CROYDON is to get its very own Speakers' Corner. A microphone and space will be available outside Croydon Village Outlet in North End tomorrow (Saturday) lunchtime to anyone with something to say. Organisers are also looking to set up a permanent Speakers' Corner – an area for open-air public speaking and debate – somewhere in the town centre, and plan to set up temporary ones elsewhere in the borough. The idea is to "provide opportunities for local people to express their ideas and opinions and get involved in debate", they said. National charity Speakers' Corner Trust is behind the project, together with Croydon community leaders including Nero Ughwujabo, chief executive of the Croydon BME Forum. The Croydon Speakers' Corner Committee also includes representatives from the Council, the police, Age UK Croydon, Croydon College and other local groups. Committee chairman Stuart Routledge, chief executive of Age UK Croydon, said it was "vital that people get the chance to speak out and be heard". He added: "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 state of the NHS, the future of Croydon town centre or the World Cup. We have such a wonderfully diverse community in Croydon and Speakers' Corner is about local people of all ages and backgrounds. "After all, we all have something to say and a lot to learn from each other, and it's a great way to showcase the wit and wisdom of Croydon people." At the launch of the project tomorrow, speakers will be given 60 seconds each to address the public, between noon and 1pm. Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA) and Croydon BME Forum are organising a pre-launch Speakers' Corner today (Friday), from 2pm until 5pm outside the CVA offices at 82 London Road. They are inviting members of the public to debate the importance of voting and the issue of stop and search. Mr Ughwujabo, treasurer of the committee, said: "This is a great opportunity for all Croydon's many communities to speak out about the issues which matter to them. I'm sure that local people will want to talk about all kinds of things, and free expression doesn't always have to be serious. "But the issues we've chosen for our pre launch event are particularly important for local BME communities, and Speakers' Corner presents an ideal opportunity to air and debate them properly, especially with a general election less than a year away." Speakers' Corner Trust has developed 15 such projects across the country. One in Reading was launched on June 14, and one in Medway will launch on July 19. The most famous Speakers' Corner, in Hyde Park near Marble Arch, central London, dates back to 1872 and has provided a platform for political giants including Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell.
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