Sunderland AFC and the Durham Miners Association (DMA) are joining forces to celebrate their rich heritage and shared histories.
The football club has signed up to become an official "Marra" of the Durham Miners’ Gala as part efforts to keep the Big Meeting and its spirit alive for future generations.
The 135th Durham Miners’ Gala will be held on Saturday July 13 this year, and the football club said it is to play an active part in the gala for the first time.
Speaking about the partnership, Sunderland AFC executive director Charlie Methven, said: “There is a wonderful shared heritage and synergy between our two great organisations, which is something we are tremendously proud of.
“Sunderland’s support comes from across the region, but County Durham has, historically, always been a red and white hotbed. We want this to continue to be the case and our partnership with The Durham Miners Association will ensure that the history on which we were built remains firmly part of our future”.
The club said it will also give its backing to the Redhills Appeal, the Durham Miners’ Association campaign to raise £5 million through donations and grant aid, to ensure the future of the Miners’ Hall in Durham as a vital centre of education, heritage, and culture.
The project aims to make Redhills a living, vibrant legacy for the countless Durham miners, their families, and their communities, who built it and have ensured it has survived for more than a century.
Sunderland AFC’s final home game of the season, against Portsmouth FC on Saturday April 27, has been dedicated to The Durham Miners Association and will see a number of activities taking place to kick off the partnership.
Miners’ banners from across the region will be proudly paraded around the Stadium of Light pitch before the game – including the historic Monkwearmouth Lodge banner, which is proudly displayed within the west stand of the stadium.
The football club already has deep connections to the area's mining heritage. The Stadium of Light sits on the site of the Monkwearmouth Colliery, which before its closure in 1993, was the largest mine in Sunderland and one of the most important in County Durham.
Supporters will also be able to enjoy music from the Durham Miners’ Association Colliery Band, who will be playing in the Fan Zone before the game.
In recognition of the history and heritage of the site, visitors are greeted on arrival by a large Davy lamp, lighting the way.
A pit wheel sits proudly outside the west stand and stunning ‘the men of steel’ sculptures feature four eight-foot-tall steel men roll giant lumps of coal up the riverbank in a poignant tribute to the industrial past of the site and the city.
The Monkwearmouth Colliery banner also adorns the stadium’s south staircase in the main west stand.
Newly-appointed DMA secretary Alan Mardghum said: “As a life-long Sunderland supporter this is a proud moment for the DMA. Sunderland AFC has always been a Durham miner’s club and has remained true to its heritage”.
Dave Anderson, chairman of Marras - Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala, said: “This is great news for the Marras. We need all the support we can get to keep the banners flying and bands playing at the Gala.
“The event is funded solely by the people and we rely on everyone’s goodwill to keep it going.”
The club said the partnership is also part of its ongoing commitment to County Durham, following on from the recent announcement that it is joining forces with the Durham County FA, with the two organisations coming together to support the growth and development of football, from grassroots right up to the professional level, across the region.
Information on how Sunderland supporters can become a ‘marra’ is available at www.friendsofdurhamminersgala.org. Supporters will also be able to make donations via bucket collections in the Fan Zone at the Portsmouth game.
Further information on the Redhills Appeal can be found at www.redhillsdurham.org