AROUND £30,000 has already been raised towards a massive refurbishment of County Durham’s historic “pitman’s parliament”.

Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) is planning a huge restoration of its 102-year-old headquarters at Redhills, with hopes of turning it into a cultural hub to bring the building back into common usage.

In November it launched an appeal selling personalised pit tokens, which will be put on the seats in the famous council chamber, which is the first stage in trying to raise between £3m and £5m to carry out the work.

So far around 300 of the tokens have been sold, raising around £30,000.

Ross Forbes, from the DMA, said: “The response has been remarkable so far but we have a long way to go.

“What is lovely is what people are putting on the tokens. It’s really moving actually. There’s so much emotion and a sense of belonging that people have towards the place.”

There are 350 seats in the chamber and the DMA estimates there is space for around 1,000 tokens.

Each seat has a number which corresponds to a colliery, which was where its union representative took his place.

The most popular seats so far have been Easington, Dean and Chapter in Ferryhill, Murton and Morrison Busty in Annfield Plain.

The sponsorship is the first part of a plan to turn the building into a hub where people can put on plays, take part in traditional arts and crafts and perform music.

The DMA is hoping to submit a Heritage Lottery Fund bid next year.

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