Crowds gather for 134th Durham Miners’ Gala

By Clara Gaspar

Over 200,000 people have taken to the streets of Durham to celebrate mining heritage at the 134th Durham Miners’ Gala.

The annual ‘Big Meeting’, one of Europe’s largest trade union gatherings, began at 8.30am in Durham Market Place where bands and banners started their march to Durham racecourse.

At 1pm, the racehouse saw speeches made in front of a vast crowd by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and MPs Dennis Skinner, Emily Thornberry and Ian Lavery, followed by music from Billy Bragg.

In his speech, the Labour leader celebrated the strength of trade unions and the importance of collective action.

He said: “Areas such as Durham have been on the wrong end of a 30-year free market economic experiment which has placed the interests of big finance over the interests of working class communities.”

Bernie Sanders also addressed Durham crowds via video, stating: “It’s time to bring a little austerity to the richest 1% and corporations”

This year, the parade featured an official women’s banner, acknowledging the contribution that women made to Durham’s mining industry.

The women of Durham University’s own Energy Institute contributed to a panel on the banner.

Laura Daly, who founded the Women’s Banner Group, said: “It started out because women have always marched in the gala, always supported people.

“And thinking about the things women had done, it was ‘hang on a second, shouldn’t we give them a bit of recognition?’.”The 100th anniversary of women getting the vote seemed the right time, and the gala was the best place because it’s all about community and solidarity.”

@ClaraGGaspar 

Photograph: Clare Siobhán Keogh

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