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Standing on the shoulders of giants

Tony Benn at Durham Miners GalaThis year’s 130th Durham Miners Gala was a huge success. The weather was perfect, there were over 60 banners from former coalfields across the region and the festival atmosphere was complete with superb brass bands playing everything from miners classics to modern standards.

The Gala remains the UK’s largest annual trade union gathering despite the closure of the surrounding coalfields. This year’s event marked 30 years since the miners’ strike and the predictions of the Gala’s inevitable demise have never materialised with over 100,000 attending the Big Meeting.

The resilience of the Gala has been remarkable. As the coalfields were closed we have been able to maintain our traditions and heritage. The Gala has redefined itself to incorporate the wider trade union movement and the broader community as can be show by the number of mini-banners representing local schools and community groups.

The Gala is both a political rally and a popular family day out with the communities across the region coming together to celebrate our rich culture based upon our mining heritage.

This year’s event was particularly poignant being the first since the sad loss of Gala favorites Tony Benn, and former RMT Union leader Bob Crow. There passing has left a huge void in the labour movement, and they will be sadly missed by all those who attend the Gala.

From the huge crowds and the success of this year’s Gala it is difficult to imagine that its long term future is under threat. The Gala has been funded for over 140 years through the subscriptions of Durham Miners, however, with the closure of the coalfields, and the loss of income from working miners resources have been depleted. Durham Miners Association (DMA) continues to fund the Gala, but following the loss of a legal battle they are facing court costs in excess of £2 million.

In the short term, DMA are confident they can secure the next few years. However, in the long term they are reaching out to the wider trade union movement and the friends of Durham Miners Gala to safeguard the future of the Big Meeting.

We need to safeguard our heritage, no one else will. There will be no arts funding, or lottery grants to protect the Gala, so it will fall to the communities who created Durham Miners Gala to save it.

I hope everyone who enjoyed this year’s Miners Gala and the celebration of our proud industrial heritage will help to safeguard its future. For more information and to sign up to become a Friend of the Durham Miners’ Gala Society please visit

I hope we can build on this year’s success and that the Durham Miners Gala will continue to go from strength to strength through the support of the local coalfield communities.

Photo credit: Northern TUC

One Comment

  1. Robert says:

    Bloody Brilliant, what else can we say.

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