Colliery communities gathered to celebrate their heritage with pride as one of the biggest Durham Miners’ Galas in recent years paraded through the streets.
The city hosted the 132nd Big Meeting today, with North East mining banners joining those representing pits from across the country, as well as unions, campaign groups and schools.
Many in the crowd which lined the Market Place, Elvet Bridge and Old Elvet to the Racecourse Field said they believed this year’s event was the largest in recent memory.
The march, speeches and service at Durham Cathedral is estimated to draw in an average following of around 100,000.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, which organises the day, predicted headline speaker Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would be given a “hero’s reception” when he spoke to the audience, with huge cheers going up as he stepped onto the stage and as his address began and ended at the close of the speeches.
Alan Cummings, the association’s chairman, told the crowd at the end of the speakers: “We’ll be back next year, if we’re all alive.
I would like to say it will never stop and it’s unbelievable to see so many people here.Robert Holt
“Stay strong, stay loyal, and have a great day.”
Among those who march into the city centre was Malcolm Smith, 67, from Ryhope, who gathered with his former pit colleagues with their Vane Tempest Lodge banner, which was accompanied through their parade through Seaham and then in Durham by Pittington Brass Band.
The former power loader said: “What it means to me is tradition, that’s what it is, and pride to have been a pitman and proud to be a Durham miner.
“I’m a pit-yacker and we’re like celebrities now because the young ones ask if you went down the pit and what it was like, there’s not as many of us as there was.
“It’s on the up, it’s really brilliant, and there’s more here than there has been in a while.”
George Clark, 66, of Seaham, was a banksmith at Vane Tempest and added: “It’s nice to see everyone come out for it.
“It’s part of our tradition, Durham Miners’ Gala, and it’s good to see your friends.”
Former maintenance fitter Robert Holt, 62, worked at the colliery for 23 years.
“I love it, every year we convene, and there’s so much support for it.
“I would like to say it will never stop and it’s unbelievable to see so many people here.”
Housewife Lynda Wright, of Thornley, marched with the village primary school’s banner, which her grandson Ryan Hogg, now 15, helped to make.
The 57-year-old, who was also with daughter Laura Wright, 24, and granddaughter Danielle Hogg, six, said: “It’s brilliant, we come every year and I would never miss it, the kids love it too.
“It’s just the atmosphere, it’s great.”