Ishmahil Blagrove

Ishmahil Blagrove, writer and film-maker, has been speaking in Hyde Park since he was “a bone fide hood rat,” menaced by police brutality and skinheads in the 1980s. He was bright at school and gifted at poetry, but was not pushed academically. Still, he did “several PHDs” at Speakers’ Corner. Roy Sawh’s “forensic knowledge of history and politics” coupled with fierce wit, inspired Ishmahil to learn more. He describes Speakers’ Corner as “his office,” where he made his first publishing contacts and other connections. He describes the shift in his philosophy from “black power” to an internationalist perspective espousing solidarity with diverse groups. He talks about the theatrical element of Speakers’ Corner. Ishmahil’s Hyde Park alter ego smokes, while Ishmahil does not. Ishmahil earned his “undergrads” by heckling the pinstriped, cane toting newspaper vendor, “Lord Barker.” For Ishmahil, the racist Barker was strangely likable, because he too was performing: “his character represented that [racist] element of society.” At Speakers’ Corner, “the bare knuckle fight of the oratory world,” hecklers are “the gatekeepers” who the speaker must master.

Audio clips of Ishmail

“Roy Sawh”