A ONCE neglected city centre unit has been transformed into a place where people can debate some of the most pressing issues of the day.
Speakers’ Corner sees a former money exchange shop on Ivegate become the base for a series of discussions and debates about issues including gender equality, social justice and making Bradford a better place.
The social space was set up after the hugely successful Women of the World (WOW) festival was held in Bradford for the first time last year.
The event brought together different groups, guests and people of all ages for a series of talks and events about women’s issues, and it is hoped Speakers’ Corner will carry on the work of the festival.
Another Bradford WOW Festival is planned for later this year.
Although led by women, the Speakers’ Corner Collective is made up of 10 women and 12 teenage girls, their events are open to everyone.
Many of the people who have attended so far are teenagers, some of which were involved in the WOW festival as Wowzers - school pupils who helped organise youth events at the festival in November.
Furaha Mussanzi was a volunteer at the WOW festival, and in now involved in Speakers’ Corner. She said: “We didn’t want the everything that happened during the festival to just fizzle out. We wanted that enthusiasm and excitement to continue. There are a lot of people who really want to make Bradford a better place, and we need something like this to engage people from all sorts of backgrounds. That is where Speakers’ Corner grew from, as a project that can carry this enthusiasm on.”
Mehmoona Parvez, one of the Wowzers, said: “We want to keep on empowering and inspiring young girls, and make a change in Bradford.
“The Wow Festival was so good we didn’t want all that to just end. This is a good place to speak your mind.”
Evie Manning, one of the organisers of Speakers’ Corner, said the sessions would regularly feature speakers from the world of campaigning and activism.
She added: “We want to create a positive change in Bradford, and we want to keep this momentum going, keep arranging these meetings between people.”
The building was brought back to life last year when arts group The Brick Box took over the empty unit. They occupy the first floor of the building, and Speakers’ Corner has decorated the window with striking artwork depicting female empowerment.
Future meetings will include comedy workshops, film screenings and spoken word sessions.
The group has already held mentoring sessions where young women get advice from adults.
The next session takes place this Thursday, and will be on the theme of radical acts in women’s, workers and LGBT rights. That event runs from 6pm to 8pm.