The Durham Miners’ Gala will return for its 134th annual event on Saturday July 14.
This event is highly attended and is one of the world's the biggest and most colourful celebrations of trade union and community spirit.
Here’s everything you need to know about Durham Miners’ Gala 2018.
What is the Durham Miners’ Gala?
The Durham Miners’ Gala is a large annual gathering which is held on the second Saturday in July in the city of Durham. It is associated with the coal mining heritage and the miners' trade unionism of the Durham Coalfield, which stretched throughout the traditional County of Durham.
It is also locally called "The Big Meeting" or "Durham Big Meeting" and its highlight consists of a parade of banners, each of which are typically accompanied by a brass band which are then marched to the old Racecourse.
In the afternoon a Miners' service is held in Durham Cathedral, which may include the blessing of any new banners.
What is the The Durham Miners' Association?
The Durham Miners' Association (DMA) provides a range of services for its beneficial members who are former Durham miners.
They support community and cultural activity and the most important event organised by the DMA is the famous annual Durham Miners’ Gala which thrives as one of the world's biggest and most colourful celebrations of trade union and community spirit.
The Marra appeal has also been set up in order to support the future of the Durham Miners’ Gala, alongside aiming to support the regeneration of Redhills. Redhills is the historic 102-year-old Durham Miners' Hall building and is currently in need of work.
Durham Miners Gala’s £15,000 appeal to fund Big Meeting improvements
When is the Gala?
The Gala will take place on Saturday July 14, but there is no dedicated start time or one place to assemble. This Gala is unique in that it is not like a normal trade union march, due to it not having a specific start or finish time and no finish time and there is no one place to assemble.
Traditionally, the colliery bands would march though their villages starting early in the morning and the make their way to Durham from all directions. This is a tradition which mostly remains today.
Where does the Gala take place?
As its title suggests, the Durham Miners’ Gala takes place in the heart of the city of Durham
The main assembly point is the city centre Market Place and bands and banners will start to march from there to the Racecourse from about 8.30am.
Other assembly points include the Miners’ HQ at Redhills, located near the railway station, and the New Inn located to the west of the city.
The focal point of the Gala is the County Hotel at Old Elvet, where the two different legs of the procession will converge.
It is here where the union leaders, invited guests and local dignitaries will greet the march from the hotel balcony and the bands will pause to play what is known as their “party piece”, before marching to the Racecourse where speeches will be made.
This year speakers will include Jeremy Corbyn, who is a long-term supporter of the event, MP Emily Thornberry, MP Ian Lavery, and general secretary Jeannie Formby.
Line up of speakers confirmed for this year's Durham Miners' Gala
Read more at: https://www.sunderlandecho.com/our-region/county-durham/line-up-of-speakers-confirmed-for-this-year-s-durham-miners-gala-1-9193830
They will be joined by Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU.)
North West Durham, and shadow minister for business, energy and industrial strategy, will be the reader for the Miners' Festival Service in Durham Cathedral.
Past speakers at the gala include Tony Benn, Ed Miliband and one of the Chilean miners who was rescued after the disaster a few years ago.
The procession can take three to four hours to pass the County Hotel due to the huge numbers usually in attendance.
The electric atmosphere of street theatre is created during the procession, which makes the occasion more of a fiesta than a march.
At 1pm, the platform party arrives and the Chairman opens the meeting. After the speeches, four or five selected bands and banners march to the Cathedral for the Miners’ Service.
What does this Gala involve?
On the Racecourse, the banners are strapped to the surrounding fences, which creates a colourful tapestry of working-class history.
There will be rides and different activities for children down by the riverside and stalls selling a multitude of everything from books to tasty food.
In the marquees, there will be a variety of exhibitions and a dedicated place where tea and sandwiches can be bought run by the Durham Labour Party.
This year, a 'Together Against Trump' protest will feature in the Durham Miners' Gala march, which is in response to the president's visit to the UK on Friday July 13.
'Together Against Trump' protest to feature in Durham Miners' Gala march:
A new all-female group, which celebrates the diverse role of women in County Durham’s history, are also set to march with their patchwork banner at this year’s gala.
First women’s group set to march at Durham Big Meeting
The organisers of this year’s gala are also hoping to draft in big screens and a better sound system in order to ensure the crowd can see and hear the speeches on the Racecourse Ground.
Up to 80,000 people are estimated to have been on the field for last year’s address, and this year’s will once again feature Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn amongst a variety of other speakers.
There will also be other events taking place in relation to this year’s gala, including a celebration of Bobby Robson, a bid to restore Redhills and a new feature film which will tell the unique and inspiring story of the Durham Miners' Gala.
The team behind the acclaimed film about legendary Labour MP Dennis Skinner, named ‘Nature of the Beast’, is making this new film with the endorsement of the Durham Miners' Association (DMA).
The centre of Durham is closed to traffic from 7.00 am but access is possible, for those who arrive early, to the multi-storey car park close to the Market Square. There are also three large park-and-ride car parks available for those who are travelling by car.
For more information visit: durhamminers.org/gala