The Trust aims to set up speaker’s corners in the UK and abroad and is looking for PR support on a pro-bono basis. Currently supported by Reuters and Clifford Chance, it is hoping to attract more corporate sponsors. It aims to encourage free speech in countries where democracy is new or embryonic, and to encourage more active participation in public debates in countries such as the UK.
The idea follows the successful opening of a speakers’ corner in Prague in 2004, the first of its kind in mainland Europe.
The Trust was founded by Euan Edworthy and Peter Bradley. Edworthy runs Best Communications in Prague, while Bradley is a former director of Good Relations and an ex-Labour MP.
Both men worked together in the early 1990s at Good Relations. Bradley said: ‘We want to advance freedom of speech by bringing people back down their garden paths to talk to each other.
We want people to delight in exchanging ideas.’
He added that another aspect was to encourage the public to reconnect with politics: ‘Politics is often about making choices between competing priorities. This is a way of involving the public in ideas at an earlier stage.’
The Trust will set up three pilot corners in the UK by the end of 2007 and develop educational programmes to raise awareness of the issue of free speech. Longer-term, it plans to open spaces in South Africa, South America and Central and Eastern Europe.