My feet are killing me, I’ve got a sunburned nose and I’ve discovered muscles in places I never knew I had places! But what a weekend for Durham Unite Community and The County Durham Socialist Clothing Bank. It started on Friday with the Big Collection Before The Big Meeting event in Durham Market Place. The weather gods smiled on us and bright sunshine was the order of the day.
This was a joint initiative with County Durham Food Banks. The response was fantastic. Many people came to talk to us and all were supportive. The collection bins for the Clothing Bank soon filled up with much needed toiletries, socks and underwear, while the food bank collectors were receiving a steady stream of donations.
Amongst the visitors to our stall were a couple from Croydon who had spent a week in Durham. They told me that they were involved with a local food bank where they live. “Politicians don’t care” they said to me “they never get out on the streets and see what it is really like.” The participants in the Unite Political School that was taking place in Durham also came to help out- and brought with them a cash donation of almost £300. Thank you so much.
Thanks to all who helped out on the day, including comrades from Newcastle and Sunderland Unite Community branches. It was a brilliant day. You can read the local media coverage here
Then came Saturday and The Durham Miners Gala. Early start for Unite activists as we assembled at 8.30 and prepared to make our way across Durham. After a small hiccup over the whereabouts of the Durham Unite Community banner we were ready to go. It was another gloriously sunny day- and the crowds came out in record numbers. Official figures say 150,000 people were in Durham.
It was slow progress across Durham. Four hours later we made it to the Race Course but it was worth it. I was very proud to be able to carry the Durham Unite Community banner ( man, that thing’s heavy!) and the snail like pace gave us a chance to make new friends and chat to our fellow Unite members both from the Community and Industrial branches
The speeches from the invited guests were great, especially Jeremy Corbyn who set out his vision for the Labour party should he be elected as leader; Matt Wrack of the FBU (Fire Brigades Union) talked of his anger and sadness that on the day after the 10th anniversary of the London bombings, where his members were praised for their dedication and courage, the Governmemt imposed further cuts on the fire service.
If you have never visited The Durham Miners’ Gala, please take time to do it. It is a special day- a unique piece of social history. It is not nostalgia- fixing the past as some glorious golden era, nor is it sentimental- tears are the only guide to the truth. It is about memory and identity. Mining gave the north east a pride and an identity and this is what the Gala celebrates. It takes place every year on the second Saturday of July.
Finally, after a hard day in the sunshine, a very slow walk across Durham I have huge sympathy for, and empathy with, this little guy. See you all next year!