Cancelled Durham Miners’ Gala to be marked with online celebration

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The 136th Durham Miners’ Gala, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be marked with an online event.

In place of the usual in-person festivities, the day will now be marked online with a series of new content celebrating the spirit and values of the event. The live event will be hosted from Redhills, the home of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA).

The centrepiece of the day will be a live online event streamed to Facebook and YouTube. It will feature videos which celebrate the Gala’s long history through archive footage as well as messages from key workers who have been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. It will also include contributions from leaders in the labour movement. 

The day is titled ‘The Second Saturday in July’ – the day on which the Gala is held each year.

The DMA had decided to postpone the 136th Gala to 2021, in part “to relieve the public services from the detailed planning and preparation in the months leading up to the Gala.”

The other reasons given were “to ensure that the 200,000 people who attend the event will not be exposed further to the virus (whether or not the immediate threat has subsided by then)”, and “to give early warning to all those who travel to Durham”.

DMA’s Secretary Alan Mardghum said: “The 200,000 people who attend the Gala will miss their great day out. We want to mark the day as best we can and bring people together in a spirit of solidarity and celebration.

“The Gala has always provided a platform for working people, and this year we will hear from key workers across various sectors. Their efforts over recent months should have made clear to everyone the vital contribution they make to our country.

 “We hope as many people as possible will join us for The Second Saturday in July.”

The move online was praised by Durham University Labour Club (DULC), who told Palatinate: “Obviously we’d all prefer if it were able to go ahead normally as planned but of course that’s not possible with the current circumstances.

“The Gala going online in the next best thing as it’s still very important that we get together and celebrate and be aware of the heritage of County Durham.

“It’s also brilliant for bringing about a sense of community across County Durham.”

In order to promote online interaction from supporters of the Gala, those attending will be encouraged to post their own messages and pictures from previous years at the Gala, using the hashtag #DurhamMinersGala.

First held in 1871, the Gala will return to Durham in 2021, marking 150 years since the first event. In its long history, the Gala has previously been cancelled due to strikes and the two World Wars, so 2021 will see the 136th Gala take place.

For more than a century, the Gala was funded by the working miners of the Durham coalfield. 

The trailer for the second Saturday in July [video: Durham Miners’ Association]

Following the closure of the collieries, the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala was established to ensure the survival of the event. Those who contribute through subscription are known as ‘Marras’, a Durham miners’ term for a workmate or friend who can be relied upon in times of need.

Dave Anderson, Chair of the Friends and former MP for Blaydon, said: “If it wasn’t for our Marras, the Gala would simply no longer happen. I urge everyone who values the Gala to sign up, become our Marra, and help us ensure that our wonderful Gala returns bigger and better than ever in 2021 for its 150th anniversary.”

The live event will begin at 1pm on Facebook and YouTube.

Image: paul-simpson.org via Wikimedia Commons

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