Above: William MacGuinness speaking at Speakers’ Corner, 1964. © Moyra and Rodger Peralta
An exhibition by:
“Speakers’ Corner is not a photograph. Speakers’ Corner is a film, which you have to watch throughout, composed of different images. You have to come to Speakers’ Corner frequently in order to understand its mystique.” Reinhard Wentz, Speakers’ Corner regular, 1960s to present Sounds from the Park was a one-year project to record the history of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park from its origins in the late nineteenth century, right up to the present day. Almost 30 orators, hecklers and crowd members were interviewed and hundreds of images and documents were collected for the Speakers’ Corner archive, which is now held at Bishopsgate Library. This exhibition explores the history of Speakers’ Corner in two parts. This set of panels explores the many meanings Speakers’ Corner holds for the people interviewed. Further down the corridor, opposite the library, a second set of panels examines how Speakers’ Corner has changed within living memory. On the windows directly behind you are two artworks made by Annette Fry, using photographs taken by Moyra and Rodger Peralta at Speakers’ Corner in 1964.
Artwork by: Annette Fry Design by: Edd Baldry
To listen to the audio soundtrack to this exhibition please borrow an MP3 player at the library desk or use the QR codes to stream the audio on your mobile device. The track number or QR code on the panels links to the relevant clip. Please pick up your free booklet from the library desk.
Above: Peter “England” and crowd, Speakers’ Corner, 1977. © Philip Wolmuth
“I like to think it is unique. The fact that you go down there and you’re not sure what’s going to happen. It’s just unplanned. Suddenly, something will take off. You’ll hear a voice on the other side of the corner and you’d see a crowd surging in one direction and that would really give me a buzz.” Chris Kennett, Speakers’ Corner regular and documenter, 1960s to present
Left: Ruth Eastwood at home, 2013. © Sophie Polyviou Above: Ruth Eastwood debating at Speakers’ Corner, 2004. © Mark York
“I don’t do heckling for the sake of heckling, I’m just interested in what people are saying and I want to bring things out. If they are saying something that doesn’t seem right I will say so.” Ruth Eastwood, heckler and debater, 1940s to present
Above: Heiko Khoo speaking, 1993. © Philip Wolmuth
“At the moment things are quiet, maybe things will change in a while. My own personal relationship to Speakers’ Corner is more didactic than revolutionary at the moment, because if I spit fire and brimstone I just look like I’m pissin’ in the wind. And I prefer not to look like that.” Heiko Khoo, Marxist speaker, 1980s to present day
Left: Tom Tickell at home, 2013. © Sophie Polyviou Above: Tom Tickell speaking at Speakers’ Corner aged 16 in 1959. © Tom Tickell
“Probably it’s a form of anger management. It gets rid of my own spleen. It allows me to a) get an audience, b) be funny, and c) get rid of that anger that I feel.” Tom Tickell, heckler, speaker and diarist, 1960s to present
Above: Sharley McLean speaking on “Hyde Park Gays and Sapphics” platform, 1994. © Philip Wolmuth
“We were very young and inexperienced and I was on the platform. We took turns. We were all novices, we were struggling through. Trying to make people aware that homosexuality is something like being left-handed, putting it into the real world. This elderly man was pulling my coat and he said, ‘Thank you for being here’. That is something I remember because it was prophetic in a way. It was a very elderly man so, to think what they may have had to go through. That was an encouragement to carry on because it was quite easy to give up.” Sharley McLean, regular, heckler and speaker (from 1980s) on the “Hyde Park Gays and Sapphics” platform, 1939 to present
Above left: Tony Allen performing at Speakers’ Corner, 1979. © Philip Wolmuth Bottom left: Tony Allen in dialogue at Speakers’ Corner, 2013. © Sophie Polyviou
“I’d performed as a street entertainer around Speakers’ Corner but the ultimate performance thing was to actually speak there. Then, I was still working out my relationship with the fourth wall and the audience. I never understood the difference between acting and performing. Nowadays that’s what I teach, the difference between the two and how you’re not in a character, as a performer, you’re a version of yourself and you’re talking directly to the audience.” Tony Allen, anarchist speaker, comedian and advocate heckler, 1970s to present
Above: Paul Hunt or “Saint Paul” speaking at Speakers’ Corner, 1980. © Philip Wolmuth
“It was part of my development but that development took me to other places … Paul, Saint Paul [pictured above], one of his favourite quotes was apparently a Sufi quote: a man who’s walking in a forest sees a strange looking stone. So he picks it up and sees there’s writing on the bottom which says, ‘Why do you seek more knowledge when you don’t put into practice what you already know?’ And sometimes Paul would just say that and shut up and everyone would sort of, ‘Mm, okay’. In a way that was why I moved on.” Myk Zeitlin, Speakers’ Corner regular, 1970s
Left: Bob Rogers at his usual spot at Speakers’ Corner, 2013. © Sophie Polyviou
Right: Bob Rogers with his sign, 2001. © Philip Wolmuth
“Speakers’ Corner means different things to different people and that’s a very important thing to understand. I continue to go to Speakers’ Corner for the reason I first went there: because it’s there and it remains, so ‘use it or lose it’ is relevant. A good day usually means that I’ve spoken to a fair number of people, the more diverse the background the more interesting.” Bob Rogers, Speakers’ Corner regular, wears sign “It’s Going to Get Worse”, 1960s to present.
The exhibition continues outside the library entrance.