A tribute to the campaigning women in Wearside and County Durham’s history

Laura Daly and Lynn Gibson who are leading the campaign to highlight the role of women in so many aspects of Wearside and County Durham life.
Laura Daly and Lynn Gibson who are leading the campaign to highlight the role of women in so many aspects of Wearside and County Durham life.

Banners, strikes and community spirit – they all make up a big part of the history of Wearside and County Durham.

And one of the best illustrations of it all arrives on the streets of Durham each Summer when the Miners Gala is held.

A banner from 1930.

A banner from 1930.

But now comes a new initiative to search for historical local banners related to women’s activism and community action. They will be displayed at an event at the Durham Miners’ Association at Redhills in Durham on July 11 this year.

Leading the campaign to find more banners is the recently formed Women’s Banner Group which has been officially accepted by the Durham Miners’ Association.

It celebrates women of the past, present and encourages those for the future.

It takes its inspiration from the women who kept communities alive by opening free cafes during the miner’s strikes of the ’80s.

The emotion shown at the Gala by everyone is immense. It’s clear the important issues faced by miners and their families during the strikes still play a huge part in the lives of the community. But the Big Meeting is about so much more, the celebration of communities, politics and union

Laura Daly

Lynn Gibson, secretary for the group, said: “The response we have received so far is amazing, everyone we have spoken to with historic banners are really enthusiastic about their banners being seen in public again.”

But the search continues. Group officials want to find more banners which relate to women in politics, women in trade unions, women against pit closures, the women’s suffragette movement and women in local community group.

And the group is getting active in other ways as well. Members are currently producing a community patchwork banner involving 12 local women’s groups.

It is holding workshops involving the local community with the Durham Banner Makers to produce a silk banner which will be marched in this years’ Durham Big Meeting and blessed in the cathedral.

Durham Miners Gala in 2017.

Durham Miners Gala in 2017.

This summer’s celebration event is a fringe event for the Durham Big Meeting 2018 and will include bands, singers, poets and artists.

But the group wants to hear from even more people with banners which could be displayed at Redhills on the day.

Organisers have already issued an appeal through social media and it had a tremendous response. Around a dozen women’s banners were uncovered, some of which haven’t been seen in public for decades.

The region’s Mining Museum is also supporting the search and have alerted the group to several local banners as well as loaning the group a recently donated one from Durham Women Against Pit Closures.

It comes from 1984 and will be display at Redhills.

The Women’s Banner Group was set-up in November last year by Laura Daly to recognise the important role of women in the mining and community history of County Durham.

Having attended the Big Meeting for a number of years, Laura was very passionate about the whole event. She said: “The amount of emotion shown at the Gala by everyone is immense.

“It is clear that the important issues faced by miners and their families during the strikes still play a huge part in the lives of the community. But the Big Meeting is about so much more, the celebration of communities, politics and unions.”

Laura set up an initial meeting with like-minded females including Heather Wood, who ran the free café in Easington during the miners’ strike, Mary Turner local quilter, the Durham Banner makers and other interested female members of political parties, trade unions and the community.

The idea that came out of this meeting was that the first project would be the production of a community patchwork banner, working with women in local community groups, whose interests include art, politics, Trade Unions and mining history among other things.

The plan was to draw upon their heritage and each design a section for the community patchwork banner representing their group.

The first craft session saw more than 40 women turn up and they began production on 12 separate sections for the patchwork, representing their group, as well as individual women working together to create the central piece of the banner.

Those interested in joining should email womensbannergroup@gmail.com, go to www.facebook.com/womensbannergroup, or tweet @BannerWomen.

The fundraising page for the group can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/wbg