Durham celebrates the 135th Miners’ Gala

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Thousands of people gathered in Durham city centre for the 135th edition of the Miners’ Gala.

The annual event, known locally as The Big Meeting, is one of the largest gatherings of trade unions in Europe.

Crowds gathered from ex-pit villages from across the north of England in a show of solidarity. 

The procession featured brass bands and banners representing lodges of the National Union of Mineworkers. 

This Gala will mark 35 years since the “Great Strike” of 1984-85.

Crowds gathered from ex-pit villages from across the north of England in a show of solidarity

Groups joining the parade included the WASPI (Women against state pension inequality) group, the Fire Brigades Union, Unite NEYH (Unite the Union in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber) and other mining associations.

The Durham Working-Class Students Association made their first appearance at the Gala, following their first annual working-class history month. 

Durham Miners Association secretary Alan Mardghum said: “We’ve been working with the university to help ensure Durham is a welcoming city for all students regardless of their class background, and that the heritage, culture and values of our communities are treated with respect.

“These young working-class people have taken a lead and self-organised to educate their fellow students and provide each other with solidarity. We thank them for creating such a positive response and look forward to welcoming them to the 135th Durham Miners Gala.”

“It is a huge honour for us march at the Big Meeting, and show our solidarity with the Durham miners”

, President of Durham Working-Class Students Association

The current president of the Working-Class Students Association, , said in a press release: “It is a huge honour for us march at the Big Meeting, and show our solidarity with the Durham miners.

“We hope students and non-students alike will join us on the day for this great celebration of unity and working-class pride.”

Various speakers addressed the crowd following a procession through the streets of Durham, finishing at Durham Racecourse. 

“It represents the sense of community and togetherness that defines the Labour Party and our trade union movement”

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party Leader

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has attended every event since becoming the leader of the party in 2015, greeted supporters from the balcony of the Marriott Royal County Hotel, with a banner reading “Durham for Corbyn” below him.

In a tweet, Corbyn said that returning to the Gala “feels like going home.” He added that it “It represents the sense of community and togetherness that defines the Labour Party and our trade union movement.”

He later addressed the crowd from a stage on the Racecourse. 

In a press release, Alan Mardghum (DMA secretary) said: “We are delighted and proud that Jeremy Corbyn is returning to Durham again to speak at this year’s Big Meeting.

“Jeremy is the 15th leader of the Labour Party to speak at the Durham Miners’ Gala and continues a tradition that dates back to the first Labour leader Keir Hardie, who spoke at The Big Meeting in 1906.”

Other speakers included North-West Durham MP Laura Pidcock, shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti and Unite leader Len McClusky.

Filmmaker Ken Loach, who directed films such as I, Daniel Blake, read at the Miners’ Festival Service, which took place at Durham Cathedral.

He said: He said: “It is an honour to be asked to be the reader at this year’s Miners’ Festival Service. I can’t think of a more impressive occasion or a more magnificent cathedral.” 

Other speakers included North-West Durham MP Laura Pidcock, shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti and Unite leader Len McClusky.

Durham Police closed various roads in the city centre between 6:00 am – 8:00 pm for the parade to take place.

 

Photograph: paulsimpson1976 via Flickr

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