Ministry of Justice
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Jack Straw to open Nottingham's permanent Speakers' Corner

Jack Straw to open Nottingham's permanent Speakers' Corner

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE News Release (014/09) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 5 February 2009

Nottingham residents are being urged to have their say about local and global issues by Justice Secretary Jack Straw who will be opening Nottingham's permanent Speakers' Corner on Thursday 5 February.

Mr Straw will encourage residents to come together and exchange ideas as he unveils a stone at the junction of King Street and Queen Street at the edge of Nottingham's historic Market Square.

The project, run by the Nottingham Speakers' Corner Committee, follows on from a highly successful Speakers' Corner Trust pilot in the city. The pilot was sponsored by the Ministry of Justice's Innovation Fund. Nottingham's Speakers' Corner - thought to be only the second permanent Speakers' Corner in the UK - will be used to promote democratic engagement and public discussion.

Jack Straw said:

"This is an innovative site - at the heart of the city - for both the local community and people from further afield to come together to discuss issues and ideas. I am delighted to have the chance to speak here.

"The Government wants to increase opportunities for people across the country to become more involved in their communities and better engaged in discussions about the things that matter to them.

"Nottingham Speakers' Corner is leading the way. It has already held a succession of thought-provoking debates and I look forward to hearing about future discussions. I am a great believer in the value of this kind of direct democracy."

Director of Speakers' Corner Trust, Peter Bradley, said:

"It's increasingly important to promote open discussion and debate in a way which involves communities as well as politicians and enables citizens to strengthen their influence on decision-making.

"The evidence from Nottingham is that there's a huge appetite for this kind of constructive, face-to-face engagement. It's extraordinary that it's taken almost 150 years to establish only the second permanent Speakers' Corner in the UK and the hope is that we can now replicate Nottingham's achievement in towns and cities up and down the country and help harness the tremendous insight and energy citizens can contribute to their own communities and their own governance."

Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said:

"Having launched the temporary Speakers' Corner it's great for it now to have a permanent home next to the statue of old 'big head' himself, Brian Clough.

"There's always been something gritty and determined about Nottingham - folk here make their own minds up and are happy to speak up and stand out from the crowd when necessary from Robin Hood to the Civil War, the Luddites to Byron and D H Lawrence.

"Today's the start of an opportunity for City folk to get on their soap box and have their say and to carry on that standout tradition. I am sure it's going to be a success".

Notes to editors:

1. The inauguration of Nottingham's permanent Speakers' Corner will take place between 4:00-5:00 pm on Thursday 5 February.

2. Nottingham's permanent Speakers' Corner is situated at the junction of King Street and Queen Street, at the edge of Nottingham's historic Market Square.

3. Speakers' Corner Trust was awarded £15,000 following their successful application to the Ministry of Justice's Innovation Fund. The project aimed to pilot a new initiative to encourage open and inclusive debate on public issues, based on Hyde Park Corner's Speakers' Corner model. Following discussions with the local council, and broad consultation with the local community, the pilot was subsequently established in Nottingham.

4. The project is run by Nottingham Speakers' Corner Committee but maintains strong links with Speakers' Corner Trust.

5. The Ministry of Justice is supporting the second phase of development for Speakers' Corner Trust. This will fund the establishment of three new local projects, provide support for one 'DIY' project, support the development of the Trust's website, and enable the Trust to commission a fundraising strategy to ensure its future sustainability.

For more information members of the public should call the Public Enquiry Line on 020 33 34 35 55.

For further information about Nottingham City Council and Speakers' Corner Trust, please contact Keri Usherwood at Nottingham City Council on 0115 915 4686.


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