Miners, Unions and The Durham Gala

Yesterday saw a one day event at Durham that looked at the history and the future of The Durham Miners Gala and the unique characteristics of mining communities.  Unite Community members from Durham and Newcastle attended  and we were joined by a group of people from Recovery Durham .

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The course was lead by Dave Wray and John Stirling – who are both passionate about the subject matter. We started with a fascinating talk from Dave about the history of the Mining banners which, in some cases, came to symbolise the community it was attached to.

Paul, a representative of Friends of The Gala came in to talk about the work he is doing. If you want to become a Friend Of The Gala you can find out more here

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After lunch (another excellent buffet provided by Unite!) the discussion turned to heritage- leading on from the mornings session whereby banners were considered by the mining communities as “part of our heritage”. What is “heritage”? The group concluded that it was a collective memory, it was what you grew up in to, what you feel comfortable with and what you hope to pass on to your children. Mining communities have a particularly strong heritage as the members of the community lived together, worked together and played together. .

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The final session was about the future of the Gala- why is its popularity growing even though the  deep mining industry has gone from County Durham? It was agreed that allowing other Unions to participate in it had been a factor but the majority still thought that it was an opportunity for communities to come together, to re-affirm their identity and, especially following the Miners Strike, to say “you tried to get rid of us but we are still here and still strong”

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Overall it was a very informative, interesting day and well-received by all.  It was so good to open it up to the Recovery members. Their contribution was very important and thought provoking.  Many thanks to Dave and John for making it so fascinating.

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