THE annual Big Meeting needs financial help to keep running.
In the run-up to this year’s event, Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) is appealing for donations after a legal battle left it with a bill which could top £1.4million.
DMA lost the case it took up on behalf of pitmen, who suffered from osteoarthritis of the knee, in the Court of Appeal last year.
A public plea to cover annual running costs of £60,000 has saved this year’s event.
But bosses say they need to attract more cash to support its long-term future, with £26,400 alone spent on supporting the brass bands which perform at the gala.
Saturday will see tens of thousands of people flood into Durham, as pit banners are marched through the city to the racecourse.
This year’s speakers will include Unite leader Len McCluskey – involved in a row with the Labour Party over the selection of a candidate in Falkirk – TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire, Chavs author and journalist Owen Jones, and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union’s Bob Crow.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA, said: “Our gala, which was first held 142 years ago, is the biggest celebration of trade union and community values in Britain today.
“Since our coalfield was finally destroyed 20 years ago by a vengeful Tory government, we have had no regular subscription to our funds from working miners.
“The cost of the gala is increasing year on year. It is self-evident that without a viable source of income, the Durham Miners’ Association cannot fund the gala indefinitely.
“However, we are confident that we have sufficient friends who want the gala to continue and who are prepared to contribute on a regular basis.”