Speakers' Corner can be found at the north-west corner of Hyde Park (near Marble Arch).
It's not much to look at when you get there, and if there's nobody speaking when you arrive then you'll probably wonder whether you've got the right place, but if you turn up at Sunday lunchtime then you'll see a lively crowd of a few hundred people.
Its reputation as a place for free speech dates all the way back to the 1700s when Tyburn was still used a site of public execution. (Tyburn was by modern-day Marble Arch). This area was on the outskirts of town back then, out in the fields, and they used to drag the criminals up from Newgate Gaol and allow them one final speech before meeting their maker. By 1872 the area had gained a nationwide fame for oratory, which contains to a lesser extent today. It certainly doesn't get the crowds they enjoyed back then (some of them even turned into riots!), but it still attracts a few hundred every weekend.
The best time to go is Sunday lunchtime (it's busiest around noon), but speakers are free to turn up whenever they like. There are no guarantees that you will see anything good -- or even anything at all. Most of the speakers seem to have a religious bent, or are trying to get their least favourite Western politician arrested for war crimes. And sometimes they are just plain nuts.
Craig has written a big review of Speakers' Corner on his blog, which you might like to read before you go. It will give you a taste of the atmosphere, the crowd size, and the level of intelligence of the debate (not very high!). Most of the fun comes from listening to the lively hecklers, which can be very amusing indeed. They butt-in with jokes and put-downs, and always raise a laugh. It's always amusing to hear a pompous know-it-all speaker get punctured by a witty one-liner.
If you'd prefer to watch some real political debate, then why not attend a session at the House of Commons? You can even go and watch the Prime Minister at PMQs. Craig has written big reviews of the House of Commons, House of Lords and PMQs as well. Another option is to attend the Mayor's Question Time at City Hall (read Craig's review).
JerrySmith – “I went to Speaker's Corner a while ago on one of my Sunday walks, just to have a nose what was going on and it was full of nut jobs. One guy was standing on a box and getting himself so worked up into a tizzy i thought he was going to pass out. Some of the other speakers were alright, you could see they had done it before. The most entertaining one was having a right old ding dong with the crowd about and there was lots of shouting, which was quite entertaining for 5 minutes, but it was like bear baiting without the blood. Nobody was going to change anybody's mind so what's the point? I still go there sometimes on my walk, just to see what is going on, but dont expect to learn anything”
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Craig’s review – “If you want to hear some speeches in Hyde Park then the best time to come is Sunday lunchtime.The speakers can turn up any time they like, but whenever I've come during the week it's just all joggers and cyclists and litter and pigeons. They all work during the week, you see, so political rallies are reserved for the weekend over here. That's how we like to do things… continued”
Read Craig’s review of this event
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