On this particular Sunday, a visiting foreigner could weave his way through the clotted crowd of speakers, listeners, hecklers, and observers, taking in a wealth of phrases encompassing themes of Jesus, Allah, Guinness, Greed, Damnation, Democracy and even a little Marxism.
I found myself first listening to an angry black preacher spitting scriptures at a crowd of snickering young men. The speaker emanated a severe intensity, clad in a white robe and red sash, with a row of fiercely scribbled diagrams on the evolution of man behind him. This zealously grumbling speaker was losing his voice shouting about man having descended from apes, but I drifted away before I could find out whether he was endorsing or mocking evolutionism.
Another man on a dangerously tall step-ladder, who had by now attracted quite a crowd with the sheer force of his voice, was shouting something about Jesus having been sent to save us. Unfortunately, though the man had a great step-ladder presence, his topic didn't successfully distinguish him from the other step-ladder speakers, and I was soon distracted by other elements of chaos. By this time, a scruffy couple had strolled casually through the crowd, permeating the air around me with the headiness of burning cannabis. A bobby nearby picked up on their trail, and I soon became more engrossed in the policeman's heated pursuit than in my moral obligations to Christ, which the speaker was now shouting about.
The bobby, having failed pathetically at picking out the offending puffers in the crowd, also failed to hold my interest, so I moved on to the nook where the weekly regulars usually set up camp. There was the beer-bellied Guinness enthusiast and his bicycle again, this week wearing a silly hat and shouting something about sex and the Irish, all the while excusing himself for having had a few too many.
Across from him, our Paganist tree-loving friend was missing, but in her place stood an attractive, middle-aged woman who desperately tried to defend the word of God against a small crowd of tipsy hecklers, one of whom shouted things like "Jesus was a homosexual! He was unmarried and all his disciples were men!" The woman seemed like a sweet enough character, but she didn't ooze authority with simplistic jabs like "You should be careful what you say, Mister."
I gave up on the woman and shuffled in the direction of a large, squirmy crowd, which had surrounded a scrawny young man wearing a Soviet army pin on his lapel. It seemed this effeminate-looking Lenin fan had presented the favoured controversial topic at Hyde Park today, as two of Speaker's Corner's devoted and regular hecklers had happily set up camp before him. Personally intrigued, I moved into the crowd to hear what clever things the young man might have to say about why, in theory, Communism should have worked and where the Soviet Union went wrong. I was soon disappointed to discover, however, that the hecklers knew quite a bit more about Russian history and politics than the speaker did. Having stammered poorly through a few arguments, the Marxist finally gave up and concluded his talk, stating: "Democracy doesn't work!"
And there you have it. Signing out on a pleasantly rowdy Sunday, from one free speaker to another, "democracy doesn't work."