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Your chance to follow in the footsteps of Tony Benn, George Orwell and Karl Marx at Speakers' Corner - in Medway

By Medway Messenger reporter

Windbags not welcome. Brevity will be the key as a major initiative to promote freedom of speech is officially launched in Chatham.

Medway Speakers’ Corner is modelled on the world famous debating spot in London’s Hyde Park and will hold its inaugural event in Military Road on Saturday from 12noon until 1pm.

The public is invited to go along between those times and speak on any subject - but they will only get a minute to get their point across from a portable stand.

The launch is the prelude to a longer term plan to hold regular Speakers’ Corner events at town centre sites in Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham , designed to provide opportunities for people to express their ideas and opinions and get involved in debate about the issues which matter to them.

A Speakers' Corner event held in another part of the country

A series of pre launch events have already been held at the Love Music, Hate Racism event at Fort Amherst and MidKent College’s Community Day on its Gillingham campus during Adult Learners’ Week.

Roy Smith, chairman of the Medway Speakers’ Corner committee said: “Now more than ever it’s vital that people get the chance to speak out and be heard and this project is designed literally to give local people a platform and an opportunity to share their opinions and ideas about the issues that matter to them whether it’s global warming, the future of the NHS, Boris Island or the World Cup.

“The 60-second format has worked really well in our pre-launch events and we hope it will not only encourage people who haven’t spoken in public before but also ensure that everyone gets a chance to air their views. It’s difficult to know what to expect at the launch but I’m sure there’ll be humour as well as serious contributions.”

The initiative is the brainchild of Speakers’ Corner Trust (SCT), a national charity which promotes free expression, public debate and active citizenship and which has been working with the partnership on the development of the initiative. It’s backed by the Co-op.

Director Peter Bradley, a former Labour MP, added: “The Speakers’ Corner project aims to get people literally to come back down their garden paths to exchange ideas and opinions about the issues that matter to them face to face with their friends and neighbours as well as with the decisions makers among them.

Peter Bradley, director of the Speakers' Corner Trust

“This initiative really is owned by and run for the people of Medway. The enthusiasm and goodwill of the groups and organisations which make up our partnership is extraordinary and we’re really delighted already to be able to showcase the talents of local young people through the fantastic logo which MidKent College students have designed and the website they’re developing for the project.”

Tomorrow’s event is in the open space next to the anchor in Military Road.

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