Editor in Chief
As the unfortunate rift between Toronto’s suburbs and downtown core expands – for which we could credit our mayor and his brother – the city’s multicultural identity slowly diminishes. Certainly with the help of online networks, conversation among citizens flourishes, and though it may not always result in a meaningful movement, it remains a powerful tool for the people who care about this city.
But what if we could replace our #TOpoli hashtags, with two-minute windows for people to thoroughly share their ideas, later broadcasted across the city?
Whether you remember it or not, this brilliant concept existed in the form of a regular television series called Speakers Corner.
Established in 1989, the premise was simple; you inserted a dollar, ranted or sang for two minutes, and the show’s behind the scenes crew would compile the most fascinating – and often informative – segments of the day into a 30 minute masterpiece. When Rogers pulled the plug on the CityTV show in 2008, the process of donating a loonie to the Chum Charitable Foundation, and the booth’s 24/7 access, abruptly came to an end.
The diversity of the people who used Speakers Corner was arguably its most interesting aspect. Business workers, the homeless, even newcomers to the city shared their sentiments. Let’s also not forget the multiple celebrity appearances, including Scarborough native Mike Myers, who frequented the booth. It was an incredible way to absorb Toronto’s voice.
Today a show like Speakers Corner might lose effectiveness slightly because of social media. Yet, it would provide those who aren’t connected to the Twitterverse a way to express themselves in a meaningful way. In fact, those already tweeting could potentially submit their Twitter handles through their mobile devices before entering the booth, which would then appear at the bottom of the screen when their performance aired.
As mentioned before, in the midst of the existing separation between the city’s suburbs and downtown area, words could heavily influence extended conversations between residents from both ends of Toronto. Keeping in mind how Speaker’s Corner cleverly divided its half-hour episodes into different themes, successfully diversifying the discussion among us, the show could be much more than an anti-Ford Nation rant. Concerns that first arise on a community level would quickly come to light, and people would have another dynamic networking tool at their disposal.
Though the likelihood of Speaker’s Corner returning isn’t high, the show should remind us of what Toronto is about: Absolute, pure, outright, sheer unadulterated diversity.
If you’ve never watched the show before, I suggest you check it out. Random streams still exist on YouTube, and to this day, you still get a sense of what Toronto’s voice sounded like. When the city’s identity gets tarnished by certain individuals doing things like asking for a Pride flag to be taken down at City Hall, it’s nice to know that the people of this city share such unique, and accepting views, that completely oppose our current leader’s alarmingly narrow perspective.