Friday, 8 March 2013

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in London. It was originally one of Henry VIII's hunting parks and in 1851, the park hosted the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace. It is a place people go to picnic, 'promenade', play sports including horse riding and boating, attend services and events such as royal processions and visit the various memorials.

Ref: AWNS-19330524-41-1, The Sunday Morning Promenade, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Hyde Park wouldn't be the same though without Speakers’ Corner. Located in the North East of the park, the paved area closest to Marble Arch is generally considered to be Speaker's Corner, however legally the public speaking area covers a much larger area.

This seemingly innocuous location in the park is a globally recognised symbolic site where people can meet and freely express their views. Since 1872, all speakers have had a legal right to speak here publicly about anything, as long as no profane language is used. At its peak during the 1930s to 1970s, this site had a 'vibrant culture of direct political engagement, street theatre, heckling and debate' (from Sounds from the Park).

Ref: AWNS-19240424-37-1, showing Marble Arch and the corner of Hyde Park, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Sounds from the Park is an oral history project run by volunteers with the aim of preserving and celebrating the heritage of Speakers’ Corner. The project covers the period from 1866, when the Reform League tore down the gates of Hyde Park, right through to the present day. The project is being run by On The Record, a not for profit cooperative and they are looking for volunteeers who will be taught how to archive material, carry out oral history interviews, conduct historical research, produce a radio show, curate an exhibition and they will also be invited to join the project steering group

A search for Hyde Park in Auckland Libraries' Heritage Images database reveals a wealth of interesting and sometimes bizarre events, which have taken place at Speakers' Corner and Hyde Park in general over the year. Including:

  • Communist organisations marching on May Day
  • a group of mounted Native Americans employed by a European film company
  • NZers taking part in the suffragette demonstrations
  • London bus drivers on strike
  • an attempt on the life of King Edward VIII
  • a procession to celebrate Lord Kitchener's return from South Africa.
Ref: AWNS-19020828-11-1, Procession for Lord Kitchener, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Watch out for a Hyde Park collection turning up on Auckland Libraries, Heritage & Research Historypin page in the future!

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