Page 50 – 51 / 1941 – 42

Left hand Page

A critique of ‘The Purpose of Art’, an article by musician Reginald Renison.
Continued from page 48-49

the correct purpose of art, although it is noticeable that purposes in art are usually sought for by people who have preconceived idea on the subject and who attempt to compress it into a wider outlook.

The purpose of Art is what it actually is. THat is, the interpretation of life as seen by the individual. Similarly, appreciation is individual, one’s praise being lesser or greater depending on how closely one approximates to the religious, philosophical or any other mental case ofthe artist. This gives freedom to all artists for their individual expression and accords to all equal artistic integrity. This doesn’t compress Art into one mental activity; it gives the artist the honour of knowing what he is “talking” about, and at the same time, shows him that his work is part of the larger artistic whole. As life is multiform in its movement, so is Art, so is appreciation.

Right hand Page

‘Hyde Park Forum’, an article on “soap box orators” by ‘L W K’.

Hyde Park Forum, the articulate babble of democracy, the arena where any scatterbrained philosopher, religionist, politician, expounds his creed, where discussion on every subject under the sun can be heard, and huddled little groups can be seen thrashing out some problem even in winter when the Park is deserted and quiet with snow.

But summer, summer is the time for our public speakers. They blossom forth like flowers. On a fine day, particularly Sundays, when the Park attracts promenading Londoners and our cosmopolitan visitors, the rostrums of the speakers rise in the crowd like besieged rocks and often sway precariously under the pressure of those attempting to get within hearing range.

What views do you hold? Well you’ll find your exponent here – and your opponent! Are you a Catholic? You’ll find the Protestant heckling the Catholic speaker, the Atheist attacking both and the Agnostic alternately taking sides. Do you want a new philosophy? You’ll find several from which to choose. A new religion? Take your choice. Do you disbelieve that the history of the world is not not engraved on the face of the pyramids? This fellow with his complicated charts will prove that it is. Politics dominate, every shade and colour, every type and creed. Endless others there are; hot gospellers who always seem excessively noisy with their fervour, one of whom, however, has a fine contralto voice and who sings impromptu Schubert songs in German; a member of the Plymouth Brethren, shabbily dressed but an an “Oxford” accent, who carries his rostrum, a small stool, about with him; a professional tramp who edits the “Tramps Gazette” and who had hobood in every part of the world and claims to be an anarchist. Then a very queer fellow who orates on Egyptian hieroglyphics and hierographics with seemingly great erudition. Occasionally the Salvation Army, and then oftimes to swell the multitude, a demonstration would swing in through the gates and take up its stand.

If you have no wish to listen to any particular speaker, wander along and listen t the small knots of people who break away from the meetings to thrash the subject out for themselves. Here you are free to join in and usually it is in these small groups that one hears the soundest argument. Individuals from absolutely diverse ways of life meet on a common footing and without any ceremony let their opinions clash, sometimes almost literally forcing their arguments down each other’s throats under the pressure of the crowd milling about them. You must beware however, else you’ll find that the debaters have further subdivided and you are listening to something quite different. And then of course if you disagree with everything you have heard and believe you can remedy all wrong, get your own rostrum, there’s plenty of room for you and we’ll hear all about it. But woe betide you if you a “thin skin” or don’t know your subject. You’ll be chaffed and heckled unmercifully and become the butt of the wits in the crowd and a great joke at your own expense.

“Soap-box orators” indeed they are called, but not a few of the speakers have an intelligence, a wit and a power of oratory which would liven many a dull session of the House of Commons. Let’s look at some of the main speakers, those who command the biggest crowds. There’s Father McNabb of the “Catholic Evidence Guild” – a rough, hard as granite looking man with a pugilistic nose, dressed in his cassock and heavy monastic boots, a magnificent speak with a fascinating delivery and a keen sense of humor. THere is Burns the Communist with a quick cutting intelligence and acid repartee. Conrad who touches on everything, who has written several books, was at one time a regular contributor to the London “Daily Mirror” and who for a week appeared in one of the London theatres by himself in his role of Hyde Park Orator. The Rev. Donald Soper of Tower Hill fame whose great ringing voice echoes back from the Lancaster Hotel. Martin, a grissly bearded old Socialist, who looks as if he belonged to the first International, who brings out his points with emphatic raps of his knobbled walking stick. All these and others, and finally, never to be forgotten, the hecklers, some of whom can make the dullest meeting go with a swing and make it better than any variety show.

And if you become tired of the speakers, there’s the rest of the Park to explore, probably a military band to which to listen, the Serpentine to meditate, and further on, the paces of Kensington Gardens. But if you want more argument and pant for verbal slaughter, there’s a Lyon’s Corner House across the way where the speakers refresh themselves and carry on the arguments after the Park has shut.

This is Hyde Park Forum, the Elysium to which all public speakers aspire, and towards which other public meeting places are merely preparatory. THere is a great air of tolerance, recognition of the right to one’s own opinion, but withal, a great search after truth. Sometimes there is good sense there, a great deal of nonsense, but plenty of humour always. Even if it has not changed the path of history towards those paradisal states the speakers assure us their ideas would bring, it remains a great outlet for people to air their pet nostrums and vent their grievances. Hype Park Forum is an institution, and our london will be an unhappier one on the day on which it goes.