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
A reunion aims to bring together former picketing pitmen as they remember the strike 30 years on.
Durham Miners’ Association is inviting its friends and supporters, particularly those who took part in the industrial action, to gather at its headquarters in Red Hill, Durham, to “renew old friendships and celebrate the spirit that endured a year long battle”.
The gathering will be held on Saturday.
Three decades on, the hostilities generated between the miners and the authorities remain an issue.
Its general secretary Dave Hopper said: “The recent release of the Thatcher Government’s Cabinet papers has exposed the falsehoods and deceit used to defeat the miners’ strike of 1984/85.
“Now everyone knows that Thatcher deliberately lied about the full extent of her pit closure programme and was so determined to butcher the coal industry and smash the National Union of Mineworkers that she was even preparing to use the army to break the strike.
“None of this, of course, will shock our mining communities, which fought so bravely to resist the Tory onslaught.
“We thank those unions and members of the labour movement and all who gave us unstinting and invaluable help.
“At the same time, these revelations should shame those trade union and Labour Party leaders who did not support our cause.
“Those who refused to come to our aid bear a huge responsibility, not just for our defeat, but also for weakening the whole trade union movement.
“They will be remembered in the former coalfields of Britain just as we remember those so-called leaders who betrayed the 1926 General Strike.
“The refusal of ‘New Labour’, during 13 years of government, to repeal the anti-trade union legislation, which was used to defeat us, only compounds their shame.
“Now we have to fight, with a weakened trade union movement, against draconian Tory-Liberal austerity measures which are impoverishing working people while the rich, who caused the economic crisis, have doubled their wealth since 2008.
“We need the fighting spirit which sustained us through that year-long strike more than ever because the fight for our communities which started in 1984 is still ongoing.
“I hope everyone will come on Saturday 21st and have a great time.”
The event will include refreshments and folk music performances, with a marquee to be set up in the grounds of the association’s base.
For more details visit http://www.durhamminers.org
Source – Sunderland Echo, 19 June 2014
Unite union has teamed up with Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) to set up a “community hub” centre at the Miners’ Hall in Red Hill, Durham, which they say will become a resource for those most in need of help to deal with cuts, changes in benefits such as the bedroom tax and the tests carried out by ATOS, the company contracted by the Government to carry out the fitness-to-work assessments.
It will also launch a Benefit Buddying scheme, offering peer-to-peer support for those who are most vulnerable and are facing difficulties (which sounds like it might be a good idea), and campaign for welfare rights.
The centre will open two days (Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10:00 – 15:00) with the volunteers also offering support, help to learn new skills and guidance as people search for work.
The official launch is on Friday, November 15, at 2pm.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA, said: “We have opened the community support centre in partnership with Unite in a response to the vicious attacks on the benefits system brought in by the Con-Dem Government.
“The last Conservative Government decimated our coal industry, now this Government is making the people of the North East suffer all over again.”