Plans are under way to establish a Speakers’ Corner in Leeds.
Post-graduate law student Andrew Raof is leading the project to set up a permanent talking post he hopes could one day rival London’s world-famous Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.
The aim is to provide a platform for free speech and a chance for people to get together, share their opinions and exchange ideas.
Former Grammar School At Leeds pupil Andrew, 25, also believes it can help residents become better citizens.
“It’s about tackling indifference and apathy and getting people involved, rather than hoping someone else will do it for them.”
Andrew wants a return to face to face communication to combat the growing reliance on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
He said: “If people are prepared to air their views in public, online, why is it so taboo to air them in an actual public space, rather than cyber space?”
The Speakers’ Corner Trust, which is supporting the Leeds project, has led the development of Speakers’ Corners in around 10 towns and cities around the country.
But it said the Leeds venture was the first to be community-led, with a local resident spearheading it.
Peter Bradley, from the Speakers’ Corner Trust, said: “This is a really exciting initiative because it’s a homegrown one.” He added: “If Andrew can make it work in Leeds I’m sure others can follow his example.”
Both Bradford and Sheffield are already in the process of identifying sites for their own permanent Speakers’ Corners.
Mr Bradley said: “Clearly people from Yorkshire have a lot to say.”
John Wilson, of Wilson’s Solicitors, is backing all three Yorkshire schemes.
He said: “I think Speakers’ Corners are a great idea and I think every town should have one.”
Leeds’ first Speakers’ Corner is scheduled to take place at noon on Saturday March 23, on Victoria Gardens, outside Leeds Art Gallery, on the Headrow.
Anyone is welcome, whether they want to speak – on any topic at all – or just listen.
Victoria Gardens is already known by some as the city’s unofficial Speakers’ Corner.
It has been the venue for many peace and justice demonstrations over the years, including the pre-war suffragette rallies and demonstrations over conflicts such as Vietnam and Iraq.
Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park has provided people with a platform from which to share their views for more than 150 years and is now a popular tourist attraction.
Famous names to have spoken there include Karl Marx, George Orwell and Vladimir Lenin.
To get involved email: email@example.com or follow: @leedsspeakers