|You can still go to Hyde Park on Sunday's and hear (or speak) opinions on virtually any topic imaginable.
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Amongst those who have attended meetings there, are the some of the most influential figures in world history like Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels and Lenin. Even Cromwell's corpse was hung up here in a cage for public display, after he had died as a warning to others who might wish to abolish the Monarchy. This was of course in the days before Speaker's Corner when at the same location was "Tyburn", one of the "hanging fields" of London. Other's whose ghosts haunt this corner include William Morris, George
Orwell, the Pankhursts, CLR. James, Benn Tillet, Marcus Garvey, and a star spangled cast of millions more who shall remain unmentioned, excepting the immovable Lord Soper, still speaking at 94. Speaker's Corner has had a more powerful influence than any "university" in the world, because here there are no entry requirements, no rules of intellectual formality and above all no class restrictions. It is as Leslie James the Hyde Park pamphleteer wrote a fitting location to represent "the century of the common man."
Tourists or visitors to such official places of "learning" as Cambridge or Oxford University are not allowed to attend any lecture they like, come and go when they choose, and take part in debate and discussion. It is precisely these characteristics that mark out Speaker's Corner as a strange and exciting place, a place where mankind meets itself in a generally pleasurable atmosphere.
Tens of thousands of people come to Speaker's Corner once or twice a year, thousands more who come 5-10 times a year, and hundreds who come virtually through hell or high water. When you consider that there is nothing to buy here, there is no music, just human interaction without the mediation of machines and without any protection from the weather you begin to get a small glimpse of the significance of this place. Consider for a moment the so called Opinion Polls that the mass media constantly pump out, they take a survey of random samples of certain social groups and claim an accuracy rate, extrapolated from this to the entire country, of + or - 3-4%. But Opinion Polls are static phenomena a snap shot seeking out for example a yes, no, or maybe, answer. The human brain is however not static but undergoing constant change, a person may think one thing, and yet internally have doubts. Speaker's Corner may be seen as a dynamic refection of mass psychology in that you have here people from every walk of life, every class, and almost every country.
There is of course a widespread belief that Speaker's Corner is some kind of "nuthouse", where "cranks" and tourists go. Lenin once related the story of a man who was wildly shaking, seated, his arms were swinging around, the observer thought it was a madman, but upon closer inspection he discovered it was a man sharpening a knife.
Speaker's Corner is perhaps the most dynamic mirror of human consciousness in the world.