Some of us are born loud.
I come from a family of bellowers. Sadly, this trait is combined with an inability to listen to others, resulting not so much in conversations as a competition of declamations. My wife and children have helped me to moderate this tendency over the years, so it can be a shock at family gatherings to experience it again, but as an “outsider”. Dismayed by the prospect of a long Christmas Day in the company of non-listeners, we spent the car journey to my Mother’s house devising a game. Each of us came up with a bizarre or unlikely phrase. The game was to insert these into the conversation without being detected. The four phrases we settled on were:
The bull’s knee-caps
Caramelised magic mushrooms
To our amusement and delight, we were able to pepper our conversations with these phrases; the most response any of us detected was the odd raised eyebrow.
So, moving swiftly on…
Samuel Johnson, son of Lichfield, would be proud to see that we have our own Speakers’ Corner. Situated on Dam Street at the edge of Minster Pool and with a fine view of the Cathedral, Speakers’ Corner is another of Lichfield’s well-kept secrets. It was inaugurated in May 2009 and, following the refurbishment of Minster Pool Walk, is now resplendent with a raised dais and leaning rail – or should that be “Railing Rail”? Until very recently, Speakers’ Corner has been somewhat under-utilised. Arguably, the most significant events held there so far have been Buskathon and Son Of Buskathon, not pertaining to public speaking but nevertheless enjoyable and well-attended. As the organiser of the original Buskathon and compere at SOB, I have spent a lot of time at Speakers’ Corner, much of it seated at the piano. I have become quite attached to it, so was delighted to hear of the Get It Off Your Chest initiative.
The Speakers’ Corner Committee (How did you think it was organised?) are promoting its intended use as a platform for public speaking and debate. Every Saturday at noon, a member of the committee will be at Speakers’ Corner to encourage members of the public to have their say – to Get It Of Their Chest. By establishing a regular slot, it is hoped that the event will become a fixture and that, in time, a crowd of listeners will gather to hear those brave enough to stand up and speak. Furthermore, it may even encourage others to step up to air their own views, perhaps even on the spur of the moment. Of course, any controversial point of view deserves be met with heckling and robust questions from the audience. Who knows, this might just reinvigorate grassroots politics at a time when apathy seems two be the order of the day.
Last Saturday, clutching my printed list of bullet points, I made my debut on the podium. The crowd was sparse to say the least and the only “heckling” I suffered was of the tame variety from my own tiny rent-a-crowd group, who had been persuaded to show up. That said, several passers-by stopped, albeit briefly, as I warmed to my theme. After a shaky and timid start, I found my stride and was able to increase the volume (thank the Lord for healthy vocal apparatus). I stepped down to a smattering of applause and realised that I had really quite enjoyed giving my maiden speech. John Brough from the committee was particularly pleased, although this was largely due to the fact that I had saved him from having to speak himself.
And the theme of my inaugural oration? If you come to Speaker’s Corner on Saturday 12th November at noon, you will find out when reprise my speech. Think of it as the Speaker’s Corner equivalent of BBC iPlayer. I look forward to seeing you there and, who knows, you may hear the call of your own inner ranter.
With kind regards,