Speakers’ Corner Bulletin No 12 - 4th Sept 2014
Here’s 2 items plus a reminder of J Gladdy’s Speakers Corner photography exhibition click here
1. My reply to Dennis Clarke’s email (Bulletin 11). Thanks for your suggestions.
2. The reply from Transport For London (TfL) to my inquiry about the current status of toilets on the Traffic Island. After reading this I am still unclear of their status.
Much as I found our personal meeting agreeable, I found your official response very disappointing.
Your email failed to address my concerns which were (in order of importance) the need for accessible toilets, the sound pollution from Summer concerts and other events; and Speakers’ Corner sharing space with an increasingly busy cycle track. Regulars at Speakers’ Corner were bewildered by the Royal Parks expenditure of half a million pound on ‘landscaping existing grass enclosures’ and most them accept that such decisions will be made and actions taken without their knowledge or consultation.
That said, I need to correct a few assumptions in your email and remind you of at least the spirit of my original comments.
My only motive in drawing your attention to the physical exclusion of the horse mounting block was to point out how out-of-touch the Royal Parks were with the users of the park. Given the status of the particular user group involved, it came as no surprise to most Speakers’ Corner regulars that rectifying this mistake would be prioritised by your team,
I did not report a ‘problem’ with the ‘soiling’ of the circular holy bush, I merely noted that your operatives had cleaned it up when they ‘refurbished’ the fencing and suggested that this was an acknowledgement of its use as a makeshift toilet. In your email you write ‘The Park team however will continue to monitor this and will arrange cleaning as required.’ Is this further acknowledgement? If so can we go ahead, as some regulars have suggested, and place a step ladder either side of the fence. Or perhaps the Royal Parks could unlock the gate. This solution is not suitable for the majority who would prefer to see plans for new permanent toilets. Encouraging the use of the grassed area was your suggestion, I just informed you that it was used by speakers extensively in the past before the erection of railings, Your team’s rejection of its use on grounds ‘of unattractive wear of the grass and ground compaction which would damage the trees’ seems frankly ludicrous given the regular destruction and expensive regeneration of large sections of the meadow throughout the year.
Your observation that speakers were using the newly constructed semi-circles is optimistic at best, and once again displays the Royal Park’s corporate arrogance. Your own rejected report of 2010, pointed out that for many years now speakers (and their meetings) have elected to cluster together mainly on the cycle track and across the tarmac to the opposite fence. Usually by 4.30pm these meetings have expanded to block the whole area and curtail its function as a thoroughfare. And yes, there is sometimes overspill into the new semi-circles.
A conservative estimate of the number of visitors and regulars at Speakers’ Corner between 10am and dusk each Sunday this Summer is approximately 3,000. As for the traffic noise by the ‘refurbished’ area and new main gate, of which you write - ‘we are confident that the new vegetated banks and recently planted trees will make some contribution to masking this noise’ I can only repeat that Speakers’ Corner as a whole vacated this area over 20 years ago mainly due to the traffic noise; since then the Royal Parks have felled a row of perimeter trees and opened a large gate and subsequently enlarged it. It is unlikely we will return to this area. Perhaps we might be tempted if the gate is closed and becomes part of a substantial perimeter hedge with extensive sound-proofing. There is little urgent need for so-called ‘interpretation boards’. If you are intent on scrapping the current ones and spending public money on new ones then I urge you to consult widely. A more democratic option might be - an accessible public notice board for advertising pertinent forthcoming events as well as warnings about the raft of potential official disruptions. There is much more, and a regular conversation would be appropriate. Your offer of a meeting in five months time seems insulting.