Speakers Corner

Back in the early 1990s I seemed to photograph Speakers Corner almost every Sunday – it fitted in well with dim sum – and I liked what seemed a healthy mix of serious political and religious debate, humour and weirdness. So Christian evangelists waved their bibles, a guy claimed he was Jim Morrison, a British Muslim convert was heckled about why he was no longer a Buddhist, while others called earnestly for the overthrow of capitalism. Yet Donald Soper was still addressing crowds after 50 years, and this seemed to confirm that Speakers Corner was still a symbol of Britain’s democratic tradition.

Yet as time passed I fell out of love with the place as it became more about bearded men shouting praise of whatever deity starred in their sacred book. The Christians were still there, but more fervently evangelical, while Muslim preachers from the Middle East or South Asia addressed groups of other like-minded Muslims and no longer received warm, scatological heckling. You might still see an authentic British bigot railing against sodomy or racial mixing,  9/11 and Iraq conspiracy theorists, but it all seems just a freak show for the tourists. And their phones and selfie sticks are everywhere, as much an element of your composition as the speakers had once been.

So the last photograph shows a Jewish convert to Christianity speaking to tourists. A police horse had just passed by – and had expressed itself as eloquently as any speaker that day!