134th Annual Durham Miner’s Gala, 14th July

A word from our friends in Durham, England:—

Durham Gala
Durham Gala parade of banners pass the reviewing platform at the old County Hotel, Durham

The 134th Annual Durham Miners Gala takes place on Saturday 14th July 2018. Starting at 8 am, the colourful parade of banners and bands passes through the ancient town towards the picturesque Racecourse on the banks of the Wear where the annual Big Meeting is held. Meanwhile the blessing of the new banners takes place at the imposing Durham Cathedral overlooking the town.

Among the speakers this year will include Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, making his fourth appearance. He will be joined by Emily Thornberry MP, the shadow foreign secretary. Francis O’Grady, the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress will also appear.

Dave Hopper with Lord Mayor
The late Dave Hopper of the Durham Miner’s Association visiting Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary during Mother Jones festival in 2014

Estimates of the massive crowds which attend this unique event vary from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand.

With its mixture of music, politics, and community spirit and pride, the event has been growing in strength and has been increasingly attracting world wide interest and now represents a very important public display of trade union and community solidarity.


2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Award awarded to the late Dave Hopper

Pat Egan, Dave Hopper, Durham, miners, Mother Jones, Cork
Pat Egan from Unite, the Union, Scotland accepts the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2016 on behalf of the late Dave Hopper and the Durham Miner’s Association. Pat will be forwarding the “Children of Lír” inspired award to the association.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee has announced that the late Dave Hopper and the Durham Miners’ Association are the recipients of the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

Mr Hopper was General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association. Tragically, Dave, who was due to arrive in Cork to introduce a film on Orgreave at the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival passed away on Saturday 16th July last and his funeral was held yesterday (Friday).

The Cork Mother Jones Committee have extended our sympathy and solidarity to his family and friends everywhere.

“Dave Hopper attended the past two Mother Jones festivals in Cork and was looking forward to coming again this year. He was a legend in the trade union movement and was instrumental in organising the largest union gathering in Europe at what is known as the Durham Miners’ Gala this year.  It was held on Saturday July 9th and was attended by over 150,000 people,  making it one of the largest crowds to attend there in living memory.”

“Mr Hopper loved coming to Shandon, he loved the people of Shandon and made a great contribution to the festivals. In 2015 he delivered (along with Kaiulani Lee) the annual Cork Mother Jones Lecture. He will be sadly missed by the many friends he made in Shandon and is a huge loss to the labour movement. We intend to honour his memory at this year’s festival by an appropriate tribute and we know the Durham Miners Association will carry on his work”

Jim Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee:

In his recent message at the 2016 Durham Gala, Dave Hopper in his honest and forthright manner stated:

“Britain has voted to leave the European Union and we face uncertain times. After much soul-searching I had decided to vote to remain as I thought that the rights of working people would be better safeguarded within the EU. However, of one thing we can be sure whether in or out the powers that be will try to make the working class pay for the continuing economic crisis.”

Dave Hopper

Dave Hopper, a fourth generation miner,  had been the General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association since 1985. In spite of the closure of the pits and collieries, not alone had he continued to fight for justice for miners and continued to seek compensation benefits for work related sickness and injuries endured by his colleagues but had led the transformation of the Durham Miners’ Association into a community based organisation. This Association had the organisational resources to showcase working people’s solidarity through the growth of the inspirational Durham Miners’ Gala each July.

the late Dave Hopper
Dave Hopper at Durham Miners’ Gala on 9th July 2016 – with Jeremy Corbyn MP (Photo via Richard Burgon MP’s Facebook page)

Dave Hopper and the Durham Miners’ Association are worthy recipients of the 2016 Award.  The award has been made each year to those who we feel act in the Spirit of Mother Jones and we are satisfied that our selection for 2016 is very true to this spirit.

The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award recipients to date have been,

2013, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group,)

2014 Gareth Peirce, solicitor.

2015 Fr. Peter McVerry.

Sudden death of Dave Hopper, Chair of Durham Miners’ Gala

Davy Hopper

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is shocked to learn this evening of the sudden death earlier today of Dave Hopper, Chair of the Durham Miners’ Gala and a great friend and supporter of our festival.   Dave was due to visit Cork later this month for the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and we were very much looking forward to his as always forthright and intelligent contribution. Just a week ago a member of Cork Mother Jones festival visited Durham for the annual Miners’ Gala and met with Davy who was also looking forward to his trip to Cork.

We are deeply saddened to hear of Davy’s passing.  We are certain that he will be a huge loss to the trade union movement and to the struggle for social justice and decency in his own country and internationally. Davy as truly a man with the determination and spirit of Mother Jones.  Our sympathy to his family and friends.

Davy Hopper
Davy Hopper beside the Daughters of Mother Jones banner at last year’s festival in Cork

Mother Jones flies high at Durham Miners Gala

Daughters of Mother Jones banner at Durham Gala 2015
Daughters of Mother Jones banner at Durham Gala 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.

County Hotel
Group on balcony of County Hotel including Dave Hopper review parade

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.

One of the many bands that participated
One of the many bands that participated

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.