SPEAKER CORNERED

Speakers’ Corner Diary. Sunday (10th June. 2011)

Why I chose to lose face and concede my pitch to an attention-seeking moron and a handful of jeering Hooray Henrys.

The story might have panned out very differently… To be honest I had already finished speaking and was chatting to a mate, having spent the best part of the afternoon successfully laying my version of anarchist sedition on the populace. I had finished off with a lively debate based on the proposition that most people most of the time had no need of law and order and were quite capable of negotiating their own temporary rules and regulations.

So when a frail bespectacled little oddball dressed in a short green kilt, a Star of David T-shirt, and a Robin Hood hat arrived and commenced to set up a portable PA system close to where we were standing, I was presented with the dilemma of how to deal with him. Amplified music is not allowed in the park, although the pertinent by-law is waived by the Park authorities on various occasions throughout the Summer months and rock concerts are held immediately adjacent to Speakers’ Corner all but drowning out the oratory. I had been particularly irked two weeks previously by a concert featuring Bon Jovi and had made myself hoarse trying to shout through them. I’d packed up early and made a fruitless complaint to two beat bobbies as I left. They had informed me that a license had been issued and that was an end to it. Also they gave me a friendly warning that next week the amplification would be even louder for Rod Stewart.

What I could never logistically do to Rod Stewart, I could certainly do to the little dingbat who was now dancing a jig to music emanating from the nearby portable PA system. I took the law into my own hands and walked over and started arbitrarily twiddling knobs and pulling out plugs. He and his ‘techie’ start arguing with me and putting right my spoiling. “You’re just jealous of him!” Screamed his minder - a large Irish woman with tufted ginger hair. And to my surprise she was supported by a group of what I know from experience to be hooray hangers on; who were only warming up when they repeated her jibe back to me and laughed with each other as they passed round a bottle of plonk.

At this point a regular whispered in my ear that someone had gone for a policeman, which is not what you want to hear so early in an altercation. Speakers Corner is a hot-bed of ungrounded exhibitionists and a police presence can act as a lightning rod for unresolved emotional baggage. So no room for a reasoned explanation. The police are likely to operate pragmatically and simply arrest the original disputees and back off quickly.

Another regular pulled my sleeve and offered me some advice and information: “Easy Tone, he’s a defrocked priest who reckons the world’s going to end, greets the police with a fascist salute and wont stop dancing until he’s dragged away.”

The full story is considerably more bizarre than the fragment of information I had and on which I based my decision to withdraw… Cornelius Neil Horan the so-called ‘dancing priest’ or “Grand Prix Priest” is notorious for, among other things, running on to the track during the 2003 British Grand Prix and disrupting the race proceedings, also in the 2004 Olympics in Athens he made a flying tackle on the leader of the men's marathon. Ostensibly actions to attract attention to, and promote, his religious belief that the end of the world is nigh. After a quiet period, when he was defrocked by the Catholic church, Horan went on to appear on Britain's Got Talent in May 2009. He danced his familiar jig on the show, got a standing ovation from the audience, and was put through to the next round. He didn’t make it to the live semi-finals. But he did attract a small following of idiot-watchers, who were doubtless disappointed later that Summer when he was ejected from Epsom racecourse before he managed to disrupt the Derby.

Although I have kept a reasonably low profile in recent years, I do have a bit of previous myself when it comes to perceived public nuisance and eccentricity. My modest history of being a political prankster has given my rep a bit of colour and cost only a few quid in fines, but I’ve never been a police-baiter. My most pertinent and local claim to fame was my mistaken belief in the millennium bug – it was nothing to do with Armageddon - simply a fanciful belief that fate was about to impose a self-sufficient anarchist life-style on humanity. I even went and lived in the hills of Cumbria for the best part of a year. On a bad day, I still preach that human beings don’t deserve planet Earth.

So a decision to steer well clear of Neil Horan was a wise one and, despite those jeers that intimated that I was conceding territory and loosing face, a decision I’m proud of...

But meanwhile, in a parallel universe a few blips of chance away from the one we now inhabit, I never did receive that good advice, I caught sight of a sneering hooray and my ego got high on class hatred, there was shouting and confrontation, the police were soon on the spot. And with the local talent always ready to make a name for them selves – someone hit someone and it all went decidedly wonky. And me and the Grand prix priest spent a night in the cells together discussing the lamentable absence of legal aid in the Big Society, while a support group of larky upper class ironists sat laughing in the pub rewriting my Wikipedia entry and trying to think up a catchier slogan for the press release than ‘FREE the END IS NIGH TWO’.

Loss of face – I can handle it.

Tony Allen June 2011