The Big Meeting

Find out why so many people love the Durham Miners' Gala:

''I was invited to speak at the Gala in 1961 and I've been coming here ever since. There's not a Gala I've missed in the last 40 years. Durham is a remarkable place and the spirit of the Durham miners is quite exceptional.'' Tony Benn, speaking in June 2011.

''The Durham Miners' Gala captures the spirit of miners throughout the land.'' Dennis Skinner MP

"The Gala is a fun shot of adrenalin, a fantastic celebration of life. Bands, banners and bonhomie show that together we are strong and the values of community and spirit of solidarity are thriving in North East England." Kevin Maguire, journalist

''To me the Gala is the most joyous and emotional day it's possible to have.'' DBC Pierre, author

'It’s been an enormous honour to speak at the Durham Miners' Gala. It is simply the greatest demonstration of working class culture in Britain. It brings together a fantastic array of miners lodges and their banners, into the city of Durham and attracts trade unions, political and community organisations from all over the country. It’s a place of confident assertion of our values, and our hopes for a world of peace, equality and justice.' Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party

"The Gala is a beacon of working class culture and solidarity that lifts all our spirits and inspires us all to fight on for the socialist society we aim to create." John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

'The Miners' Gala – always the second Saturday in July – is not simply some nostalgic harking back to a time when the landscape and local way of life was dominated by the pits. Memory and nostalgia are different, as indeed are feeling and sentimentality. Nostalgia fixes the past as some glorious golden era. Sentimentality believes that a tear is the only guide to truth. But no one in County Durham is foolish enough to think that coal mining represented some lost earthly paradise. It was hard and dirty work. But at least it was work. And it gave the north-east a pride and an identity. The Gala is fundamentally about identity.'' Giles Fraser, journalist

''It is important that we don’t forget our heritage, and in the North East, mining is a major part of ours, having been a huge industry. It not only created jobs, it also created communities which now shape our region. The Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala play a vital role in ensuring our next generation understand what our region was built on, and I am proud to give them my support.'' Jude Kirton-Darling MEP North East

''The Gala means so much to me because it represents the strength and beauty of the working class Labour Movement, its international solidarity, its cultural roots, its history of for fighting so many of the rights we take for granted now. It shows that the North East powered the first industrial revolution and can do so again given the right investment, participation and inspiration.'' Chi Onwurah MP, Newcastle Central

“The Big Meeting as the Durham Miners' Gala is affectionately known, is undoubtedly the best industrial and political event in the calendar. It brings together communities from across Europe and beyond to celebrate the great traditions of the trade union movement which in our region was built on coal. The bands, the banners, the people, the history the culture and traditions fill the streets of Durham for Gala Day, everyone proud and together with each other, remembering the past and looking to build a better future. Simply the best.'' Ian Lavery MP, Wansbeck

''The Durham Miners’ Gala is the biggest event in the socialist calendar in the UK. It is a fantastic, colourful, annual event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from County Durham and across the United Kingdom to remember the hard work, sacrifice and struggle of the miners and mining communities across County Durham.'' Pat Glass MP, North West Durham

''Durham Miners' Gala is the largest labour and trade union event in Europe and is an important part of our North East mining and industrial heritage. I look forward to it every year. For those who believe communities should work and stand together, the Gala is a living expression of solidarity for the last 144 years.'' Grahame Morris MP, Easington

“The Gala is from my perspective an unmissable event, a genuine annual celebration of North East working class culture and Trades union solidarity. I am delighted that the Gala seems to be going from strength to strength in terms of the levels of attendance and participation. It truly is an event not to be missed and deserves all of our support to sustain it long into the future.” Ian Mearns MP, Gateshead

“The Durham Miners’ Gala is an inspiration for trade unionists and activists. It is important that as a labour movement we remember our past and our traditions. The Durham Miners’ Gala helps us do this and strengthens our resolve for future fights.” Katy Clark MP

''I was thrilled when the village I grew up in was able to take part in the Gala this year. I live in America and followed the process of our little village rekindling something very special and unique to the North East of England. I showed the photos and video clips off proudly to everyone over here and they were all in awe of the tradition and history of it all.'' Maureen (USA)

''The Gala is my yearly celebration of who I am. There is nowhere that I feel more at home with my kind of people.'' Pat

''I am the very proud grand-daughter, great grand-daughter and niece of Durham and Cornish miners, all of whom have now passed on. I grew up in County Durham but have lived in South Africa since 1982. I was overjoyed to see that the Gala is bigger than ever. Whenever people remark on how strong I am, I always say, "I have the blood of Durham miners in my veins but, more importantly, I have the blood of their wives!" Gillian (South Africa)

''The Durham Miners' Gala was an important event in my childhood, coming from a mining family and community. I have not been to the "Big Meeting" since 1972 but I'm planning to visit this year.'' Eileen (Norway)

''Not sure of the year, but I'm guessing it was around 1960. I went with my parents, brothers, aunts, cousins and grandparents, fabulous day! The main speaker was Hugh Gaitskell and I remember waiting in a big crowd for him to speak. I also got the shock of my young life when he spoke as my dad, who was normally a fairly quiet and dignified man, started shouting at the top of his voice "good old Hughie, good old Hughie" and was waving his arm in the air!'' Lynne

''My first Gala was in 1950, I was fourteen at the time. I was playing solo horn with the Deaf Hill Colliery Band. We marched from the railway station to the racecourse. The streets were so crowded then, I think it must have taken us almost four hours to reach the racecourse!'' James

''The pits may have gone but the spirit of our mining communities lives on and the Gala gives expression to our comradeship, solidarity and sense of purpose. I am proud to march into Durham under an NUM Banner as my forefathers did before me and be part of one of the greatest trade union and working class gatherings in the world!'' Florence

''The Gala is "our day". It's a day when we celebrate our heritage but it is also a message to the powers that be that trade unionism is alive and kicking, that we fight on for justice, fairness, equality and peace.'' Heather

''My Grandad (who died in the early '70s when I was three) was at Brandon, Brancepeth and Willington pits, but my Dad moved away in the 1960s. By chance I moved to Durham (having lived abroad for many years) in September 2013, unfortunately the day before Dad was diagnosed with cancer. He lost his battle in January this year, but I can't tell you what it meant to have his last two or three months back in his home town, revisiting his old haunts and reliving memories, and what it means to have been surrounded by the history of my Dad's family since. And I am loving the Durham Miners' Gala site!'' Liz

''Nowhere is more welcoming than the Gala. I don't think there is such a thing as a spectator as everybody that is there is made to feel part of it.'' Marky

''My first one last year. I was bowled over by the day, the atmosphere and the air of positivity and unity. I have no direct ties with the mining industry but my politics and working class background led me to be one of the many thousands of Trade Unionists who actively supported the miners in the great strike of 84-85. I will be returning this year along with my wife and son and am very much looking forward to it.'' Kevin

''Durham Miners' Gala is one of the best meetings of the working classes. If you have never been, make the effort you won't be disappointed. Go early see the bands come in its the most awesome sight you will see in this country; hundreds of band banners and a family friendly day.'' Bert

''Durham Big Meeting (the Miners' Gala to everyone outside of Durham!) has always been my favourite day of the year by far. It's a tremendous show of working class solidarity and has remained as political as ever. Put the date in your diary for 2015 and help make it the best one yet!'' Jo

''We go every year and have a great time. A celebration that now is supported by lots of unions and the atmosphere sends the blood coursing through your veins.'' Inky