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Enjoy the Durham Miners’ Gala in virtual form this year

The Big Meeting goes online today – but will be back next year bigger and stronger than ever, writes ALAN MARDGHUM, secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association

THE 136th Durham Miners’ Gala was due to take place today.

Our great celebration of community, solidarity and working-class culture was cancelled in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

We took the decision in the early stages of the pandemic to relieve pressure on our public services.

The day will now be marked online with a series of new content celebrating the spirit and values of the event.

The centrepiece of the day will be a live online event streamed to Facebook and YouTube at 1pm. 

It will feature new videos including archive footage from the Gala’s long history, brass band music, messages from key workers who’ve been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and contributions from leading labour movement figures.

At 4pm, we’ll host a live Facebook stream of the 1963 film Gala Day with an introduction from the director John Irvin who went on to great success in Hollywood.

The day is titled The Second Saturday in July — the day on which the Gala is held each year.

It will be my pleasure to host the event from Redhills, the magnificent home of the Durham Miners’ Association.

The 200,000 people who attend the Gala will miss their great day of celebration but we want to mark the day as best we can and bring people together in a spirit of working-class solidarity and celebration.

We have a long history of fighting injustice and discrimination and this event is an opportunity to reinforce our beliefs.

I would like to take this opportunity to affirm our ongoing commitment to the important campaigns — the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, Justice for Grenfell and the Black Lives Matter campaign. 

We must never forget that an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

The Gala has always provided a platform for working people, and this year we will hear from rank-and-file key workers across various sectors.

Their selfless efforts over recent months should have made clear to everyone the vital contribution they make to our country.

While it has been great to have their contributions recognised by clapping and singing on a Thursday evening, this does not pay for school uniforms, pay the rent or put food on the table.

It is now time to make a real difference to their lives by awarding them safer working environments with adequate personal protection and pay that truly reflects the value of their amazing work.

We hope as many people as possible will join us for The Second Saturday in July.

Supporters of the Gala are encouraged to use social media to post their own messages and favourite photos from attending the Gala throughout today, using the hashtag #DurhamMinersGala.

First held in 1871, the Gala will return to Durham next year for its 150th anniversary and we will ensure that this will be the biggest and best Gala for many years and we look forward to reuniting with our friends and comrades from the international labour and trade union movement.

For more than a century, the Gala was funded by the working miners of the Durham coalfield. It is their gift to us all.

Following the closure of the collieries, the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala was established to ensure the survival of the event. 

Those who contribute through subscription are known as “Marras,” a Durham miners’ term for a workmate or friend who can be relied upon in times of need.

If it wasn’t for our Marras, the Gala would simply no longer happen. I urge everyone who values the Gala to sign up, become our Marra, and help us ensure that our wonderful Gala returns bigger and better than ever in 2021 for its 150th anniversary.

Until then I send the best wishes and solidarity of the Durham Miners’ Association to all Morning Star readers. Stay safe and take care.

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