Durham Miners Gala
Project info

This project captures the essence of the historic Durham Miners Gala. The Gala (known locally as The Big Meeting) is a magnificent annual gathering held each July in Durham City, celebrating the proud coal mining heritage and trade unionism of the Durham Coalfield. The inaugural meeting of The Gala dates back to 1871. Despite the closure of the last coal mine in 1994 it remains a vibrant and colourful spectacle of banners and brass bands, parading through the city and on to the Racecourse, where speeches are delivered to the crowds by leading left-wing political and union figures . Most of the banners that are paraded represent lodges of the Durham Area of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), although in recent years other unions have been involved to show solidarity, including NUM lodges from Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and South Wales. Many banners display images of notable Socialist and Communist figures and socialist expressions - for example "Socialism Through Evolution" and "Need before Greed". A fine example of Socialist and Communist figures featuring on a banner is that of the Chopwell Lodge, which displays Marx, Lennin and James Keir Hardie (the first Labour party Member of Parliament). Christian themes, having a socialist resonance, also feature on some banners. Despite the coal mines being long gone the tradition continues and the Gala still remains one of the biggest political gatherings in Europe. Indeed residents in former pit villages have taken it upon themselves in recent years to restore, or even create, banners to maintain the tradition. It is also particularly noteworthy that the legacy of the 1984/5 Miners Strike remain long in the memory of many miners, with an anger towards Margaret Thatcher and the Tory Party still lingering to this day.