Communities across County Durham will come together this summer to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Durham Miners’ Gala.
First held in 1871, the Gala has been cancelled for the second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2021 Gala was due to take place on Saturday 10 July.
For a century and a half people from across the region have travelled to Durham for The Big Meeting, the annual celebration of community, solidarity and working-class life.
This year, a series of ‘little big meetings’ will be held in more than a dozen communities – from Greenside in the north to Shildon in the south – bringing people together in the spirit of the Gala to mark the event’s 150th anniversary.
Alan Mardghum, Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), said:
“The Gala has always been a celebration of the best of us – of community and solidarity and of what we can achieve when we work together. This has been a very difficult year for everyone, and a very lonely year for many of us, and we are saddened that the Gala itself cannot take place in its 150th year.But we are delighted that our former mining communities are gathering people together this summer in the spirit of our wonderful Gala.”
It had been hoped events could be held on what would have been Gala day (July 10), but have been rearranged following changes to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The gatherings will feature a range of activities including live music and children’s games, as well as brass band performances and the display of each community’s miners’ banner.
The DMA has been supporting the county’s banner groups to organise the events, which are backed with funding from the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala.
Patricia Simmons, chair of the Durham Mining Communities Banner Groups Association, said:
“After the closure of the collieries, people across the region stepped up to care for and renew our banners and preserve the proud heritage of our communities. The banner groups remain central to the Durham Miners’ Gala every year, and I am delighted they have stepped up again to ensure the Gala is celebrated in its 150th year.”
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, only world wars and two national strikes had prevented the Gala from taking place.
For more than a century, the Gala was funded by the working miners of the Durham coalfield. Today, it is funded by subscription and donation through the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala (FODMG). Those who contribute are known as ‘Marras’, a Durham miners’ term for a trusted friend who can be relied on in times of need.
The Gala itself is due to return to the streets of Durham on Saturday 9 July 2022. The public is urged to give support for the return of the Gala by signing up as ‘Marras’.
Dave Anderson, chair of the Marras, said: “Without the support of our Marras, the Gala simply could not happen in any year. We are working to ensure that the Gala returns bigger and better than ever before in 2022. I urge everyone who values the Gala to give it their support in its 150th year. Please chip and join our band of Marras today.”
150th ANNIVERSARY ENAMEL BADGE
The 150th anniversary of the Gala is also being marked with a new souvenir enamel badge.
The deep red hard enamel badge in the style of a miners’ banner features detailing in raised gold metal.
The badge measures 25mm high by 20.8mm wide.
The badge is priced at £5 including postage and packing.
All proceeds will go to the Marras – Friends of Durham Miners Gala to help fund the return of the Gala in 2022.