What an artist’s collage of one summer in the park says about Speakers Corner.
A collage depicting summer in the park dated 1989 is one of the most thought provoking portrayals of Speakers Corner you can come across. It was created by an unknown American artist who was presumably so overwhelmed by the vibrancy of the dialogues taking place on his visit that he not only produced a collage illustrating all the regular speakers, but did so with all of them in quirky animal form!
Paul Hunt was fortunate enough to have received the original copy of the collage showing Paul himself as a Lion with his standard pile of books and cup of coffee. The outspoken Methodist speaker Lord Soper is appropriately presented as a large elephant. William the Hippy, the self proclaimed “Jesus” of Speakers Corner who loved free rock festivals is cleverly illustrated as a Parrot for his flamboyantly coloured choice of clothing. An ape on a crate box takes the persona of the highly logical “Christian Atheist” and model aircraft enthusiast Peter. The monkey reclining on a deckchair is none other than Turkish minicab driver Harry who is also remembered for his alliance with Ali, the surrealist most noted for wearing a single horn on his head who shared a close friendship with Ligijya a Serbian girl both respectively depicted as a black horse and cat in the collage. The sleek black otter represents benign Irishman Tom who often spoke Esperanto and never failed to turn up in black tie attire to his heckling sessions. The Lynx symbolises another revered heckler, Alex Lowry. The long tailed Monkey stands in for Barry Roberts who managed to keep the crowd in stitches for hours through his Eskimo poetry recitals, rants on Nietzsche and impressions of Vlad the Impaler. He inspired Speakers Corner veteran Tony Allan. The Turkey illustrates a large Christian woman with a “very shrill voice” and the gorilla impersonates David a QC and Nigerian speaker. Two leopards portraying a Muslim and Christian speaker at loggerheads with one another are branded as blind followers while two mustachioed policemen are evocatively stated to be ‘police in disguise’. Amongst the many labelled taxis we amusingly have two red ones falsely labelled as buses and one noted as being gay. We have a labelled litter bin and an altarpiece labelled Catholic corner.
Despite the uncertainty of the title and the name of the artist, the piece presents Speakers Corner for what it truly is; a ravishing world of ideas and thoughts embodying a similar level of chaos that you might expect to find in the animal kingdom.
- by Tahmina Ahmad.