Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Durham - 132nd Miners Gala.

Our visit to this historic city that forms the county town of County Durham in the North East of England was to witness something I have always wanted to see - The Durham Miners Gala. It takes place every July and celebrates the heritage of the miners who lived in surrounding villages and who worked in the coal industry until Margaret Thatcher and her Tory government decimated its production along with their community's in the 1980's. Something that resonates right up until this day where as this is first year a Gala has taken place without a single deep coal mine in existence in Britain.
An early start in Durham Town Centre.

Some of the biggest Unions take part.

The colourful parade takes place through the streets of the town over a four-hour period and consists of Miners Pit Union banners being paraded accompanied by a brass or pipe band. They all stop outside the Royal County Hotel in Old Elvet and perform in front of its balcony, which is loaded with dignitaries, before they carry on to the Racecourse to display the banners and listen to the political speeches at what is referred as 'The Big Meeting'.

Various Bands accompany the Banners.

People of all ages take part.
This year was also different because of the precarious state of British politics. The Tories are in the middle of a leadership battle with all the top Brexit people scurrying for cover but not before they have turned a great many people into bigots and racialist by scapegoating immigrants and Muslims. An ideal time you may think for the Labour Party to lead the county out of this dark period of austerity? For the first time for many years Labour has a man capable of leading this charge but because of the Labour Party’s Tony Blair loving right wing has decided to make an attempt to sack their democratically elected leader and throw the party into turmoil just at a time when it’s needed most. Today’s guests were chosen very carefully to reflect the feelings of the people and their families they were attending the event.

A small smple of the banners on the parade. 

Along with one of the Giants of the Labour movement MP Dennis Skinner was Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn both of who gave rousing speeches that made you wonder why Britain was in such a shite state. Along side these two great men were lined up some of the counties Union leaders including Frances O'Grady General Secretary TUC, Tim Roache General Secretary GMB and Mick Whelan General Secretary ASEF. Also addressing the vast ensemble of people gathered in the field were two of Cuba's Miami Five heroes Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez who were only recently granted visas and are about to start a nationwide speaking tour. We were also privileged to hear the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic leader in exile Napoleon Gomez Urrutia speak about importance of the solidarity of the working class no matter what country they were born or worked in.
The Labour Leader.

Frances O'Grady. 

Dennis Skinner.
After the politicking newly created banners from Durham's former mining communities are lead by a brass band to Durham Cathedral where the Bishop of Durham in a ceremony that filled the historic building to its capacity blesses them.  As well as Bewicke Main, Haswell and Sherburn Collieries, the Eppleton Colliery banner was paraded in memory of nine workingmen who were tragically killed 65 years ago in an explosion.
The Eppleton Banner. 
The current Cathedral is a wonderful piece of Romanesque style built between 1093 and 1133 and well worth a visit if you’re in Durham for whatever reason. Make your way through the cloisters and ascend down to the shop and restaurant to see the magnificent 300000-piece model of the Cathedral where members of the public add a Lego brick for a pound. This is being promoted to raise money for the on going church renovations.

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