ORGANISERS of one of the biggest events on the North-East social calendar have urged people not to flock to Durham on what would have been the annual Gala day on Saturday.

Around 200,000 people take to the the city’s historic streets every year, carrying banners from former pit communities and trade unions, as part of the annual celebration of the region’s mining heritage.

The 136th Durham Miners' Gala was due to take place on Saturday, but the Durham Miners' Association cancelled it in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

An online celebration will mark the day and people are encouraged to enjoy the digital celebrations at home.

With pubs reopening last weekend, the DMA is concerned that people may travel to Durham to mark what would have been Gala day.

DMA secretary Alan Mardghum said: “We understand that people will be tempted, particularly with the reopening of pubs, to come into Durham with friends as they do each year.

“If people do so in large numbers, it will put pressure on our public service workers at a time they most need our support.

“I ask everyone who loves the Gala to act in the spirit of the day, and to continue to do their bit for our community.

“The Gala will be back next year for its 150th anniversary. We will do all we can to ensure that it is the biggest and best Gala to date.

“We look forward to welcoming everyone back to Durham in 2021. Until then, stay safe, and take care.”

Tomorrow will be marked online with a series of new content celebrating the spirit and values of the event. The centrepiece of the day will be a live online event streamed to Facebook and YouTube at 1pm.

The day is titled The Second Saturday in July – the day on which the Gala is held each year.

Supporters of the Gala are also encouraged to use social media to post their own messages and favourite photos from attending the Gala throughout the day, using the hashtag #DurhamMinersGala.

City of Durham MP Mary Foy said: “The Durham Miners’ Gala is such an important part of the culture of Durham City and the wider county.

"Every year, in the months leading up to the Big Meeting Weekend, Redhills – where my constituency office is based – would be buzzing with activity in anticipation of the biggest event of the year. On the day itself, over a hundred thousand pack the streets, sing and enjoy the day.

"I’ve always loved the Gala - the brass bands and the banner, of course, but also the fantastic atmosphere, the comradeship and meeting people who have travelled from all over the country to join our incredible day, normally in hot weather - because, as they say, the sun always shines on the Big Meeting.

"This year, sadly, it can’t happen that way, but I’m delighted to see that this hasn’t stopped the Durham Miners’ Association celebrating the big day, and that they are providing an online event for those who would normally be in Durham, to enjoy from their own homes.

"I’d really encourage people to enjoy that online celebration and to support the Gala by becoming a Marra, making sure that next year, we can have an even bigger Durham Miners’ Gala and that it continues, gloriously, into the foreseeable future.”

For more than a century, the Gala was funded by the working miners of the Durham coalfield. Following the closure of the collieries, the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala was established to ensure the survival of the event.

Those who contribute through subscription are known as ‘Marras’, a Durham miners’ term for a workmate or friend who can be relied upon in times of need. Join the Marras here:

  • On Friday at 7.30pm, the DMA is teaming up with Unite to host an online rally in support of ongoing working class campaigns - inc Grenfell and Orgreave - on the DMA Facebook.