‘Pop-Up’ Speakers’ Corner Events

Speakers’ Corner events don’t necessarily demand lengthy, complicated or time-consuming organisation. The ‘pop-up’ Speakers’ Corner can be a key feature of a lively and varied programme.

The fact that Speakers’ Corner Committee members are busy people with limited time to devote to organising events doesn’t mean they can’t develop a really worthwhile programme. Even if the project has a volunteer or paid part-time coordinator, successful events don’t necessarily depend on complicated arrangements over lengthy periods. Nor do they always require enormous effort to attract participants and an audience.

The ‘pop-up’ Speakers’ Corner, for example, can have significant impact with relatively little organisation. Typically it takes place alongside a much bigger event which perhaps does require considerable planning and promotion, though by its own organisers. The Speakers’ Corner will certainly benefit from that work but it will also add a new dimension and additional value to it, to everyone’s advantage.

All that’s required is a portable Speakers’ Corner – or some other form of small platform and signage so that the initiative is visible and attractive. If it can be promoted in the main event’s literature and publicity and perhaps also on the day, so much the better.

A wide range of events could provide the setting for a pop-up Speakers’ Corner, especially if it’s themed to match the participants or the issues in which they’re interested.

A pop-up event of no more than an hour – and often shorter – could be

  • (if shopping counts as an event) as simple as inviting shoppers to speak for 60 seconds on any subject they like – as in Leicester and Sheffield
  • part of a festival, parade or celebration – as at People’s Day in Brighton
  • at a community event – as at the Hollingdean Yuletide Market o in partnership with a local voluntary group, charity or campaign, perhaps on a day designated to publicise its issue or cause – as with the Samaritans in Lichfield
  • at a conference, enabling participants to engage with each other informally and spontaneously outside the programmed proceedings – perhaps at lunchtime
  • at a cultural or sporting event – enabling those attending to discuss what they’ve just seen and heard (or are about to).

What’s required? Not much other than

  • a good pitch, perhaps provided by the main event’s organisers, where a small crowd can gather (without disrupting other activities)
  • a small platform, signage and, if appropriate, amplification (which the organisers may be able to provide)
  • inclusion in the main event’s publicity, including announcements on the day
  • a small team from the Speakers’ Corner project and perhaps the event organisers to encourage participation, including an MC to ‘chair’ proceedings and perhaps one or two volunteers prepared to get debate going
  • some simple leaflets (photocopied will do) to hand out around the event to encourage interest and participation (and promote the Speakers’ Corner project)
  • if you or the event organisers have the technology or if a local broadcaster can be involved, the video or audio recording of the session for uploading to your  and other websites (though you should ask participants for their permission).

With a little forward planning, it really doesn’t take much to create a really worthwhile event – or indeed a lively and varied programme of events throughout the year.

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