Soapbox Orators in Hyde Park
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Hyde Park is one of the most iconic places in London and one of the most famous parks in the world. It was established in 1536 as a hunting ground for King Henry VIII. In 1637, the park became open to the general public. Despite its fame and status, it is not at all an official-looking grandiose place, but a lovely green space to immerse yourself in nature and have a break from the urban chaos.
Indeed, you can spend a whole day discovering the many hidden gems of Hyde Park. Among them are the stunningly beautiful Rose Garden, touching Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, and the Serpentine Lake. Music lovers also know Hyde Park as the site of some of the most historic large-scale rock concerts of the last century, featuring such bands as Queen, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones.
But what Hyde Park is probably best known for is its Speakers’ Corner. It doesn’t seem like anything special — it is, quite literally, just a park corner. But its cultural significance is absolutely enormous. In 1872, the Parliament declared the north-east edge of Hyde Park a public speaking area, where anyone could come and talk about anything (except calls for violence). To be better seen and heard, speakers stood on a cheap wooden box, often the one used for carrying soap, so people called them “soapbox orators”.
Nowadays, there is no need to go to a park to express your opinions — internet blogs have become the modern “soapboxes”, where anyone can share their views with the world. However, Londoners still gather on the edge of Hyde Park each Sunday to listen to, or even to debate the next soapbox orator. Speakers’ Corner is a true symbol of free speech, the human right that is fundamental to the British mentality.