Zero hours contracts were picked apart by union leaders as part of a round of speeches at the most popular Durham Miners’ Gala since the 1960s.
The historic event, which is now in its 130th year, attracted thousands of people to its Big Meeting event on Saturday and was blessed with fine, sunny weather.
Long-time Labour MP Dennis Skinner warned corporations of using the controversial zero hours arrangements and took aim at Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, for employing people on that basis through his company Sports Direct.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers also spoke, as well as GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Prison Officers’ Association general secretary Steve Gillan.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Durham as banners from former mining communities were carried past accompanied by the sound of more than 50 brass bands.
The Chopwell Lodge banner with its striking imagery of Karl Marx and former Russian leader Vladimir Lenin caught people’s attention as usual, while several new banners joined the procession this year.
Organisers from the Durham Miners’ Association said it was the most well attended year since the 1960s, despite ongoing financial worries for future galas.
The organisation faces legal bills of £2.2m following a failed six-year compensation battle for its members through the courts.
While £60,000 was found to run this year’s event through a fundraising drive, association chairman Dave Hopper has previously said there may be difficulties beyond 2015.
However he told the crowd: “Don’t worry. We will be back next year and probably the year after.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 July 2014
Thousands of people flocked to Durham City for the 130th Durham Miners’ Gala.
Warm sunshine helped swell the crowds later in the morning.
About 65 banners from across the North East and elsewhere were joined by 50 bands for the procession to the Racecourse.
Banner numbers were swelled by mini-banners from several primary schools, including West Rainton, and banners from other unions.
Gala Day starts early for many with breakfast meetings in clubs and community centres in the outlying former pit villages.
There was an early start in Houghton for Pat Simmons and the members of the Lambton and Houghton Banner Group.
Their band for the day, from Elland in Yorkshire, was treated to breakfast at the Peppercorn Cafe in Houghton before accompanying the Houghton banner on the first of two processions.
“We processed the banner to the war memorial in Houghton before taking it to Durham,” said Pat.
“The band played the miners’ hymn Gresford to remember those miners who fought in the First World War.
“Houghton didn’t have a banner for a long time after the old one was lost in a fire in the 1960s.
“This will have been the first time for many years the banner has been taken through Houghton first before going to Durham.”
The Gala attracts not just former pitmen, but also people too young to have worked in the coal industry.
“I am only 22 so never worked down a pit,” said Robert Kitching, who was helping to carry the Silksworth banner.
“I’m interested in mining and heritage, and this is my fourth year with banner.
“If the Gala is to survive, we have to attract younger people.
“But it is difficult to get them involved.”
Richard Breward, 67, was parading the Easington Lodge banner.
“I left school at 15 and worked at Easington for 27 years,” he said. “I did more or less everything there in that time, and I finished when the pit finished in 1992.
“I’m at the Gala every year, and I want to see it continue.”
Guest speakers this year included the ever-popular left wing MP Dennis Skinner, and the general secretaries of four unions.
Further entertainment for the crowds was provided by music, stalls, and a funfair on the Racecourse.
Those for whom the temperature proved too high could cool down with free bottles of water provided by Northumbrian Water.
The good weather was matched by the general good nature of the crowd.
Police reported few arrests by mid-afternoon, although one man was ‘in the cells, drying out’ after jumping into the River Wear.
By lunchtime many people were already heading home, or heading back into Durham for the afternoon Gala Service in the cathedral.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, is determined there will be another Gala next year, and in the years to come.
“The cost is increasing each year,” he said. “For example, £26,400 is spent on subsidising the brass bands which are an essential feature of the day.
“The association no longer has subscriptions to its funds from working miners, and it is obvious we cannot fund the Gala indefinitely.
“But I am confident there are sufficient friends in County Durham and elsewhere who want it to continue.”
Anyone wanting contribute to the cost of future Galas can do so online: www.durhamminers.org
Source – Sunderland Echo, 13 July2014
Arts and cultural bodies across the North East could receive a fairer share of funding in future years, the people responsible for distributing cash have pledged.
Leaders of Arts Council England, which shares out lottery cash for the arts as well as funding directly from the Treasury, said they accepted there was an “imbalance” with London getting the lion’s share while the rest of the country loses out.
But they insisted the situation was improving, with more money going to regions outside London in recent years – and pledged that the trend would continue.
However, giving evidence to a Commons inquiry, the Arts Council also insisted that London organisations had to receive enough money to allow the city to maintain its position as the world’s cultural capital.
And MPs were also told by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey that the arts are “generously funded outside London”.
The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee is holding an inquiry into the work of the Arts Council.
That was in part prompted by a hard-hitting report called Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital which warned that London receives £563.9m a year in culture funding from the Government and the Arts Council – or £68.98 per person – while the rest of the country gets £205.1m or just £4.57 per person.
The study also found that the North East had received £86.22 per head in arts lottery funding since 1995, while Londoners received £165.
The inquiry previously heard evidence from leaders of the North East Culture Partnership, who warned that cash-strapped arts organisations in the North East are spending time filling in grant applications instead of actually taking part in arts and cultural activities.
Speaking to the committee, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “You are quite right point to an imbalance.”
He said it should not be surprising that London received the most funding, but added: “We are addressing years of imbalance but we are addressing it carefully.”
London used to get 51% of funding while the rest of the country got 49% – but this had changed so that London now received 49%, he said.
“That trend should continue this summer.
“Those are very important parts of the work we are doing.”
One committee member, Yorkshire MP Philip Davies, accused the Arts Council of indulging “London luvvies” by spending £347.4m on opera over five years and just £1.8m on brass bands.
> Oh lord, another regional sterotype – brass bands, whippits and flat caps !
Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey told him: “I do want us to increase the amount of money we are giving to brass bands because I think it’s a wonderful pastime”.
But Mr Vaizey played down suggestions of a funding gap, saying: “I think it is nuanced. I don’t want a headline saying it is unbalanced because as I say it is a more subtle picture.
“A lot of the organisations with London postcodes have national profiles and do national work.
“The picture is by no means as bleak as some people would wish to paint it. A great deal of funding has gone to arts organisations outside London and a lot of funding that is supposedly ‘London funding’ is in fact national funding.”
Mr Vaizey praised Gateshead Council for backing the Sage Gateshead concert venue and musical education centre as well as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and said he wanted other councils to follow suit.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 June 2014
The cost of a failed legal claim could place the long-term future of the Durham Miners’ Gala in doubt.
The Durham Miners Association, which organises the annual Big Meeting, says it may be unable able to afford future events after landing a £2m bill for costs.
The DMA spent six years fighting unsuccessfully for compensation for former miners who developed crippling osteoarthritis of the knee because of their work.
Although the pits are long gone, the Gala has regained much of its old popularity and is considered the country’s foremost trade union gathering.
The mix of colourful union lodge banners and brass bands from across the North marching through the city and political speeches still attracts thousands of spectators each summer.
DMA general secretary Dave Hopper said staging the Gala cost between £70,000 and £80,000, with around £28,000 spent on the bands.
The Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala, launched in 2012, had brought in £40,000 in its first year, but more was needed.
He said: “We believe that this is a people’s Gala and if we have thousands of people giving a little each year the Gala will be safe.
“Of course, we will be more than happy to receive bigger donations from trade union organisations but it was the people of Durham that saved the Gala and in the long run it will be the people of Durham, and our many well wishers who attend from all over Britain.”
But North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones, who has heavily criticised the DMA over payments it received from members over previous compensation claims, questioned the situation.
He said the last published accounts for the DMA, in 2007 when it officially deregistered as a union and became a claims handler, showed it had £6.4m.
“I find it remarkable that the DNA should be making these claims,’’ he said.
“They should explain what they have done with this £6.4m.including over £1m in offshore bank accounts, they had in 2007.”
To join the Friends of the Gala visit www.durhamminers.org or write to: Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala, PO Box 6, The Miners’ Hall, Durham DH1 4BB.
Source – Durham Times 28 April 2014
A replacement has been found for a police band that quit a theatre show amid vociferous protests over their involvement.
Durham Miners’ Association Band has agreed to take over from Durham Constabulary Brass Band in a production of Brassed Off, at Darlington Civic Theatre, next month.
The mining community, including Durham Miners Assocition itself, had objected to a band with police links taking part in the show, which tells the tale of a colliery band battling for its future amid pit closures and job losses.
Although the police band is made up of civilians, objectors felt its involvement was inappropriate given the resentment that still lingers over the role officers played in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.
Producer Jenny King, of the Touring Consortium Theatre Company, which is staging Brassed Off, acknowledged that it would have been much easier if the miners’ association band had been booked in the first place, rather than the police band.
She said: “We take this show all over the country and everywhere we go, we need local bands, if possible with a connection to the mining industry.
“We have two or three people sourcing bands and we are incredibly grateful to Durham Miners’ Association for coming to the rescue.
“The show will be all the better for it, their commitment will be fantastic.”
Ms King added that all brass bands used in the production are amateurs, as to pay professional rates would fall foul of the Musicians’ Union.
She confirmed that, although expenses are paid, the miners’ association band will not receive a fee for its role in the production, nor would the police band had it taken part.
Source – Northern Echo 22 Feb 2014