Speakers Corner

What follows is a book review from Minus One, number 37 from 1977. It was one of a couple of reviews, but they are not included.

In the early 1950’s, during the heyday of my romance with “Anarcho-communism”, I used to “soap-box” at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park. I was not very good as an open-air speaker and usually confined myself to opening the Sunday afternoon meetings of the then London Anarchist Group. The only tangible result of my efforts was a photograph of me that d in a lavishly produced book called Gala Day in London (1953). This was accompanied by limerick by a well-known artist of those days which read:

There was a young student of Kent
With a strong political bent,
He talked in the Park,
From morning till dark,
Two listened but very soon went:

An amusing jingle but quite inaccurate: I have never been a “student” since I have worked since the age of fourteen. I am not from Kent, but from Warwickshire (Birmingham to be exact). I talked for about half an hour at the most – and the two featured in the photograph were waiting for me to begin and soon grew into more.
The same photograph, minus the limerick was reprinted in the “quality” Sunday newspaper “The Observe:* with a caption which stated that I was as typical a London sight as Big Ben and the Horse Guards:
So much for my attempts to rouse the masses to revolt
These memories were brought back by reading the indefatigable
Jim Huggon’s latest publication Speaker’s Corner: An Anthology1. This
features contributions from such diverse figures as Jim Huggon
himself, Karl Marx the Reverend Lord (or Lord Reverend) Donald
Soper (whose contribution is a particularly nauseuous piece of
Christian piety), Antonia Raeburn and that doyen of all Hyde Perk
orators, the late Boner Thompson (“I have seldom listened to a speech
of mine without learning something”). A special bonus is the reproduction
of en entire issue of Boner’s own review The Black Hat.
Philip Srmsom, who was himself no mean soapboxer, contributes a Foreword in which he recalls his own thirteen years of oratory and the lessons he learned from it. Amongst other things, he states th It I gave up open-air speaking because I became “overwhelmed with individualism”. This is not so. I gave up speaking in Hyde Park round about 1953-54. I became an individualist in 1961.
“Speaker’s Corner” is still busy, but the “great ones” have gone. There is no one left who can compare with Boner Thompson (free lance), Tony Turner (Socialist party of Great Britain) and Fredrick Lohr
(ex-pacifist, ex anarchist, heretical Roman Catholic). More and more it becomes a stamping ground for cliche-ridden African politicians and crude exhibitionists (net to mention the various species of Christian and other religious lunatics). The tourist’s cameras click, the occasional TV crew films a speaker or two, the rent-a-mob gathers from time to time to march for or against some dictator or other, and a few surviors from the old days struggle on. Those days, unfortunately, have gone. This book is a memorial to the people who gave them life.. (£1.75+25p postage from Kropotkin Lighthouse Publications, c/o Housman’s Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N.l.)