Speakers Corner

Almost every Sunday in the early 1990s I seemed to be photographing Speakers Corner, London’s great symbol of free speech. Christian evangelists waved and slapped their bibles, earnest Catholics argued points of theology, an old hippy claimed to be Jim Morrison, hecklers tormented a British Muslim convert about his previous life as a Buddhist, guys from Brixton played at being Malcolm X, earnest lefties called for the overthrow of capitalism. Above all there was the great Methodist and Socialist Donald Soper, still addressing his audiences after 50 years.

Yet as time passed I fell out of love with the place. By the turn of the century it seemed more about bearded men shouting praise of whatever deity starred in their sacred book. The Christians were still there, but now had fervently evangelical and transatlantic voices, while Muslim preachers spoke to groups of men from the Middle East or South Asia who shielded them from any scatological heckling or questioning. You might still see an authentic British bigot railing against sodomy or racial mixing, 9/11 and Iraq War conspiracy theorists, the odd Marxist, but today it seems a freak show serving the tourists, their phones and their selfie sticks.

So while I still go there occasionally, the last photograph here 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 Sunday!