Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The 128th Durham Big Meeting - 14/7/12

If you like heavy drinking, extreme colliery brass and political speeches, there's only one place to go and that's The Durham Miners' Gala, or Big Meeting as it's more usually known. Held every second weekend in July, it is a tradition unique to Durham City and has been held most peacetime years since 1871. The coal mines are now long gone, but their beautifully painted lodge banners and brass bands remain and the Gala carries on as a heritage event with real political teeth. This year, the speakers included the Murdoch-slaying MP, Tom Watson, Shami Chakrabarti from Liberty and two striking Spanish miners fresh in from the picket lines of Asturias. Best of all, we had the Leader Of The Labour Party, Ed Miliband. Traditionally, the Gala speakers have always included the Labour leader of the day, from Keir Hardie through to Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson, but none had condescended to turn up since Neil Kinnock in 1989 (despite the fact that Tony Blair's constituency was just around the corner in Sedgefield). Ed ended the 23 years of hurt with a rousing speech that warmed the hearts of the faithful and confirmed Durham's place at the heart of the national political debate. Seventy banners, fifty bands and a crowd of over 40,000 people 'getting their rights' cannot be written off so easily. As Dave Hopper, General Secretary of The Durham Miners Association put it: 'There's a world to be won. I hope Ed Miliband wins that world for us'.