A project to establish a Speakers’ Corner in the city has won the backing of Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government contacted organiser Andrew Raof to show his support for the scheme and expressed hope that a deadlock with Leeds City Council had now been resolved.
In an email to Andrew, Mr Benn said: “I think that this is a really good idea in principle and one that I support. I am sure that with goodwill and cooperation a way forward can be found.”
On learning of plans for the innovative project, the local authority had 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.
It raised concerns that because the spot was a “bookable events space” it would have to ensure key partners, including West Yorkshire Police and the highways department, were happy with what was proposed.
Post-graduate law student Andrew said that after discussions between the two sides, there was no longer a problem.
The 25-year-old said: “It seems as though they don’t object to us being there and going there whenever we want.” He said he was pleased the project had Mr Benn’s backing, adding: “The support we have received has been very encouraging.”
Andrew hopes that the Leeds talking post could one day rival London’s Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. The aim is to provide a platform for free speech in the city and a chance for people to get together, share their opinions and exchange ideas.
And he urged Leeds residents to get down to the very first Leeds Speakers’ Corner, which will take place from noon on Saturday, March 9.
He said: “It’s free to attend and free to participate.
“We hope for as many people as possible, from as wide a variety of backgrounds as possible, to give a level of breadth and depth to any debate.”
To get involved, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow: @leedsspeakers