Lichfield Mercury – 11 October 2008

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Soapbox plan to boost democratic debate

An ‘imaginative project’ to give Lichfeldians a public platform to discuss local issues is set to be drafted into the city.

Lichfield looks set to become the second city to be picked to develop a Speakers’ Corner, after the project was piloted in Nottingham earlier this year.

And it is hoped that the cathedral city will pave the way for other towns to adopt the scheme, designed to promote freedom of expression, platforms for public debate and stimulate and support active citizenship.

Peter Bradley, director of Speakers’ Corner Trust (SCT), said: “Lichfield has a grand tradition of pioneering free thinking in the arts, sciences and politics and given the crucial role its sons and daughters have played in national life, it seemed a natural place for us to come.

“But a Speakers’ Corner project can only work with public support and that’s why we’ve been so careful to consult before deciding to go ahead.

“Over the last few weeks I’ve met representatives from more than 20 local organisations, including the councils, the police, the schools, the churches, the arts and a range of amenity and interest groups.

“The enthusiastic reception we’ve received has been really rewarding and has given us the confidence to launch this project.”

The SCT will now continue work with Lichfield’s district and city councils to outline plans for a Speakers’ Corner, as well as drawing up an independent management to oversee the running of the project.

Councillor David Smith, leader of Lichfield District Council, said he was looking forward to seeing the ‘exciting initiative’ unfold and believes that it will help draw more people into the city.

Peter Young, town clerk at the city council, also welcomed the news.

“This is an imaginative project which can only do good for Lichfield,” he said.

“Creating new opportunities for people to come together and exchange views on the issues which matter to them not only makes for better local government but also stronger communities and I very much welcome that.”

The Garrick will be holding a special workshop on Friday, October 17, to help push the scheme. Actor in residence Tom Roberts will be teaching budding public speakers how to conquer stage fright and speak confidently in public.

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