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(en) UK, London Freedom Press Publishing - a review of "A Summer in the Park: A Journal of Speakers' Corner'" Just Published

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 18 Jul 2004 11:50:43 +0200 (CEST)


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Tony Allen's account of the "take-no-prisoners gladiatorial confrontation"
that is Speakers' Corner. "I park my ladder on the junction of the walkway
under the plane trees and shout at people to go away and leave me alone. A
crowd gathers."I have been arguing with Tony Allen for over thirty years. In
other words, I know the author of A Summer in the Park, and I'm aware that
some unscrupulous writers have reviewed their own work under a pseudonym,
or coerced distant relatives to script eulogies to their published offerings.
Neither, I stress, is the case with this review.

Generally speaking to know Tony is to argue with him. He has
raised cantankerousness to a fine art, and turned it into a profession.
In blatant opposition to the dress code of 1970's bohemia, Allen
donned a diner jacket and launched himself on a crusade; to take
radical politics into working men's clubs. He invented the term
Alternative Comedy, and has shaped much of its terrain. To
sharpen his wit Allen pursued a parallel career at Speakers Corner, a
small tarmaced space, in the centre of London. Once the site of
public hangings, it continues to offer a weekly ritual of public
discussion, banter and humiliation, for performers and audiences
alike.

From his milk-crate anarchist platform Allen regularly berated
global capitalism, and denounced the folly of work. In 1999 he
wholeheartedly revised a stock theme ‘the end of the world is
nigh’, and predicted the collapse of Western civilization,
undermined by the millennium bug. In December of that year he
fled to the hills to wait Armageddon, only to return shamefaced
some months latter.

During his country repose Allen continued to harass the authorities.
Learning of an Arts Council proposal; to offer grants to 1,000
artists, to do their own public thing, he submitted an application: to
promote the art of heckling at Speaker’s Corner. Much to his
surprise, the bureaucrats accepted his challenge.

‘A Summer in the Park’ is Allen’s account of his
career as a government sponsored Advocate Heckler; available from
midday each Sunday, to teach the techniques of banter to
newcomers, and heckle on behalf of shyer members of the public. It
is an hilarious account of the techniques and vulnerabilities of the
art of performance, and a manifesto for Allen’s anarchic
Utopia, in which tolerance and opposition are freely intertwined
with the exploration of ideas. Assuming that Allen is incorrect in his
revised prediction: that the world will now end in 2025, a Summer
in the Park, will offer future generations a wonderful insight into
Londoners’ concerns at the cusp of the millennium. For the rest
of us it’s a fucking good giggle.

John Phillips


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