Yorkshire Evening Post – 11 March 2013

Make your voice heard at Leeds’s new Speakers’ Corner

Residents who have been fighting to start a Speakers’ Corner have finally had their voices heard.

The new group held its first meeting in Leeds city centre on Saturday. Members of the public didn’t let the wet weather put them off and congregated at Victoria Gardens just outside the Leeds City Art Gallery.

Organiser Andrew Raof, 25, said: “The first Speakers’ Corner went well and we will be building it up from here. Anyone can join in – it’s all about discussing the issues that matter to the people in Leeds and West Yorkshire.”

The post-graduate law student added: “It is important to have a group like this so that we properly converse with one another and share our opinions.”

The aim is to provide a platform for free speech in the city and give locals the chance to share their opinions and exchange ideas.

John Wilson, of Wilson’s Solicitors, is also helping to get the group off the ground.

He said: “We are living in an age where we have so many forms of communication including social media but people are feeling more excluded from public discourse in modern society.

“There are some things you can’t get off your chest in 140 characters. Staring at a computer screen and typing at a keyboard just isn’t the same as saying it out loud.

“People nowadays have a real yearning to listen to people who are really passionate about subjects and there needs to be a forum for people to have their say. A lot of people were taking an interest in what we were doing and the reactions from the public were all positive.

“We are hoping as the year goes on that more and more people will get used to the idea and will come along.”

The new Speakers’ Corner has also won the backing of Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn, who contacted organiser Andrew Raof via email to show his support.

Andrew hopes that the Leeds talking post could one day rival London’s Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

The next event will be on Saturday, March 23 at 12pm. To find out more email: [email protected] or follow @leedsspeakers on Twitter.


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