TWO of the 33 Chilean copper miners whose rescue gripped the world will appear at the 127th Durham Miners’ Gala at the weekend.
Carlos Barrios Contrera and Carlos Bugueno Alfara will be on the platform along with politicians and union leaders in Durham City on Saturday.
The pair and their workmates were trapped 700m underground at the Copiapo mine for two months last year, before their dramatic rescue, watched around the world.
“It is a real coup for us to get them,’’ said Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association.
“We are hoping one of them will speak to the Gala.
“One of them is worth two Ed Milibands,’’ he added, in a reference to the Labour leader who did a U-turn on his pledge to attend because RMT general secretary Bob Crow, considered a militant in some quarters, is also on the platform.
Other speakers will be veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner – known as the Beast of Bolsover – a Gala favourite, who is on the bill after a few years’ absence.
Unison’s Dave Prentis, Len McCluskey of Unite, NUM national secretary Chris Kitchen and Kilmarnock Labour MP Cathy Jamieson complete the line-up.
There will be seven new banners this year – Chopwell, famous for its image of Lenin and Marx, Westoe, Boldon, Burnhope, Thornley, Durham Area NUM and Follonsby.
All but Chopwell will be blessed during the traditional 3pm service in Durham Cathedral.
Banners from Easington and Eppleton will also be at the service, to mark the 60th anniversary of the last explosions in the Durham coalfield.
Mr Hopper said the current political and economic climate had led to a big surge in interest in the Gala, the biggest rally of its kind in the country.
He said many working people were concerned about their future prosperity, as shown by the day of action over public sector pensions.
The parade of banners will start from 8am and speeches will start at about 1pm.
There will be a funfair, stalls and entertainment on the Gala field at Durham Racecourse.