The 132nd Durham Miners’ Gala was held on Saturday 9th July 2016.
The Gala is not like a normal trade union march. In fact, it has no start time, no finish time and no one place of assembly.
Traditionally, the colliery bands march though their villages starting early in the morning and the make their way to Durham from all directions and, in the main, that tradition remains today.
The main assembly point is the city centre Market Place and bands and banners start to march from there to the Racecourse from about 8.30 am.
The focal point of the Gala is the County Hotel at Old Elvet where the two legs of the procession converge. Here, the union leaders, invited guests and local dignitaries greet the march from the hotel balcony and the bands pause to play their “party piece” before marching the short distance to the Racecourse where there is a platform for the speakers.
The procession can take three to four hours to pass the County Hotel due to the huge numbers attending and the frequent pauses at the hotel. There was a wonderful atmosphere of street theatre, created by making the occasion more a fiesta than a march.
On the Racecourse, the banners are strapped to the surrounding fences creating a colourful tapestry of working class history.
On the riverside, there are rides for the children and stalls selling everything from books to fast food.
In the marquees, there are many exhibitions and a place where tea and sandwiches can be bought run by the Durham Labour Party. And, on a field overlooking the racecourse, there is a fun fair with some scary rides for the more adventurous.
At 1 pm, the platform party arrived and the Chairman opened the meeting.
Jeremy Corbyn gave a heartfelt speech that moved the crowd & inspired them to struggle for a better society, a better world. You can hear most of the speech in the following clip:
After the speeches, four or five selected bands and banners marched to the Cathedral for the Miners’ Service.
Everyone had a great day.
It was a tremendous Gala!