Edna Mathieson

Edna Mathieson, a retired sociology lecturer, first went to Speaker’s Corner at the age of eight with her family in the 1930s and was “bored stiff.” Her parents were very active members of the Bermondsey Labour Party, and her grandfather liked to heckle the religious speakers. She returned as a teenager in the 1940s and was struck by the sense of freedom and the excitement about ideas there: “It broadened my outlook.” She remembers heckling as amusing and says people rarely used obscenities. She describes the turbulent life and charismatic performance style of Tony Turner, a socialist speaker who thundered “a plague on both your houses” to a crowd of ten thousand on the day Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. In the hungry 1930s, Edna was amazed to see Tony Turner put whole orange quarters into his mouth mid-oration, as most people only had oranges at Christmas. Edna co-authored Turner’s biography.

Audio of Edna

“It wasn’t just listening”