While we may believe that unconferences, barcamps are things that have evolved in the recent past and the openspace concept is where they draw inspiration from, I believe that even openspace draws inspiration from something that has existed for decades if not centuries.
It is called the : THE SPEAKER’S CORNER — a place where public speaking is allowed and anybody can turn up announced to speak on any topic, as long as it is within the law.
In my opinion, the speakers corner represents all the essential elements that the unconferences, barcamps are about. The fundamental aspects of a speakers corner are the same as that unconferences, barcamps emphasize.
Let’s look at some of the fundamental aspects of a ‘Speakers Corner’
- Any one can turn up at the speakers corner and volunteer to speak on any subject
- The audience are ‘active’ participants and can argue, debate with the speaker and even heckle the speaker
- There are ‘n’ number of speakers speaking at the same time
- The audience can walk to the next one if the one they are listening don’t hold their attention
- There are no rules. You can speak on anything as long as ‘you are within the law’
- The whole atmosphere is electric, informal, chaotic and yet engaging and full of energy. There is never a dull moment
Speakers corner have been frequented by the leading though leaders of the world, including Valdamir Lenin, Karl Marx, George Owell etc. It’s no coincidence that many of the bright minds of todays generation are so in tune with the unconference, barcamp movement and instead of the Marx & Lenin’s we see the CEO’s, CTO’s, future thought leaders frequenting the barcamps.
So, Hyde Park Corner London can lay claim to as the venue for the oldest unconference, barcamp. In fact may countries besides UK have had the equivalent of Speakers Corner for ages.