Soapbox Speakers

What is Speakers’ Corner?

In Speakers and hecklers. on March 8, 2015 at 11:51 pm

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” 
Gerry Spence.

Every Sunday, from 2pm until 5pm, people gather in Sydney’s beautiful Domain park to discuss matters. The ones standing on ladders are ‘the speakers’, and they believe it’s their job to educate  their ‘grasshoppers’ or ‘groundlings’.  The ones sitting in chairs believe it’s their job to point out why the speaker is wrong, and to heckle. Both parties are kept busy.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

Click here to see their 2015 highlights.
Click here to see their 2014 highlights.
Click here to see their 2013 highlights.

Find past posts  on our Archives site.

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The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell, legend.

In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about religion, Australian history and politics. Click here for highlights. To see more videos of Steve, go to the archives site. From his book, ‘Soapbox Oratory‘ Steve writes: ‘In a modern city, there must be a place where strangers can meet and discuss the issues of the day without fear of persecution; where the right to retain one’s individuality is allowed.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist.

Helmut 4

Helmut used to be a professional wrestler going by the name of Helmut Rommel. He took on the likes of Killer Karl Kox, Mario Milano and Spiros Orion. And, he once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest.
More importantly, Helmut knows a lot about metaphysics (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger and Killer Karl Kox combined), and he is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus.
His battles with hecklers are fun. He calls his listeners his ‘groundlings’. Here are some highlights.
For more videos of Helmut, go to the archives site and to his own site, Is Science the New Religion?’.

Mirko Terzic, 21st Century inventor.


Mirko has created a phonetic alphabet to be used world-wide, and it’s better than Esperento. He has solved the problem of perpetual motion and has diagrams explaining how to get free unlimited energy from hydropower. Mirko knows how to think outside the square. Here are a few highlights of Mirko. For more videos of Mirko go to the archives site.

Ray, Christian.

Ray is concerned about your soul.

 Ray is passionate about spreading the word of God. He takes the task seriously but isn’t confronting. He is a gentle man willing to answer your questions. Here are a few highlights. For more videos of Ray, go to the archives site.

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

Epiphany specialist Mr Bashful tells us he is the spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, though that’s yet to be verified. He calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’ and his foes ‘garden gnomes’.
  Among other things, Mr Bashful talks about New Age scams,  happiness myths, and why we should burn the Mona Lisa. He has presented an Ockham’s Razor talk on Radio National. He manages site.
One thing he isn’t, is bashful.
To learn more about him and see videos of him in action, click here.
He now has a Facebook page.

John August (Occasional speaker)

John speaks earnestly on a wide range of subjects, and if you’re in Sydney you can listen to his radio program on Radio Skid Row, 88.9 FM every Tuesday, from noon until 2pm.
John is an active member of the Pirate Party, which is a serious political party devoted to making Australia more democratic. He and other pirates speak at the Domain on the third Sunday of every month, about their policies and other topical matters. (That’s ‘topical’, not ‘tropical’.)
To see videos of John performing at Speakers’ Corner go to his Youtube channel.
John also has a website in which he comments upon current affairs, both here and abroad.
He is a busy lad.


Uncle Pete (heckler and occasional speaker)

Peter - best

During the week Uncle Pete teaches students, and if he teaches them with the same verve he has for the Sunday passers-by, they are lucky students indeed. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Uncle Pete, go to the archives site.

Tony, atheist.

New-Zealand born Tony used to be a speaker and is a fervent atheist scathing of the Catholic Church. When he is not berating Christianity he is either sinking the boot into other religions, or supporting Palestine. In this video  Tony expresses a few of his well considered opinions. For more videos of Tony click here.
Tony now heckles the other speakers.

Max (Quiet listener)

Max is one of the gentler regular visitors. Says little, but when he does speak, it’s sensible. Click here to discover why he visits Speakers’ Corner.

Arthur (Heckler)
Arthur 1

Arthur is not what you call the shy type, and is generous with his opinion. I caught him searching for disciples.

Jack (Quiet observer)


“The old grey owl sat on an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?”

Click here to hear a few words from Jack.

Peter the Younger


The well-read Peter knows an awful lot about many subjects, and in particular: geo-politics and U.S. shenanigans.  Click here to hear why Pete comes to Speakers’ Corner.


Howard is always polite and reasonable, yet despite that he fits in well at Speakers’ Corner. His contributions are appreciated by all. Click here to hear why he comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Mark the Grinner (occasional speaker)


Mark regularly gets a hearty laugh from the crowd with his meticulously crafted questions. Plus, his serious comments are  insightful. His companion, Sue, is less vocal, but she has no trouble speaking her mind when she has something to say. Click here to hear why Mark comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Ben the Whisperer

Although Ben is softly spoken, when he does speak, people listen. Click here to hear why he likes Speakers’ Corner.

Philip Feinstein

Philip occasionally speaks and is the founder of Music For Refugees. He also runs the Smokenders program, to help people give up smoking.


Click here to hear why Kieron likes Speakers’ Corner.


Jean 2

Jean tries so hard to be feisty, but she’s just a big softie. Click here to hear why she comes to Speakers’ Corner.
Her husband Albert is below. Both of them are excellent value at Speakers’ Corner.


Albert 3

Albert may be 92, but he is as alert as anyone, and fit. When he helps Mr B unload the chairs he carries six at a time.
Albert wrote an absorbing book titled, ‘Civilisation Hijacked’. It explains how good men are persuaded to do bad things.

If  you would like to buy a copy ($20) email Albert:
Albert is the husband of Jean.


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 16th September.

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 17, 2018 at 11:35 am

“A drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”

1. It’s that time of the year when the sun is warm enough for us to be wearing a T-shirt, but the breeze is cold enough for us to be wearing a jumper.

For the first ten minutes, Helmut and Mr B argued about the workings of Speakers’ Corner. Then, once all speakers were in place, the day unofficially began. Mr B prattled on about how his life was changed by a nine-year old girl, who at school chose to remain seated for the singing of Australia’s National Anthem.

He said that whether or not the schoolgirl’s reasons for abstaining were justified, each and every one of us should be able to remain seated for the National Anthem without having to give a reason why. After all, it’s a “victimless crime” hurting no one, and our democratic values should allow it. He added that standing for the anthem is institutionalised peer pressure, and that every one of us has the moral obligation to resist that peer pressure. “If we ask our young people to resist peer pressure to take drugs”, he said, “then we should encourage them to resist peer pressure in other aspects of their life, to get practise. Remaining seated for the anthem is a good opportunity not to be wasted.”

“Why do people create such a big fuss about not standing for the National Anthem?” he asked, before answering his own question. “It’s because there is no such thing as ‘we’ Australians. Australians are a cluster of separate, disparate groups, and the anthem is about the only thing that gives us the comforting illusion that we are united. To remain seated is to suggest the scary notion that we are not united after all. For the rest of us standing, we are suddenly presented with a yawning abyss. And who wants that? It’s no wonder people have been making a big fuss about the schoolgirl’s refusal to stand.

Uncle Pete pointed out that the girl’s public school handled the matter with intelligence and sensitivity. They offered her alternatives. “But”, said Mr B, “the school should not have questioned the girl for staying seated, or offered her alternatives. Instead, the principal should have asked the other students, ‘Why are you succumbing to peer pressure and standing up?'”.

From now on, Mr B will remain seated for the National Anthem, he promises. Mind you, he tells me he hasn’t set foot in a cinema for years, and has no plans to do so in the near future, so it may be some time before he has the opportunity to remain seated for the anthem.

2. Speaking of democracy, John August and some of his colleagues from the Pirate Party turned up to speak across the way. The Pirate Party is not as absurd as it sounds. It has serious policies you may wish to consider.

3. Mr B relinquished the Ladder of Knowledge to Mark the Grinner, who admitted he didn’t have much to say, but in his entertaining fashion he said it anyway. The other speakers throughout the day were Mirko, Steve, John August (and co.), and Helmut. But where was Maria? (Just in: she had a cold.) Where was Ray? Where was our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison? Prime Ministers have spoken at Speakers’ Corner before, so it’s about time we had another speak here. But Scott: no longer than four minutes please. We don’t want to lose the crowd.

Speaking of guest speakers: Prince Harry and Duchess Markle will be visiting Australia soon. They come from a country that created the original Speakers’ Corner, so they will be keen to visit our Speakers’ Corner to see how we are faring. Further, they may have heard that our Speakers’ Corner is more intellectual than the one in their Hyde Park, London, and they will be interested to see what we are doing right. When they arrive at Speakers’ Corner they will be asked whose side they’re on: the Republicans’ or the Monarchists’? They will be given four minutes each to rebut any arguments put forth by our speakers and hecklers.

4. Under severe duress from Mr B, this scribe reluctantly gives Mr B’s new website a plug:  Your scribe agreed to comply with this request only because the site features a photograph of our dear departed Speakers’ Corner dog, taken at Speakers’ Corner.

She was smarter than Mr B and more likeable.

Here is another photo of her at Speakers’ Corner “borrowing” a sandwich from Mr B’s bag.

5. We discussed the poem, “Spring” by Mary Oliver. 1990.

6. Six months ago Mr B was given a small book: a pocket guide to The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and he was asked to read it. Today the man returned to hear Mr B’s verdict.

Mr B had read it and he had it with him. (Presumably he has been bringing it for six months!) What followed was a long and passionate “discussion” between the two men as Mr B expressed his thoughts on the ideas presented in the book.

Your unbiased, dispassionate scribe doesn’t like to take sides, so here are two memes representing each point of view.

Other subjects discussed:
– A young lass asked Mr B what he thought of teenagers. He seemed pleased to be given the opportunity to express his high regard for them.

– Unfortunately, your scribe doesn’t know what Steve Maxwell, Helmut Cerncic, John August (and co.) or Mark the Grinner spoke about. How about coming to Speakers’ Corner and finding out for yourself?

– The question was asked, “What’s the meaning of life?”

7. In our Unusual Creatures Series, this Gerenuk from Africa wanted to appear on our Facebook page. We are happy to oblige.





Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 9th September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 10, 2018 at 11:47 am

“You are a rock most of the time. Sometimes it’s okay to be the river.”

1. What a beautiful Goldilocks day! Even better, Speakers’ Corner flourished, even without the services of Maria and Ray. We hope they’re back next week.

What was good about Speakers’ Corner today? We had four speakers going, each with a crowd. Steve, Helmut, Mark the Grinner and Mr B all had crowds of varying sizes and if you squinted your eyes it almost appeared to be a carnival atmosphere.

Mirko contributed too, in his patented way.

Not only that, at one point Mark the Grinner graciously allowed young fellow Tommy to take the stand, and Tommy created a crowd of his own. He expressed his views on the ethics of adults having sexual relations with 13-year-olds. He received plenty of disagreement.

Of course, the topics among the speakers differed considerably. Passers-by were spoiled for choice.

It was a fabulous day and we didn’t finish until after five.

For some reason we don’t have a photograph of Tommy at his current age, so here is a photo of him as a baby, when his instinct for being a pest is already evident.


2. One topic discussed was the difference between introverts and extroverts. It was asked: can introverts be speakers?

Does this help?


3. Another topic Tommy was forced to discuss was abortion. This postcard was on the postsecret site.

4. Mr B had a brief disagreement with a grasshopper about infinity, yet again. It seems the subject itself has no ending. He claims he has a firm understanding of the subject, while two grasshoppers claim he has no i-bloody-dea.

5. In our Unusual Creature Series we have the almost transparent amber phantom butterfly. It’s found in parts of South America and in this photograph. If you have one of these butterflies you can look through its wings and peruse our Facebook page.


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