Calender of Events

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Do Good Interview: Let's Go to Speakers' Corner

In case you missed it.....

The Do Good Interview: Let's Go to Speakers' Corner
Written by Low Lai Chow, on Saturday, 5 December 2009
Published in : Outreach, Community

Remember Speakers' Corner (SC) at The Hong Lim Park? Ever since the space was opened up to the public to make speechs, hold demonstrations and put up public performances and exhibitions nine years ago in 2000, SC has since been keeping a quiet profile as less and less people take to the spot to rant voice their thoughts.

One man, who prefers to call himself The Hong Lim Gardener (right), continues to support free speech in Singapore by maintaining an events calendar, Let's Go to Speakers' Corner, to keep Singaporeans in the loop on SC happenings.

Youth.SG: Why bother?

Hong Lim Gardener: Whether you regard the easing in restrictions for Speakers' Corner use as political generosity or tokenism, every channel of expression (political, artistic etc) has the potential to garner attention to issues and change public mindsets and perceptions. As such, every attempt at utilising these channels, no matter how trivial or grand, deserves some attention. Hence this blog was created to serve as a shared calendar of events at Hong Lim Park.

Who's behind this?

It's just me and everyone who cares to update me :)

Why the persona of 'The Hong Lim Gardener'? Is it a deliberate choice to be anonymous?

Yes it was. Who I am is not important. Such matters only serve to distract from what is important.

Who is the blog for?

This blog is for everyone and anyone. It is as much for the organisers of events at SC as it is for those who do not have a means to follow what's happening everyday.

How did you get started?

The easing of registration rules for use of SC has I feel greatly reduced the stigma of the “demonstration”. Having not to deal with the police has greatly shed its austere fa├žade that probably would put off a lot of people.

Did you face any difficulties?

The blog is straightforward and nothing cutting edge in terms of design. My main difficulty would be keeping myself up to date on the latest happenings at SC. National Parks aren’t going to alert me I can guarantee you that. But it really makes you wonder doesn’t it? Why there is no published list of SC usage to be found on the net.

Have you ever contacted National Parks on that?

No i have not. But if they intended the list to be public they would have carried it on their own site.

How has Speakers' Corner changed since its first day?

I haven’t been around long enough to comment meaningfully.

I'm sure you have met the speakers and organisers from Speaker's Corner events. What type of person does it take to speak at Speakers' Corner?

It takes someone courageous or just completely mad. And quite frankly, the two extremes are typical character types of SC speakers. An SC speech is daunting as you are virtually standing there naked and shouting over traffic noises to be heard. Stage presence is therefore key.

You may close the blog in a few months' time as you are receiving very little event notifications. Why do you think Speakers' Corner events are dwindling?

There was a natural spike in usage following the relaxation of usage terms. The global financial crisis and ultimate failure of structured products around the world as brought much focus on SC thanks to Tan Kin Lian. It really proves that SC still has a purpose even in this digital age of social networks and private interest groups. It is just like how we are now witnessing a revival in the concert scene. Digitalisation of music and its ubiquitous availability online forced artists to pay more attention to alternative revenue models. Demonstrations at SC are similar. You can never have a virtual protest that carries the power and verve. Yes there has been a steady decline in its use, but that does not mean it is dead and obsolete. Like all good things, they never go out of style.

Define success.

Success for this blog is that it eventually becomes sustained by the community and not by me. LCL

Access SC events calendar Let's Go to Speakers' Corner here. Find out more about The Hong Lim Park and the nittygritties on how to register as a speaker at its official Nparks home.

Lai Chow is the editor of Youth.SG. She is often mistaken for a man, 'nuff said.

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