Bob Rogers

Bob Rogers stumbled upon Speakers’ Corner as a teenager, and was intrigued by the “babble of voices.” At that time, Speakers’ Corner was a refuge for people “whose lives had been disturbed and disorientated” by the Second World War, homeless people and those with mental health problems. Bob talks about nineteenth century protest movements which led to a qualified right to free assembly in Hyde Park, including the accidental burning of the Reformers tree. He vividly evokes Joshua “the wild man,” Barry Roberts in his “Vlad the Impaler” period, Peter England and the sexual innuendo of Nigerian Jimmy. Bob commemorates his friend, Norman Schlund, a homeless ex-serviceman, who started speaking to overcome a stammer. Norman was “essentially talking about nothing” but he combined it with eloquent gestures, using his enormous hands, feet and expressive face to great comic effect. Norman often said: “Appearances up must be kept.” Bob describes the military regime required to “up-keep” them, including sleeping on nightbuses, waterproof trousers and wrapping basin washed socks in newspaper. Bob also explains the origin of his laminated news clipping sign that he wears at Speakers Corner: “It’s Going to Get Worse” and his enjoyment of speaking to people from diverse backgrounds.

Audio of Bob

“Open air lunatic asylum”