Sheffield Speaks: City gets ready for soapbox say

Sheffield Speaks: New initiative to bring back Speakers' Corner.
Sheffield Speaks: New initiative to bring back Speakers' Corner.
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Have your say

sPEAKERS’ Corner is coming back to Sheffield so you can have your say on anything and everything.

National organisation Speakers’ Corner Trust is working with groups across the city to make sure as many voices as possible can be heard.

Whether it is standing on a soap box in the city centre or today’s alternative of making feelings known on Twitter, the aim is to get folk talking.

The initiative will start during Local Democracy Week, from October 15 to 21, under the title Sheffield Speaks.

Sheffield, like many other cities, used to have several Speakers’ Corners where, before mass communications, local people would gather to promote ideas, campaign for causes and debate the issues of the day.

A timetable of public events is now being planned for a modern alternative.

Now any Sheffield groups or individuals interested in getting involved are urged to get in touch with their own ideas.

Events so far will include a day of debating at Sheffield City Hall for secondary school students, a public meeting on the future of community assemblies, an opportunity for voluntary organisations to quiz the police commissioner candidates, a Dragon’s Den encouraging young people to pitch ideas for getting involved in community life, and a dialogue between older and younger people designed to identify how both groups can gain more influence in decision-making.

Peter Bradley, of the Speakers’ Corner Trust, said: “Almost 150 years after it was established in London, the original Speakers’ Corner remains a powerful symbol of the rights to free expression and public assembly which lie at the heart of all our rights as citizens and an inspiration to millions all over the world who are still struggling for theirs.

“But though those freedoms were hard won in this country too, perhaps we’re now in danger of taking them for granted.

“A combination of cynicism about politics, preoccupation with our busy modern lifestyles, and the attraction of high tech means of communication mean that nowadays we spend less time discussing our ideas and opinions with each other face to face, and that can make it more difficult both to make common cause and to win respect for alternative opinions.”

n To organise an event and join Sheffield Speaks, email peterbradley@speakerscorertrust.org.

n If you have memories or photos of Speakers’ Corners in Sheffield email nancy.fielder@thestar.co.uk or write to Nancy Fielder, The Star, York Street, Sheffield, S1 1PU.