Union chiefs Len McCluskey and Matt Wrack and left-wing author Owen Jones will top the bill at this year’s Durham Miners’ Gala.
The general secretaries of Unite and the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will be joined by the firebrand Guardian columnist on the Durham Racecourse speakers’ stage at Europe’s biggest trade union event on Sunday, July 11.
Durham Miners’ Association secretary Dave Hopper will also introduce Steve Murphy from UCATT, John McDonald from ASLEF and Chris Keates from the NASUWT.
However, Ed Miliband will be absent – organisers having decided not to invite the Labour leader.
Mr Miliband, who claimed the Labour leadership ahead of his brother David with strong union backing, became the first party boss to address the Gala since Neil Kinnock when he travelled to Durham in 2012, but has not returned since.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the 131st Gala, as dozens of brass and bagpipe bands march union and colliery banners through Durham City’s historic streets past dignitaries watching from the first floor balcony of the Royal County Hotel and to the Racecourse where, in addition to the political speeches which start at about 1pm, there will be family entertainment, campaign stalls and more.
Mr Hopper said he was very pleased with the speakers line-up.
The outcome of this week’s General Election is bound to be the central theme of the speeches; and Mr Hopper said he could not see Labour winning.
“The Scottish girl (Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon) has run rings around them.
“Miliband hasn’t come across very well. She’s putting him on the spot every time,” he said.
Last year’s Gala had a mournful feel, as guests paid tribute to the late Labour grandee Tony Benn and union leader Bob Crow.
On Gala day, the centre of Durham will be closed to traffic from 7am. Visitors are encouraged to use park and ride buses.
There is an ongoing appeal to support the continuation of the Gala. Supporters are invited to become a Friend of the event, for a minimum fee of £2 a month. For more information, visit friendsofdurhamminersgala.org
> Interesting developments ? Are the decision not to invite Miliband, and Dave Hopper’s comments about Labour’s chances the beginnings of a move away from the Labour Party ?
Source – Durham Times, 04 May 2015
Four floors of an underground car park in the centre of London will be
the dramatic setting for 50 of the Durham Miners’ Association banners.
The venue is Leicester Square Car Park, 39-41 Whitcomb St, London WC2H 7DT.
The banners will be on display from 18 June (the 31st anniversary of
the infamous display of police brutality at the battle of Orgreave)
through to the 4 July. The banners will be on one floor. On another a
dramatic art exhibition on the theme of the miners’ strike, Ashes and
Diamonds, will be on display.
Another floor will have videos projecting onto the walls of the car
park. On the fourth floor will be a bar run by the Workers’ Beer
Company, exhibitions and a series of talks, debates and films on the
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Labour figure Hilary Benn has told of fond childhood memories attending Durham Miners’ Gala, but admitted a Labour Government could not offer money for the under-threat event.
The Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, whose much-admired father Tony Benn was a fierce defender of the miners during Margaret Thatcher’s time in power, recalled the magic of the Big Meeting when he watched banners pass the County Hotel balcony.
But he said his party, which was founded by the union movement, could not offer cash to back the Big Meeting.
The event was founded by the Durham Miners’ Association and has a long and rich history as a celebration of the region’s heritage.
Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles seized on the chance to criticise Labour and accused them of failing to “respect their roots”.
The Gala’s future is uncertain as the association is struggling to find fresh funds, organiser, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association Dave Hopper told the crowd in 2014, though it will go ahead on Saturday July 11.
Hilary Benn, who followed his father into a career in Parliament and is campaigning to be re-elected in Leeds Central, said he shared Mr Hopper’s fears for the event.
“One of my earliest childhood memories was my dad taking me up to the Gala,” he said. “There must have been about 11 of us on the famous balcony of the County Hotel, including Harold Wilson.
“We watched the banners go past the hotel in the procession. I was struck by how it was a great day of trade union solidarity and it is a great Labour tradition.”
But it is a sure signal of just how tough times are that the Labour Party can’t offer any money towards the event.
He said: “The Labour and trade union movement have always been big supporters of the Gala, and we will do all we can to support it, but we can’t make specific spending commitments.”
The Miners’ Gala was first held in the city’s Wharton Park in 1871.
Numbers grew strongly during the miners’ strikes to attract huge crowds of as many as 300,000.
Though the North East mining industry is a shadow of its former self, the Big Meeting continues to pull thousands of visitors.
Lodge banners are marched through the city and hundreds gather at a field near banks of the River Wear in what is a proud celebration of the North East’s heritage.
Tony Benn was one of the great figures of the left that have spoken at the event.
Labour Leader Ed Miliband has told colleagues he will give a speech this year, sharing a stage with long-serving parliamentarian Dennis Skinner.
The association said it was left with a £2.2m legal bill after losing a six-year court battle on behalf of former miners who have osteoarthritis of the knee.
Critics, including Labour’s North Durham candidate Kevan Jones, however, say the association had £6m in its accounts when it was a union in 2007.
Mr Pickles said a Conservative Government would not offer any help but insisted the party’s plan to create jobs would see more people support the event.
Mr Benn said one of the things the unions, many of which will be represented at the Gala, will fight is the rise in zero-hours contracts which grew four-fold under the Coalition government.
Mr Pickles, however, said: “As it is predominantly Labour Party and trade union members involved you would expect them to respect their roots.
“What we can promise is more jobs and more prosperity and more pounds in people’s pockets.”
Source –Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Apr 2015
An anti-cuts comedy featuring sketches, songs and stand-up will tour the region in the run up to the General Election.
The Accidental Activist has been storylined by North-East playwright Ed Waugh, whose national and international comedy hits (co-written with Trevor Wood) include Dirty Dusting and Maggie’s End, which involved the death of Margaret Thatcher.
Newcastle-based stand-up comedian John Scott and South Tyneside-based comedy writer John Gibson have provided additional funnies to a show that has the backing of the Durham Miners Association, the national RMT union, Durham & District NUT and South Tyneside UNISON.
John Scott, who writes for and hosts a monthly show called Sod the Tories, at the Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle, said:
“Ed came to see Sod the Tories and thought it was great. I asked him to storyline a play against the cuts and he came up with the Accidental Activist.
“John Gibson and I added our bits and we have a show that will not only make people laugh but will also make them think.”
“We’ve called on Russell Floyd from EastEnders, The Bill and Maggie’s End to star and direct, and have enlisted top North-East actresses Rachel Adamson, an award-winner in the play Motherland, and Sammy Dobson, who was in Byker Grove and Joe Maddison’s War.”
The story is about how comedian Johnny Snowball (Russell Floyd) wants an easy life but, confronted by more government austerity measures, reluctantly enters the battle to fight the cuts.
The production will be staged at The Stand Comedy Club, Newcastle (0191-300-9700) on April 27 and 28;
The City Theatre, Durham (0191-384-3515) on April 30;
All shows start at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10.
> Ticket price unfortunately makes it a luxury item for many people actually on benefits.
Wot, no concessions for those on benefits ?
Source – Durham Times, 19 Mar 2015
Unions across the region are joining forces in protest against the controversial anti-Islamic demonstration set to take place in Newcastle next week.
German right wing group Pediga plans to hold a demonstration on Saturday in the city’s Bigg Market.
But opposition Newcastle Unites plans a counter march beginning at Gallowgate and heading to Newgate Street.
Comedian and activist Russell Brand and Respect MP George Galloway have pledged their support to the anti-facist group.
Dozens of groups from across the region are backing Newcastle Unites, and organisers are now asking all unions across the country to strengthen their cause.
Newcastle councillor Dipu Ahad said:
“I urge all the unions in the country, to unite and support Newcastle Unites Against Pegida.
“I urge you all, who want to see a better future for our children, where we can coexist in peace, no matter what our race or religion. Let us start today, and not tomorrow as each and everyone of us has got a responsibility as humans.
“Our unity is our strength, and together we can eradicate all types of hate, no matter what.
“Too many times we focus on what divides us, which diverts the real issues. We’ve got a responsibility to combat evil, so I urge you all to stand up and be counted.”
The councillor said many groups had come forward voluntarily to support Newcastle Unites.
Just days ago Pegida were told by Newcastle United fans: “We’re black and white”.
The demonstration is planned for the same day as Newcastle face Aston Villa at St James Park, and NUFC Fans United put out the defiant message on their website which reads:
“There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.
“As Supporters of Newcastle United we are asking what kind of message is such a rally sending to players such as Papiss Cissé, Mehdi Abeid, Cheik Tiote and Moussa Sissoko as well as to our wider Muslim community? Remember, we are black and white; we are UNITED.”
A heavier-than usual police presence is expected on the day of the two marches.
Newcastle Chief Supt Laura Young said:
“We have met with representatives from both of the organisations and have agreed on plans for their demonstrations.
“The organisers from both groups have assured us they do not want any trouble and their intention is to hold peaceful protests before moving on and we will act in a neutral capacity to facilitate this.
“People often ask why we can’t ban protests. Police forces do not have the power to ban a protest or the right to peaceful assembly. This is a fundamental democratic right and is laid down in the European Convention of Human Rights.
“On occasions we can insist on certain conditions being applied to ensure we preserve public safety, prevent crime, serious disorder and serious damage and protect the rights of others.
“Our priority is ensuring public safety and minimum disruption to the local community.”
Newcastle Unites against Pegida supporters so far are:
• The Durham General Branch of the GMB
• Northern Cultural Projects CIC
• The Durham Miners Association
• The County Durham Trades Council
• Northumberland County Unison
• The Newcastle Hindu Temple
• Islamic Diversity Centre(IDC)
• Spice FM
• Show Racism The Red Card
• Durham UAF
• County Durham Unites Against Racism
• Newcastle Council of Faiths
• North East People’s Assembly
• Newcastle Stop The War Coalition
• Northumberland County Unison
• UAF North East
• Sunderland Anti-Fascist Coalition
• West End Housing Co-operative in Newcastle
• Unite Against Fascism
• Stand up to UKIP
• Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service(NCVS)
• Jude Kirton Darling MEP
• Julie Ward MEP
• Lord Beecham
• Comedian and activist Russell Brand
• Journalist and activist Yvonne Ridley
• Dave Anderson MP
• Chi Onwurah MP
• Davy Hopper (General Secretary of Durham Miners Association)
• Palestine Solidarity Campaign Fife
• Sunderland Together
• NUFC Fans United
• PCS Northern
• Bakers Union
• Tyneside Irish Centre
• Unite The Union
• Gateshead Unison
• Unison Northern Region
• TUC Northern Regional
• Newcastle Central Constituency Labour Party
• North East Greens
• Tyneside SWP
Source – Sunday Sun, 22 Feb 2015
Launched in 2011, Unite Community membership, gives anyone who is not in work a chance to join Britain’s biggest union and combine with their working colleagues in campaigning for an improved standard of living for all.
In 2014, Unite NEY&H (North East, Yorkshire & Humberside) Community membership, costing just 50 pence a week, increased significantly to reach 1000. A range of ongoing events throughout the year has encouraged more people to join and get politically active. Meanwhile, the community advice centres in Durham and Barnsley both continue to provide invaluable welfare support to local people. A third centre is due to open in Farsley at the start of 2015.
Joe Rollin is the Unite community co-ordinator for NEY&H.
“Our members include the unemployed, disabled, retired and students. We support our industrial colleagues when they are taking industrial action and campaign against welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax that has…
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On February 4th 2015 there will be a one day educational event organised by UNITE Community with contributions from:
Dave Wray A former striking miner and now writing about the history of the gal
Carol Stephenson a senior lecturer at Northumbria who has written about women, the Strike and the Gala
John Stirling a trade union educator who has written about the future of unions.
The day will look at the past of the gala; why the Gala is still here when so many others have died; the future for the Gala and the Unions
The day will be an interactive one with plenty of opportunity to share experiences and opinions alongside the presentations.
The event will be held at the Durham Miners Association Red Hills, Durham. At the moment definite times have yet to be confirmed but it is envisaged that it will run from 10.30 am to 4.00pm.
All are welcome to…
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Officials have agreed not to pursue dozens of ex-miners who had not paid enough tax, says a miners’ leader.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) launched an investigation after Durham Miners’ Association raised concerns about the number of members who had been issued with demands for underpayment of tax.
Some members were told they owed as much as £2,000.
HMRC concluded that the underpayments had arisen because assumption had been made in relation to how much contribution-based Employment Support Allowance former miners had received.
The figures were too low which meant there was an underpayment of tax.
Alan Cummings, chairman of Durham Miners’ Association, said he held discussions with senior tax office staff regarding the underpayment and it was agreed that HMRC would not pursue the money owed in these cases.
Mr Cummings said the demands had come as a shock to former miners, many of whom were on low incomes and would have faced hardship through no fault of their own had they had to pay.
He added: “This has caused a lock of shock and concern among people who aren’t on much money.
“It has affected people who are often on particularly low incomes and maybe aren’t in the best of health.
The former miner contacted Easington MP Grahame Morris asking him for help.
Mr Cummings said an article would be included in a forthcoming Durham Miners’ Newsletter requesting members to check that their weekly Employment Support Allowance payments matched the figures that HMRC are using.
The problem appeared to affect former miners who were in receipt of contribution-based employment support allowance and were also receiving a mineworkers’ pension.
Mr Cummings said in previous years tax was taken from the employment support allowance through the PAYE system without problems.
Any member who has already paid the tax underpayment demand should contact Mr Cummings at the area office with their details.
A spokesman for HMRC said they could not comment on individual cases.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Nov 2014
Former miners from the region will march on Parliament today (Tuesday, October 28) to demand more support for coalfield communities.
The protest comes as MPs debate the release of 1984 Cabinet papers which allegedly showed that the Government at the time misled the public about the extent of pit closures and tried to influence tactics used by police dealing with picketers.
Members from organisations including the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) and National Union of Mineworkers– Yorkshire Area will travel to London to take part in a rally outside the House of Commons.
Dave Hopper, DMA secretary, said the impact of the pit closures was still being felt 30 years later.
“It is now only right that Parliament recognises just how badly ministers at the time treated the coalfield communities and acknowledges the full scale of the economic legacy of the pit closure programme,” he said.
“The problems in the former coalfields are horrendous and made worse by the current Coalition Government’s policies.”
Parliament will debate a motion put forward by Labour which calls on the Commons to acknowledge the evidence that the Thatcher Government “misled the public about the extent of its pit closure plans and sought to influence police tactics”.
Miners also want a full investigation into the so-called Battle of Orgreave, which saw brutal picket line clashes between police and union members, including many from the North-East.
“What happened at Orgreave 30 years ago was a black day in South Yorkshire,” said Mr Hopper.
“The Independent Police Complaints Commission needs to get its act together. If they can’t or won’t undertake a proper investigation, then Labour has said the Government should consider initiating a swift, independent review along the lines of the Ellison Review.”
Cabinet papers from 1984, released earlier this year under the 30-year rule, revealed Government plans to shut 75 mines over three years. The government and National Coal Board said at the time they wanted to close just 20.
Source – Durham Times, 28 Oct 2014
The records of 200,000 miners who worked in the Durham Coalfield can now be viewed online.
Volunteers working on Mining Durham’s Hidden Depths project have spent five years cataloguing and indexing records from Durham Miners’ Association.
Their work means that visitors to the Durham County Record Office website can search for a miner online and find out what records are held in the archives for that person.
The project was launched in 2009 with funding for just six months.
However, some volunteers have continued indexing copies of arbitration committee minutes, signing-on books, accident books and other documents and now the number of miners referenced has reached 200,000.
Liz Bregazzi, county archivist, said:
“We are very grateful to all of our volunteers for their hard work in helping build up this important database.
“The database is very popular, receiving more than 100,000 page views last year and about 45,000 so far this year so it’s great that it continues to grow.
“Anyone who has checked the index in the past and not been able to find the miner they are searching for should definitely take another look now that so many more names have been added.”
However, other records give much more detail about individual miners and any injuries and compensation they and their dependants received.
The database is at www.durhamrecordoffice.org.uk
Source – Durham Times, 24 Oct 2014