Spouters Corner - A local tradition of political free speech.

We have become used to Election Campaigns conducted via broadcast media: leader debates live on TV, party Twitter feeds and viral videos on YouTube. Very different from earlier days when politics relied much more on face-to-face discussions, public meetings and rallies; campaigning “on the stump”.

Just along the road in Wood Green is Spouters Corner, at the Junction of the High Road and Lordship Lane, south of the Tube station. Now the name of a Wetherspoon pub “Spouters Corner” was the local name given to a public space used for rallies, campaign meetings and informal political oratory - much like a local version of Hyde Park’s speaker’s corner. The earliest recorded political meeting was a Reform League event in 1867. The Reform league was a radical movement calling for votes for all (well all men!) and a secret ballot.

By the end of the nineteenth century Spouters Corner had became established as the regular local venue for campaigners making impromptu speeches about any political issue of their day, but particularly concerns about work conditions, wage rates and Trade Unions as the area was used for an assembly point local casual labour who were recruited here before Labour Exchanges were introduced in 1910.

The Wetherspoons pub records its history with a statue in the bar of an early 20th-century campaigner and some archive images on the wall.

Use of the site as a centre for radical political campaigning increased during the First World War and the inter-war years, including Suffragette rallies, and continued throughout the 20th Century, with both local and national political figures drawing a crowd. For example to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament meetings in the late 1950s and 1960s and anti-racist and anti-fascist meetings into the 1970s. A similar function was fulfilled by the Triangle at Palmers Green - we have written before about a Suffragette meeting there.

When Haringey Council planned redevelopment of the Spouters Corner area in the early 1980s they were encouraged to find a replacement place for public debate and in November 1982 designated a “free speech” area outside the Wood Green Library for use by all but “no language that generates hate will be tolerated". Signs in the area today still proclaim local citizen's right to share their opinions

Street meetings and public oratory may have fallen out of favour with electioneering politicians - but we still have a right to free speech both in public and here on the Bowes and Bounds Forum. Do tell us your concerns for the General Election.

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Comment by Gordon Peters on April 19, 2015 at 13:25

Green Party in Hornsey and Wood Green is re-living this tradition during the election campaign -- we are outside Morrisons across the road from Spouters each Saturday morning

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