Councillors brand idea of Speaker’s Corner ‘ridiculous’

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This is one of the most ridiculous ideas that has come before Douglas Council in a long time.

That was council leader David Christian’s withering response to a proposal for a speaker’s corner to be set up in the capital.

At the latest town hall meeting a number of councillors raised their concerns that instead of encouraging people to the town centre, it would actually be off-putting to shoppers.

They echoed the response of the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, both the chamber council and retail committee, which ‘strongly object’ to the proposal.

The Chamber of Commerce was the only organisation out of 15 that responsed to a consultation to object.

Thirteen responses were supportive and one was neutral.

Mr Christian said a speaker’s corner would be used by people wanting to have a rant on a Saturday afternoon.

And he said there was already a place for them – once a year a Hango Hill.

The regeneration and community advisory committee had agreed that a trial event or a short series of events in different venues be organised to assess the value, nature and impact of the proposal before making a long-term commitment.

But a number of councillors said it should not even reach that stage.

David Ashford (Victoria ward) said he believed that a speaker’s corner would be misused.

He said: ‘This should go no further. We shouldn’t be looking at a trial period for it.’

Karen Angela (Athol) said: ‘I can’t believe anyone in all seriousness thinks this pilot scheme should go ahead.

‘Has anyone taken into account the cost of clearing up the rotten cabbages and eggs?’

Regeneration and community advisory committee member Bill Malarkey said the proposal was ‘totally driven’ by Douglas Development Partnership, and that the committee was ‘stepping back’.

‘Mr Pycroft [development manager] has been told if he wants to organise a trial, carry on.’

Mr Pycroft has previously said that a speaker’s corner has the potential to play a central role in the social and cultural regeneration of the capital.

Describing it as a ‘bastion of free public speech’ he said it ‘can be an absorbing and thought-provoking activity to witness’.

Peter Bradley, director of UK charity the Speakers’ Corners Trust, is due to return to the island to make a presentaion to councillors.

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