Community charity says students' Miners' Strike event was the 'act of a mindless few'
A charity which helps struggling people who live in the former pit towns and villages has spoken out about a university rugby team's Miners vs Thatcher event.
But East Durham Trust, which is based in Peterlee, has said the plans by Durham University's Trevelyan Rugby Club - whose students have since scrapped the night - were the "act of a mindless few."
In the wake of the outrage sparked by the event, the trust has highlighted the fact it has been helped by the staff and students of the university for many years.
It added it believes the event did "not representing the university as a whole."
Students had planned the gathering for this Wednesday and had dubbed it Thatcher's Government vs The M_I_N_E_rs.
The annual 'Backs vs Forwards' social evening had urged some players to come as miners and others 'Thatcher's Government and working-class-beating bobbies'.
Malcolm Fallow is chief executive officer of East Durham Trust, which runs a number of projects to help those in need.
He said: “This was an extremely ill-conceived idea that showed just how out of touch some people are.
"However, it would be wrong to tar the whole university or indeed the single college with the same brush.
"We have enjoyed support from the University in many guises over the years including significant donations of food for emergency parcels and our current appeal to establish a 'People’s Takeaway' saw staff and students respond positively.”
A Facebook post for the event had said: "Expect a confrontation bigger than the Battle of Orgreave."
In a statement, Durham Miners' Association's secretary Alan Cummings and its chairman Joe Whitworth said: "We were appalled to learn of a social event advertised by Trevelyan College
rugby club which referred to miners in incredibly derogatory terms and sought to trivialise the police violence at Orgreave.
"We are pleased that Durham University and Trevelyan College took very prompt and appropriate action by cancelling this event.
"Unfortunately, this episode has caused a great deal of hurt and anger for many in the local community who are rightly very proud of their mining heritage.
"We understand that it has been deeply offensive to many current Durham University students who are from mining and other working-class backgrounds.
"It is imperative that working-class students are treated with respect. Therefore, we expect Trevelyan College rugby club to issue a full and public apology.
"We currently have a good working relationship with the university, as well as with many students and regularly assist students with their research into the region’s mining history and culture.
"Although it falls outside of term time, we would like to take this opportunity to invite all students to attend next summer’s Durham Miners’ Gala on Saturday July 14 2018 or to attend one of
the open days at the Durham Miners’ Hall, Redhills where they can learn more about County Durham’s mining heritage.
"Finally, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to contact the university to voice their concerns."
Durham University's Labour Club statement said it was "shocked and appalled" at the event arranged by the rugby club.
In a statement, Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said: “Durham University and Trevelyan College utterly deplore this event, which is wholly unacceptable.
“The event has been cancelled by the students concerned. We are speaking to those students and we are considering what further action to take in due course.
“Durham University is extremely proud of the positive contribution it makes to Durham City and North East England and our place in the rich heritage of this region.
“We know that most students are active and positive residents of their communities. For example, students undertook more than 14,000 hours of volunteering last year.
“We work closely with partners including Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary and local residents’ groups with the aim of ensuring there is a positive environment for all who live and work in Durham City.
“Regrettably, there are occasions where student behaviour falls short of the standards we expect.
"We have a very active education programme that explains our Code of Conduct for those living in the local community and aims to enhance students’ sense of belonging.
“This Code of Conduct highlights that the University reserves the right to take appropriate action against those who fall short of these standards.”
No one from the rugby club was available for comment, and the event did not appear on its website, but the official @TrevelyanJCR Twitter account retweeted the university's statement.
More details about the work of East Durham Trust can be found here.