Speakers' Corner, the world famous home of freedom of speech and public debate, reopened today following a major programme of refurbishment by The Royal Parks.
Speakers' Corner, in the north east corner of London's Hyde Park, is an international landmark and has played host to famous figures including George Orwell, William Morris and Karl Marx. A section of the site has been closed to the public for much of this year while improvement works were underway.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Sajid Javid officially reopened the site this morning. He said:
"Speakers' Corner is a deeply symbolic space that celebrates freedom of speech. In an age of real-time online debates and social media conversations Speakers' Corner still remains a huge attraction for audiences. The new refurbishment will ensure this continues long into the future."
Speakers' Corner is close to the notorious site of Tyburn gallows, where public hangings took place between 1196 and 1783. The right to speak freely in Hyde Park was established in law in the 1872 Parks Regulation Act. Anyone can address the public at Speakers' Corner whenever the park is open, but the convention is for speakers to turn up on Sundays.
Chief Executive of The Royal Parks Linda Lennon CBE said:
"Speakers' Corner is a hugely important site that attracts visitors from around the world. It is also one of the main entrances to Hyde Park. The improvement works have created a much more welcoming entrance to the park and a much improved environment for speakers and audiences who visit on Sundays."
The refurbishment of Speakers' Corner included resurfacing, landscaping and the installation of bespoke railings. Ten new semi-mature trees, new grass areas and new planting will help reduce 'urban heat island effect', where metropolitan areas are warmer than surrounding rural areas. Irrigation, supplied by borehole water, has been installed to keep planting looking healthy throughout the year. The improvements will also help reduce water run-off on rainy days and improve air quality.
The scheme was designed by The Royal Parks landscape architect Ruth Holmes and project managed by award winning landscape architects Burns + Nice. Work was carried out by RHS Chelsea medal winners, Bowls and Wyer.