Durham Miners’ Gala could be the biggest in years

Packed crowds at last year's Durham Miners' Gala.
Packed crowds at last year's Durham Miners' Gala.
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The Durham Miners’ Gala could be the biggest for years.

That’s the prediction from organisers of the 131st gala which will be held on Saturday, July 11.

We are doing okay. The appeal has been successful. We have a meeting in the next couple of weeks but it seems to be as good as it was last year. There seems to be people who are in support of it.

Dave Hopper, Durham Miners’ Association secretary

Durham Miners’ Association secretary Dave Hopper spoke of his high hopes for the event which will see thousands of people flock to Durham from all over the region including East Durham.

He is hoping for a crowd of more than 150,000 which would beat last year’s gala.

“This is the biggest rally in the country. It is the only big rally in the country and that is why it attracts all the attention.”

And a confident Mr Hopper also said the immediate future of the historic event looked secure.

Mr Hopper said the Gala, also known as the Big Meeting, was secure thanks to a fundraising appeal.

He added: “We are doing okay. The appeal has been successful. We have a meeting in the next couple of weeks but it seems to be as good as it was last year. There seems to be people who are in support of it.

“We will be here this year and next year. We are safe enough.”

The Gala is the biggest trade union event in Europe and the speakers will take to the stage at Durham Racecourse at around 1pm.

Mr Hopper will open the proceedings and then introduce speakers who will include Guardian columnist Owen Jones, teachers’ union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates, Fire Brigades’ Union general secretary Matt Wrack, and train drivers’ union ASLEF president Tosh McDonald.

Also there will be representatives of trade unions in Cuba and Venezuela.

As well as the speeches, the event will also see brass and bagpipe bands march through the streets of Durham City and on to the Racecourse.

There will be family entertainment and a variety of campaign stalls.

Meanwhile, the traditional blessing of the banners service will take place in Durham Cathedral.

The centre of Durham will be closed from 7am on the day, and visitors are encouraged to use park and ride buses.

Last year’s Gala was said to be the biggest since the 1960s as an estimated 100,000 flocked to the Racecourse behind 158 banners and 65 bands.

This year’s event includes five new banners.