John Palmer

John Palmer, retired journalist, was born in England and brought up in Ireland. He found Speakers’ Corner to be “an intensely political forum” and an “education in left wing ideas,” some of which were emerging in response to the crumbling of Stalinism. He first spoke in the late 1950s for the Irish National Union against the policy of internment without trial in Northern Ireland. He also spoke against the war in Vietnam platforms and on International Socialist demonstrations ending in Hyde Park. John Palmer heard political luminaries like Gerry Healy (co-founder of the Fourth International), CLR James, and the anarchists Albert Meltzer and Guy Aldred at Speakers’ Corner. What he found most extraordinary were the debates between “ordinary folk,” the working class autodidacts in the crowd, which continued long after the speakers had left. He describes how the free entertainment provided by powerful orators in austere post-war Britain, was replaced by the “conversational tone” of radio and television.

Audio clips of John

“Working class intellectual”

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“Political education”

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About the project

Sounds from the Park is a unique oral and visual history of Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park: the UK’s last great open air oratory site.

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Our exhibition can be seen online here or read our booklet about Speakers' Corner.

See the exhibition

Radio show

Our radio show can be listened to here.

Listen to the radio show

Education resources

History and Citizenship resources for Key Stage 3 and 4. Complete with a timeline of events at Speakers' Corner and other resources.

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