The North Eastern part of London’s Hyde Park close to Marble Arch known as Speakers Corner is world famous as a forum for radicals and eccentrics of every hue. The forum for anyone and everyone to speak freely in public came into being around 1855 proved so popular it continues nearly 150 years later.
Visiting Speakers Corner on any Sunday in 2010 one sees communists, cheek by jowl with radical Muslims, Christians or simply free thinkers expounding their own personal world view, usually encouraging radical change and always being heckled by a random collection of passers by. As such Speakers Corner has become a British institution, a symbol the rights of free speech.
But it is an institution that has become an anachronism according to the London Development Agency (LDA) and Peter Mandelson’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). This blog has learnt that senior managers at the LDA have been working closely with Peter Mandelson to renovate and revive the area in readiness for the expected tide of tourism generated by the Olympics.
Speakers Corner has been criticised in the past for being shabby, noisy and lacking facilities but now, according to our source, the area is due for a face lift costing up to £330 million. A facelift to make it fit for the 21st Century!
The plans provide for an area of around half a mile in the north east corner of Hyde Park to be paved and cordoned off from the rest of Hyde Park. Covered seating will be installed to make the venue a year round attraction and a new exit will be built for Marble Arch underground station. The new development will improve access from the west end of Oxford Street and wheel chair access and toilets will be provided.
The area west of Speakers Corner has been allocated for parking and a visitors centre containing shops and restaurants is to be constructed along the east side of Hyde Park running down Park Lane.
It is an ambitious project but our source claims that the tax payers will not have to fork out a penny. The project is to be run by a public private partnership headed by Alan Sugar and there are no plans, at this stage, to charge entrance fees though planning permission has been given for billboards around Marble Arch which will generate part of the necessary advertising revenue. Star Bucks and Tesco have both expressed interest in sponsorship.
The most exciting feature is that the main source of funds will be from rights to a new TV show with the working title “Saturday Night from Speakers Corner” to be hosted by Davina Mccall.
The program will be hosted live from Speakers Corner and provide a platform for celebrity speakers to promulgate their own personal ideologies. The program is planned to be around three hours long and cover a range of styles from stand up comedy to heavy weight politics. Tony Blair and Jeremy Paxman have already expressed interest and talks are underway with the Oxford Union Debating Society to provide mediation and advise.
The opening night is intended to be during the London Olympics some time in summer 2012 and it is hoped that big name bands such as the Arctic Monkeys will play on the opening night. The show will be broadcast simultaneously by BBC 2 and online via BBC iPlayer. Twitter and Facebook feeds are also promised.
It’s rumoured that the National Lottery results announcements may be moved to the new show as audience figures for the current show are flagging. A share of profits would be donated to good causes.
This is an exciting story and we’d welcome comments from readers.