debates. The quality of the speakers can vary greatly, but it is a great place to indulge in some people watching.
Traditionally, Speakers’ Corner comes to live on Sunday, but increasingly speeches are happening most days of the week.
Speakers’ Corner has a strong history and dates back to Victorian times when speaking out against the establishment in the pursuit of democracy was encouraged. Its role was made official in the 1872 Parks and Gardens Act.
Famous speakers who have taken to their soapbox at the venue include Karl Marx, William Morris, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell, Marcus Garvey and Lord Soper.
The Speakers’ Corner has been internationally recognized and received praise from some key figures.
Federal Chancellor Angela merkel told both Houses of the British Parliament how important her visit to the famous venue was.
“We walked through Hyde Park looking for Speakers’ Corner, which – especially for us as East Germans – was legendary, the very symbol of free speech. I hope that is not an insult to you, the members of the British Parliament,” she said.
Speakers’ Corner was also the focus of a large anti-war rally in 2003, when up to two million gathered to voice opposition to military action in the Middle East. On the day, the corner heard speeches from actress Vanessa Redgrave, MP Tony Benn, playwright Harold Pinter and the actor Tim Robbins.