SCT’s UK pilot was launched in Nottingham in February 2008 and inaugurated by the Justice Secretary Jack Straw in February 2009. Its second UK project was launched in Lichfield in May 2009. Work is now under way in Bristol, Lincoln and the London Borough of Waltham Forest and a time-limited project in rural Herefordshire was completed in March 2010. SCT is working with Leicester City Council on a programme of events to mark Local Democracy Week and other local projects are now in the pipeline.
The south London borough of Croydon is one of three locations in which SCT is undertaking projects with the support of the Co-operative.
SCT launched its consultation among potential stakeholders in the autumn of 2013 with meetings with the NHS, Chamber of Commerce and Croydon Voluntary Action with more planned. It is hoped that a Speakers' Corner Committee can be established by the end of the year with a view to launching the project in the spring of 2014.
The Berkshire county town of Reading is one of three locations in which SCT is undertaking projects with the support of the Co-operative. A Speakers' Corner Committeee was established in October and is now considering sites for a permanent Speakers' Corner and planning a project launch for 2014.
Medway in Kent is one of three locations in which SCT is developing projects with the support of the Co-operative.
SCT launched its consultation among potential stakeholders in the autumn of 2013 and it's hoped that the project will be launched early in 2014.
A wonderfully successful Ipswich Speaks event which took place on Sunday 21 October 2012 heralded the launch of the town’s Speakers’ Corner project.
It was conceived and organised by Chantal Bowman, a senior executive at the Waggener Edstrom, the public relations company which provides pro bono support for SCT, and Dr Ed Packard, a history lecturer at the University of Suffolk who has a particular interest in the Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner.
A growing band of local enthusiasts is planning to create a Speakers’ Corner in the heart of Leeds and hopes to have established a permanent space during the course of 2013. The initiative is being led by post-graduate law student Andrew Raof who first approached SCT for advice in August 2012 and spent the winter months gathering support.
Andrew is hoping to be able to establish the Speakers’ Corner at Victoria Gardens on the Headrow, outside Leeds Art Gallery, a space already widely regarded as the city’s unofficial Speakers’ Corner and the focus for rallies and demonstrations at least since the time of the Suffragettes.
Brighton in East Sussex, often referred to as ‘London by the Sea’, is one of the UK’s most exciting cities.
Though Bristelmestune was mentioned in the Domesday Book, it was not until the mid eighteenth century that Brighton gained recognition when a local doctor began prescribing seawater as a restorative. When the Prince Regent visited in 1783 and subsequently made Brighton his favoured leisure destination, commissioning the construction of the famously exotic Royal Pavilion four years later to serve as a palace by the sea, the former fishing village became a fashionable resort for the wealthy.
SCT, in collaboration with the Workers Educational Association - which will be running courses designed to help local people acquire the skills they need to take full advantage of a Speakers’ Corner project – commenced a programme of consultation in Sheffield in the summer of 2012.
Encouraged by the grandson of Joe Corina, a frequent campaigner at Bradford's old Speakers' Corner - the exact location of which is uncertain but which disappeared after the second world war - SCT commenced its consultation on the prospects for a project in the city in the summer of 2012.
SCT will be working with the Workers' Educational Association which has developed a course designed to help adults not only to acquire speaking skills but alsoto use them in campaigning, influencing decision-making and bringing about change in their communities. So while the WEA will be helping local people to acquire the skills they need to express their ideas and opinions confidently and effectively, SCT will help create the platforms on which they can exercise them.
SCT worked with Leicester City Council and other local partners, including public services, the education sector, voluntary organisations, community groups and the business community, to organise a range of events during the course of Local Democracy Week between 11 and 17 October 2010. The partnership came together again to repeat the initiative in 2011.
From its inception, SCT had always intended that one of its early projects should seek to meet the particular challenge of a rural environment. Now, in partnership with the New Economics Foundation (nef) and supported by a grant from Regional Action West Midlands’ Every Voice Counts programme, SCT has the opportunity to adapt its model to address the needs of the rural communities of six parishes in north Herefordshire.
SCT's project in the London Borough of Waltham Forest was inspired by a group of teachers from three local primary schools and a secondary school along with the Friends of Stoneydown Park and local residents who all wanted to see a Speakers' Corner established in their park both as a way of enhancing its environment and in order to provide a platform for their community. Following the development of projects in a major industrial city and an historic market town, the promotion of a scheme on a much smaller, neighbourhood scale was a particularly attractive challenge for SCT.
The idea of promoting a Speakers’ Corner project in Lincoln came from the local Lincolnshire Take Part Pathfinder, a programme supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government as part of the Together We Can campaign and designed “to provide programmes of active learning that enable people to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence…to make an active contribution to their communities and influence public policies and services”. With the support of Lincoln City Council, SCT launched a stakeholder consultation in August 2009.
Bristol became the third UK city in which SCT has promoted a Speakers' Corner after local people impressed by the project in Nottingham suggested that with its diverse communities, rich heritage and burgeoning cultural life would make it an ideal candidate. The City Council was equally supportive and, in summer 2009, SCT undertook a highly successful consultatioin among potential stakeholders.
Following the success of its pilot in the major industrial city of Nottingham, SCT was particularly keen to test its model in a smaller town with a rural hinterland. In July 2008, on the advice of the National Association of Local Councils and with the support of Lichfield City Council, SCT launched a major consultation in the historic cathedral city of Lichfield - home of, among many other notables, Samuel Johnson, Erasmus Darwin and David Garrick.
Following eight months of consultation and development and with the wholehearted and active support of Nottingham City Council and other key partners, SCT's first UK project was launched in Nottingham on 22 February 2008. Nottingham was chosen for SCT's pilot partly because of its status as a major city with a celebrated freethinking tradition but not least because of the rich diversity of its communities which, from the days of the legendary Robin Hood, have played an important part in the campaigns for individual freedom and social justice.
“Without free speech no search for truth is possible… no discovery of truth is useful… Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race.” — Charles Bradlaugh, 1833-1891, British social reformer
Freedom of Expression
"Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democratic life. It is by the free exchange of ideas among citizens about how they should live together and how they should be governed that we create and sustain the democratic society. So the rights to free association and expression are scarcely less important than the right to live in peace and free from want."
Václav Havel, playwright, former President of the Czech Republic, Founding Patron of Speakers’ Corner Trust
Forum for Debate
SCT's online Forum for Debate provides a space for leading academics, campaigners and commentators to set out balanced arguments on key contemporary issues as a means of stimulating wider public debate about them.
Each debate is supplemented by an invaluable bibliography of further reading provided by the British Library.