Speakers' Corner Bulletin 09 - 2nd August 2014

Speakers’ Corner Bulletin 09 9th Aug 2014

This week, at the suggestion of Mr Clarke (see Bulletin 07) and the encouragement of a fair number of your good selves, I wrote the following email to Mark Banks - relevant bureaucrat at Westminster Council’s dept of Waste and Parks…

Dear Mark Banks
At a recent meeting with Dennis Clarke of the Royal Parks' we discussed much-needed improvements to Speakers' Corner.
On the subject of the discontinued use of the toilets in the sunken area on the Marble Arch Traffic Island(s), and also the use of the toilets in the Park Lane Underground Car Park, Mr Clarke suggested I talk to you.

Would it be convenient to meet you?
And if so, when?


he replied…

Hello Mr Allen,
Thank you for your email. I’m not sure it is worth arranging a meeting as unfortunately there is very little that I could discuss with you.
I wasn’t aware that there were any public toilets in Park Lane Underground Car Park but if there are then these will be managed by the car park operator rather than by the council. As I understand it, the decision to reconfigure the road crossings at Marble Arch and close off the section of subway containing the public toilet was taken by Transport for London a number of years ago. Given the very substantial financial challenges that the council faces over the next few years I think it is highly unlikely that we would consider exploring options to have this former public toilet re-opened.

Yours sincerely,
Mark Banks
Group Manager (Waste & Parks)

So there we have it; fobbed off with a combination of Tory cuts and passing the buck. I will email Transport for London, but from previous experience I know them to be slippery - evading responsibility behind a mesh of privatised partnerships.

2. In the meantime I have learned that in 2011 there was an unsuccessful proposal, from a Mr Dmitry Chernyshenko of the Russian Ministry of Sport, to stage a 5-month-long meet-n-greet exhibition in 2012 on the Marble Arch traffic island to promote the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The proposal included a 750 seater ice rink, a pair of pavilions - one on each island with a walkway bridge across Tyburn Way connecting the two; and pertinently, the following sentence:

‘…this would include £200,000 for the refurbishment of existing toilets.’

The plot, such as it is, thickens.

3. Last Sunday 3rd Aug, I twice found myself in Anarcho-busybody mode censuring illegal amplification; firstly backing up Bob Doom when the Jesus-didn’t-exist woman stood less than 2 yards from him and started preaching with a battery-operated megaphone; and later in partnership with Eric when a young Pro-Palestinian performer started rapping and singing through a portable PA system.

So much for my encouragement of new speakers…

4. Also last week, for those of you who didn’t know, the reason why a thousand or so young women were screaming in unison (quite legally) and milling around Speakers’ Corner in adolescent fervour, was the presence of a young New York-based Muslim youtube ‘prankster’ Adam Saleh, who twittered his fan-base to meet him at 3pm at Marble Arch.

5. Local Democracy, Speakers’ Corner style.

Some of you maybe aware that I am not alone in my lobbying activities. While I have been making my approaches to Dennis Clarke head of Royal Parks Services, so too has Heiko Khoo - his set of written demands to Clarke are published on his website:


Meanwhile Bob Doom has been in contact with Clarke’s boss Linda Lennon the Royal Parks CEO; less technologically tooled-up than us, Bob, is also a regular at the park and eminently approachable.

There are also random members of the now defunct Speakers’ Corner Steering Committee flitting around in a cross-pollenating role ensuring that while we may differ in tone, emphasis and style, all three of us are dealing with much the same subject matter.


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