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Radio actuality recordings

A unique collection of original BBC and other radio actuality recordings brings to life the London of the 1920s to the 1950s. These sounds were captured at street markets, fairgrounds, skittle alleys, auction houses, hopfields and elsewhere.

Donald Soper Speakers Corner 1943

THE METHODIST, socialist and pacifist orator Donald Soper was a mainstay of Speakers Corner in Hyde Park from 1942 until 1993, when he was aged 90. Soper’s pacifism during the Second World War led to him being banned from BBC broadcasts until the war’s end, and so this recording of him from 1943 (BBC library number 5514) is something of a curiosity.

Scant details in the catalogue entry and on the 10” transcription disc label shed no light on the recording’s purpose. Perhaps it was felt that some record should be kept of Soper’s oratory with a view to the ban eventually being lifted. The recordings are dated 17 January 1943 and they fill up both sides of the disc.

Soper shows himself here as a skillful and quick-witted speaker. But it’s also notable how confidently members of the audience address him. There is a kind of implicit pact between Soper and his audience: they get good answers provided they ask good questions. A copyrighted picture of him later in life at Hyde Park can be seen here on the Sounds from the Park project blog.

Audio digitisation and restoration by the London Sound Survey. Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting permission to reproduce this recording here.

Donald Soper Speakers Corner 1 2:15
Donald Soper Speakers Corner 2 3:08