Waltham Forest Guardian – 19 November 2009
New Speakers’ Corner could find home in Walthamstow
IN 1872, the first Speakers’ Corner was born in Hyde Park and has seen such famous figures as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell use it as a platform to share their ideas.
Since then, other corners have sprung up in Lichfield and Nottingham – and the next could be in Walthamstow.
Local residents, schools and councillors have begun working with the Speakers’ Corner Trust in the hope of installing a new Speakers’ Corner in Stoneydown Park.
The idea was born at Stoneydown Park Primary School last summer and plans are now coming together for the landmark to be in place by May next year.
Ian Capes, 48, of Northcote Road, whose children attend Stoneydown, said: “One of the things we want to do is improve links with Willowfield and St Patrick’s Schools.
“All of them use the park at different times and we thought it would be nice to draw the children into the park.”
However, the original Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park has been known to attract more controversial speakers and the local Safer Neighbourhoods Team are involved in the project in a bid to keep discussion from becoming too heated.
High Street ward councillor James O’Rourke said: “I’m particularly interested in opening up debates for young people.
“It’s right we have a facility that allows informal debate.”
Peter Bradley, director of Speakers’ Corner Trust, added: “We’re trying to create new opportunities for people to have their say and remind people just how precious the right to freedom of speech is.”
Walthamstow was chosen as it is the home of such luminaries as William Morris, and Alfred Hitchcock from nearby Leytonstone.
The scheme was trialled at the school with a prototype design for the new Speakers’ Corner and a meeting is to be held this Thursday to choose a committee to run the project.
Claire Tansley, of Whittingham Primary School, has also been involved, as well as staff and students from Willowfield and St Patrick’s Schools.
Ms Tansley, also a member of the Friends of Stoneydown Park, said: “There are a lot of people who live around the park with a lot to say but no platform on which to say it.
“We want to use this project to encourage people to speak up and speak out and to ensure that the right people are listening.”
The project also involved Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design to develop a design for a stone plinth.