For a number of years there has been a close relationship between the Cork Mother Jones Festival and the Durham Miners Association. We were delighted to be visited by a delegation from the DMA, led by their late General Secretary, Davy Hopper, on a number of occasions. Sadly Davy passed away suddenly in July 2016, just weeks before he was due to return to Cork for last year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. Dave played a key role in revitalising the Durham Miners’ Gala which has been taking place annually in the North of England town since 1871. The Annual Durham Miners’ Gala 2017 will take place on Saturday 8th July. In addition to the colourful parade of miners’ banners through Durham and the Big Meeting and other ceremonies, the Gala will also feature a weekend music festival with bands and artists.
The Marras Festival is a big music festival coinciding with the Durham Miners’ Gala and will take place on the 7th and 8th July at the Houghall Campus in Durham University. All are welcome. For further information visit www.marrasfestival.co.uk
The 132nd Durham Miners’ Gala takes place on Saturday 9th July 2016. It embraces a huge flowing march of village pit groups with miner and community banners and colliery bands, which winds its way through the ancient streets of Durham, past the County Hotel to the Racecourse for the Big Meeting. This colourful and friendly event is surely a reflection of the pride in the triumphs and tragedies of the past, a sounding board for the present spirit of the working class communities and provides inspiration for the idealism of a just and fair society in the future.
The 2016 Gala begins about 8am and continues for 4/5 hours, followed by the Big Meeting where the assembled crowds will listen to various speakers including this year, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.
The blessing of banners takes place also at Durham Cathedral in mid-afternoon, while there are numerous meetings, lectures, music and discussions in the days preceding the Gala itself. A visit to the Miners’ Hall and Parliament at Red Hill in the city gives one a deep appreciation of the struggles and solidarity of mining communities over many decades.
The first Gala took place in 1871, among the Irish speakers have been Michael Davitt in 1893, Jim Larkin in 1914 and John Hume in 1995, when he joined Arthur Scargill, John Prescott and Dennis Skinner on the platform. Davitt spoke of his support for the eight-hour working day, while a fiery Larkin just before the Great War berated the union leaders of the time and in a prescient phrase of a darker echo of history described “how one section after another can be beaten, not by the employers, but by the enemy within your own camp” to describe disunity within trade union organisations.
General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, Dave Hopper attended the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school in 2015 where he presented the 2015 Mother Jones lecture and later gave an eye witness vivid account of the battle for Orgreave. President of Durham Miners’ Association, Alan Cummins also attended the Cork Mother Jones events in 2015.
The annual Durham Gala, organised by the Durham Miners’ Association was held at the Racecourse on Saturday 11th July 2015. The Big Meeting took place following the huge colourful parade of banners and bands through the city from early morning.
The new Daughters of Mother Jones Banner was carried proudly for the first time in the parade led by Betty Cook and Anne Scargill. Media estimates put the overall crowd at somewhere around a hundred and fifty thousand people. It was a triumph for the organisational abilities of Durham Miners’ Association under its General Secretary Dave Hopper, who reviewed the parade from the balcony of the County Hotel on Old Elvet.
Dave Hopper in welcoming all to the Gala in a rousing speech commented “We have endured five years of austerity during which the richest people in Britain have doubled their wealth while the poorest have been driven to the brink of destitution.” Other speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP and Owen Jones, author and journalist and trade union leaders who also addressed a packed Racecourse. All the current Labour Party leadership contenders attended the Gala.
Four new banners from Sacriston, Tanfield Lea, Usworth and the Durham Miners’ Area were blessed at Durham Cathedral later in the afternoon. They were accompanied by bands of the Durham Miners’ Association, Hade Edge, Boarshurst and Ellinton Colliery. The Bishop of Durham,the Right Reverend Paul Butler in his sermon, referred to how the Durham Gala “demonstrates an underlying passion for justice”.
The Gala was accompanied by many fringe meetings, dozens of stalls, and even a Gala Funfair for the thousands of children present. On a sunny Saturday afternoon,after it was all over, the bands and their communities with their banners marched from the field, the 131st Durham Gala was a wonderful tribute to the resilience of the local mining communities and the Durham Miners’ Association and an inspiration to all who attended from around the world. See the Durham Miners facebook page for up to date details and discover how one can support the festival to ensure its survival. www.durhamminers.org
Dave Hopper General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association will deliver the 2015 Cork Mother Jones Lecture at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday 29th July at 7.15. He will be accompanied also by actress Kaiulani Lee.
Dave will introduce the classic Yvette Vanson film The Battle for Orgreave at the Maldron Hotel at 11am on Thursday 30th July. Dave was present on the 18th June 1984 and will discuss the ongoing fight for justice for the miners and the demands for a full investigation into the events of that day.
Chairman of the Durham Miners Association Alan Cummings will also attend the festival.
The 131st Durham Miners Gala will take place on Saturday July 11th 2015. Organised by the Durham Miners’ Association, the parade through the beautiful city of Durham, the subsequent Big Meeting and the blessing of miners’ banners in Durham Cathedral remain one off the greatest manifestations of trade union, labour and community solidarity in Western Europe.
The 2014 Gala, attended by over 100,000 people was a striking panoramaof banners, colour, music and good humour and drew a vast concourse of people of all ages to the city. The parade took some five hours to pass the County Hotel and down the old Elvet.
Not to be missed at the Gala are the speeches at the Old Racecourse which commence in the early afternoon, a location which houses hundreds of stalls, campaigning groups, unions, food, and plenty room for a picnic on the banks of the lovely River Wear as one watches the colliery brass bands and the banners arrive until the entire surroundings of the Racecourse are encased in the spectacular and vivid colours of the banners. This living tapestry confirms its obvious sense of community, heritage and solidarity which has outlasted those who once claimed “there is no such thing as society”.
Politicians such as Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, Neil Kinnock, and Ed Miliband have stood here, trade union leaders Bob Crowe and Jim Larkin, singer Billy Bragg stood here and like countless others since 1871 have spoken to the assembled throng.In 1914, Larkin like a harbinger of doom warned miners’ against any foolishness in trusting leaders and politicians. A week later Britain was at war with Germany and the miners’ banners were not unfurled until 1919.
By way of backdrop, high on the overlooking Durham nestles one of the greatest Churches ever built, begun by Bishop Carileph in the 11th century, Durham Cathedral has witnessed human history unfold for almost a millennium, yet the annual blessing of the miners banners ranks as a truly awe inspiring ceremony and should not be missed by anyone attending the Gala.
In 2014 new banners from the Tow Law, South Shields St Hilda, Fenhall Drift, New Brancepeth, Lanchester and the Leamside and West Rainton communities were presented and dedicated following their journey to the altar behind the miners’ bands in a dignified, moving and solemn ceremony. Labour/Community and Church working together in a seamlessand common purpose recognising the men and women in working class communities who built Britain.
Near the south door to the Cathedral Cloister is the Miners’ Memorial. Erected in 1947 it is inscribed ”Remember before God the Durham Miners who have given their lives in the Pits of this country and those who work in Darkness and Danger in those pits today” The last pit in Durham closed in 1994, but the Gala and remembering goes on.
Durham city is in celebration for the day and if one wants to see the true heartbeat of labour, the legacy of the mining communities and the hope that one day the workers will bring about a just and fairer world, the “grander civilisation” of Mother Jones, then a visit to the Durham Gala is essential.
General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association, Dave Hopper attended the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork and explained the history and the purpose of the Gala. Dave issued an open invite to all those interested in the legacy of Mother Jones to come along to Durham on Saturday 11th July 2015.
For details, visit www.durhamminers.org. Why not visit the site and become a Friend of the Durham Miners Gala? There are direct flights to Newcastle from Cork and Dublin, Durham is but a short train journey away!
The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival is proud to welcome Dave Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, and Secretary of the National Union of Miners (North East Area), which he represents on the National Executive Committee of the NUM.
Dave has been involved all his life in mining, he began as a coal miner before becoming active in the union. He played an active role in the Miners’ Strike in 1984/85 and witnessed the events at Orgreave on 18th June 1984.
He will speak about the impact of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike and explain the significance of the Durham Miners Gala.
The Durham Gala.
The first Gala was held on 12th August 1871 and was organised by the Durham Miners. It is the largest annual organised gathering of workers in Europe. Miners from various National Mineworkers Union branches march behind their lodge or village banners and their colliery brass bands. Over 100, 000 can take part in the event, it has survived the virtual demise of the coal industry and goes from strength to strength.
The focal point is at the County Hotel at Old Elvet in Durham, where various processions of workers converge before heading to the Racecourse for speeches and a festival for all the family.
Women Against Pit Closures banner – one of many colourful banners at Durham Miner’s Gala
The Gala is a festive, colourful expression of union, socialist and working class traditions and takes place each year on the second Saturday of July in Durham. The Durham Gala at its core is about the expression of identity of mining communities, its resplendent and unique banners represent and display the heart and soul of the nobility of union membership and social and community solidarity.
Although the mines may be almost silent now and the traditions deemed old fashioned, the proud spirit and history of the mining communities remain and in the Durham Gala are displayed in all their resilient and powerful glory as a beacon of hope and belief in a fairer and equal and just society for all.
Dave Hopper will speak during “Miners Day” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Thursday 31st July at the Firkin Crane in Shandon.