A wrangle that threatened to jeopardise the future of a planned Speakers’ Corner in Leeds has hit a deadlock.
And Leeds City Council has warned that the chosen location of Victoria Gardens – described as “Leeds’ version of Speakers’ Corner” on the Leeds, Live it, Love it website – might have to be changed.
As revealed in the Yorkshire Evening Post this week, post-graduate law student Andrew Raof is leading an innovative project to set up a permanent talking post in the city which he hopes could one day rival London’s world-famous Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.
But following the YEP story, the council contacted Mr Raof expressing “surprise” at his plans and questioning who had granted him permission to stage the event in the city centre.
Mr Raof said he had emailed the council’s leisure department about the scheme but hadn’t received any reply, other than a standard automated response.
Mr Raof said: “My aim when commencing this project lwas to build upon Victoria Gardens’ unofficial status and make that venue official and permanent, as well as a regular fixture.”
He added: “If you need permission to speak it’s not actually a Speakers’ Corner is it? He added: “It’s not an ‘event’ per se. We feel it is more a gathering of like-minded individuals getting together to have a discussion about whatever topic they like.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Victoria Gardens is a bookable event space, and we are happy to talk to Mr Raof about his plans and help him to find a suitable home for a Speakers’ Corner either here or at another venue in the city.”
John Wilson, of Wilson’s Solicitors, who is backing the project said: “All we know is, this is the historic Speakers’ Corner in Leeds and we are going to use it for speaking and that’s that.”
Although the first Speakers’ Corner was planned for March 23, organisers now hope it will take place at noon on March 9.
To get involved email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow: @leedsspeakers