THE 121st Durham Miners Gala – the Big Meeting to generations of North East mining folk – will take place on Saturday July 9th thanks to continuing sponsorship support from North East and Cumbria Co-op.
Fears that the historic Gala – the British labour movement's showpiece summer event – would wither and die after the closure of the last Durham colliery more than a decade ago have been dispelled and now the event is bigger and better than it has been for years with more banners and bands and a 50,000-plus crowd anticipated.
The £ 3,000 donation via the society's community dividend scheme will help towards the cost of hiring at least 30 brass and pipe bands for the procession through the streets of Durham to the city's old racecourse.
With four new banners on parade as more former pit communities band together to preserve their mining heritage and traditions, the 2005 Big Meeting promises to be loud, proud and exhilarating.
"The Co-op's involvement over the past few years has made a huge difference," said the event's principal organiser, George Robson.
"The donation will go towards hiring some of the marching bands, but really it just maintains a relationship that has been in existence for many years as the miners union and the Co-operative Movement grew up together."
Among the estimated 100 banners on show on July 9th will be North East Co-op's own banner and the historic Chopwell Lodge banner featuring an image in praise of the much sought-after Co-operative Commonwealth (above).
Speakers include veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner and leading trade unionists Rodney Bickerstaffe, Billy Hayes and Debbie Coulter while the platform guests will include Tony Benn and visitors representing coalfields in Australia and Belgium.
The first band is expected to pass the County Hotel at around 9.00am and the day's events and celebrations will continue until early evening.