Speakers' Corner review
If you want to hear some speeches in Hyde Park then the best time to come is Sunday lunchtime.
Most of the crowd come here for a laugh and a bit of entertainment. They're here to enjoy the hecklers and a bit of back and forth banter -- it's supposed to be fun. But most of the orators take it very seriously indeed. It's not enough for them to be speaking, they actually want to be heard. I'm guessing that they must be new to this, because that's not how we do things in London. People don't come here to listen -- they come here to disagree. The old-timers know this, so they always engage with the crowd and ask them plenty of questions, and encourage a bit of debate, but these newbies are expecting total silence (some of them are even demanding it!). In their heads they're the next Malcom X, about to whip us up into a frenzied rapture and lead a march on Parliament.
The biggest crowd today is gathered around a Muslim cleric. Let's just say that he isn't exactly a fan of the West (and that's me being kind). His speech is the kind of thing you'd deliver to an army on the eve of battle. But hold on... just hold on a minute... because this is why Speakers' Corner is so great. You can't stand here and spout a load of anti-Western claptrap and not expect to get a bit of anger back, and he's being taken to task by a Caribbean lady. You know the type: a bouncy, bubbly, chubby mountain of a maam, probably a Jamaican dinner lady or something like that, who's used to keeping fifty kids in line at dinner time -- and she's shouting him down with finger jabs and foot stamps. But it's not phasing him one little bit. This guy won't be moved. When it comes to politics and religion there's no convincing anybody, is there? You believe what you believe, and that's the end of it.
The Christian guy next door has a much more positive message: "The beginning is nigh". Not the end is nigh, you will notice, but the beginning. But the beginning of what? I suppose it could be the beginning of the end.
The Christian guy next-door to that Christian guy is sitting here singing hymns whilst his dutiful daughter stands there good as gold, turning over the song sheets for her daddy. She's dressed up like she's off to Sunday school, with dainty little shoes and a buckle satchel slung across her chest.
Now I'm listening to a guy who hates capitalists, bankers, politicians, the Royal Family... pretty much everybody who's better off than him. He wants to kick the Queen out of Buckingham Palace (or drag her out, if necessary) and let the homeless live there instead. There are so many rooms in the palace, he says, that we could solve London's homeless problem overnight. The best bit was when a scruffy dude wandered into his arena clutching a bottle of beer and spoke more sense in ten seconds than the speaker did in ten minutes. He totally took over the floor with his drunken banter and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. He dismantled the speaker and would have dismantled his step-ladder as well, if the speaker wasn't standing on it. Then he just wandered off again.
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