On Sunday I spoke at Speakers’ Corner.
Speakers’ Corner is an area in Hyde Park where anyone is allowed to speak in public. This space attracts thousands of passing tourists meaning large audiences frequently assemble. Extreme opinions are to be expected as most speakers are there to evangelise their religion or harangue the government.
Aggressive heckling is a feature of Speakers’ Corner. Some people turn up specifically to heckle. I saw one lady deliver a speech about overcoming mental health problems while being taunted with “get your tits out!”. Other speakers had to endure hecklers putting their arms around them or trying to get up on their soap boxes with them.
I’ve always thought speaking at Speakers’ Corner would be an interesting challenge. Last Sunday Broadgate speakers held their annual table topics session at Speakers’ Corner and I went along eager to give it a try.
The event was great fun. Over two hours the audience was challenged with a series of table-topics. Anyone who accepted the challenge was invited up onto a small step ladder to address a crowd of Toastmasters and tourists.
I was given the humerous topic “Tell us about how broccoli can cure swine flu”, and I was given some broccoli as a prop. As I discussed the healing properties of “this humble vegetable” I realised that many of the tourists might think I was being serious, a few of them were even filming me. One tourist with a large professional looking video camera came up to me afterwards and said “thanks, that’s exactly what I needed for my mockumentry about swine flu”.
I was pleased to get my topic done early as the topics became increasingly controversial. I don’t really enjoy contraversial topics, but they seemed appropriate at Speakers’ corner.
All the heckling was fairly harmless. A slightly dilapidated gentleman holding a bottle of Stella did his best to distract the speakers by staggering centre stage messing about. The good thing about holding an open table topics session was that any hecklers who held strong opinions could be invited up to discuss the opposing view. The Stella drinking drunkard even had a go at the end.
Overall it was a fantastic event. Thanks to Broadgate Speakers for organising the event. I look forward to coming along next year.