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 Campus Suffolk who has a particular interest in the Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner.
With the support of Ipswich Borough Council, they worked with local secondary schools to encourage and train teams of young people to speak out in public about the issues which matter to them.
The fact that it was pouring with rain did not seem in any way to dampen the enthusiasm of the young speakers who took up position on the steps of the Town Hall or of the large crowd, including Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and a number of local Councillors, which gathered to listen, cross examine and, on occasion, heckle them.
They spoke, often passionately, about a wide range of issues, calling for the lowering of the voting age to 16 – or its increase to 21 – campaigning for a reduction in the cost of cinema tickets for young people, making the case for the restoration of capital punishment and highlighting the need for more counselling services for young people.
Flushed with success, the organisers are now planning to involve more local individuals and organisations in the initiative with a view to forming a Speakers’ Corner Committee to take the project forward.