Speakers' Corner

Giving freedom of speech

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About the project Edit

Free speakers still exist. The speakers’ corner in Hyde Park in London, the original and most note-worthy, has existed since the end of the 19th century. Every Sunday anyone, perched on their stool or soapbox, can hold the discourse of their choice (social, political, religious, etc.). Speakers’ Corner is a place where public discourse or debate is welcome and where speakers are allowed to speak as long as police consider their discourse lawful. Contrary to popular belief, there is no immunity from the law, nor are any subjects proscribed, but in practice the police tend to be tolerant and therefore intervene only when they receive a credible complaint or if they hear heinous profanity.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Speakers’ Corner is a completely unique way of giving freedom of speech. It’s interesting to note that some speakers are very loud but do not attract the attention of passing people while others, by virtue of their chosen subject or opinion, attract a crowd with whom they debate vigorously. The result is an open verbal sparring match and a joyful cacophony since all the speakers are gathered in the same corner of the park, huddled together, speaking out, showing their colours, their flags, and their beliefs.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Speakers’ Corner is considered to be a reflection of mass psychology. It is a gathering of people from all backgrounds, classes, and almost all countries, engaging in discussions of different issues where opinions can be formed or modified. Speakers’ Corner is a microcosm of the entire planet.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

While the speakers’ corner of Hyde Park is the most well known, there are other in London (Finsbury Park, Victoria Park, etc.) as well as in other countries. Some are more unique than others such as the one in Amsterdam, in Oosterpark, that has bee open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since it’s opening in 2005. The founders’ goal is the diffuse the contributions of different speakers via the internet. However, the concept of freedom of expression is problematic: while citizens have the legal right to express themselves, the mayor and other authorities have the semi-legal authority to limit contributions. Other speakers’ corners exist in Singapore, in Hong Lim Park, open from 7am to 7pm. It was established by the government in 2000 and is located not far from the police station. Unfortunately, it is tightly regulated: speakers may not address subjects of religions or racial issues, it is prohibited to record or film speakers, and people must sign up at the police station before speaking. It is deserted most of the time. Goh Chok Tong, the Prime Minister at the time the speakers’ corner was set up, expressed his view on the subject in 2006, and is quoting as saying: “to me it is it [the speakers’ corner] is a success, because very few people go there to speak…”

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

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