NORTH EAST Co-op will be flying the flag for Fairtrade at the 120th annual Durham Miners Gala on Saturday July 10th.
The labour movement's summer showpiece event will once again be sponsored to the tune of £ 3,000 by the society, but an added ingredient this year will be an appearance by the Anglo Gold Choir from South Africa, who will perform at Durham Racecourse before the speeches and will also sing at the city's Cathedral the night before the Gala at a Co-op-sponsored free concert.
The North East Co-op banner will be paraded through the streets and Secretary Steve Warren says the society's contingent will be wearing T-shirts to highlight the Movement's commitment to the Fairtrade ethos.
And North East Co-op's new roadshow trailer will be prominently placed at the Racecourse to dispense samples of Fairtrade products and give information on Co-op membership and activities.
"The Big Meeting as it's known gets bigger and better each year and is now very much part of the region's culture," said Mr Warren, who added that the society's sponsorship cheque will be used to hire a number of marching bands on the day.
Dozens of miners and trade union banners will be paraded through the streets accompanied by more than 30 brass and pipe bands, while well-known singer Billy Bragg will also entertain the crowds at the meeting ground.
Gala Co-ordinator George Robson told the News: "The Gala has never been as popular in recent history as it is today. It's an incredible situation ? it's 11 years since the last Durham pit closed, but the Big Meeting looks as if it will be around for decades to come as more and more ex-mining communities are becoming involved.
"Over 50,000 people attended last year and there could be an even bigger crowd this time. Seven new banners will be out for the first time as more and more people join in to commemorate the county's mining heritage and tradition."
Gala speakers this year include Unison's Dave Prentiss, Labour MP Vera Baird, Tony Woodley of the TGWU and Steve Kemp of the NUM.