STEEPED in decades of heritage, Durham Miners’ Hall serves as a historical jewel in the heart of the city – acting as the HQ for the Durham Miners’ Association, while also giving a nod to the pastime of the rich mining history of the region its situated in.

Known more commonly as Redhills, due to its location on Redhills Lane in Durham, the venue is currently undergoing a multi-million restoration project to transform it into a cultural epicentre and arts centre for the community.

Despite its rich vein of history running through its walls, it’s also become synonymous for a very different reason over the last 12 months; the site of the now infamous ‘beergate’ photo that captured Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer drinking a beer while he was on the campaign trail for the Hartlepool by-election in April 2021.

Read more: 'Durham Police won't feel pressure in Sir Keir probe' - as investigation continues

At the time of the incident, non-essential retail and outdoor venues including pub gardens were open, but social distancing rules – which included a ban on indoor mixing between households – remained in place.

The incident is currently under investigation by Durham Police for an alleged breach of Covid-19 regulations, which has seen Sir Keir pledge that he will step aside as the Labour leader if he is issued a fixed penalty notice by the police force.

While a lot of people are now familiar with the background of ‘beergate’, The Northern Echo has highlighted some of the history of Durham Miners’ Hall to give an insight into the venue that has made plenty of headlines over the last year, for better or worse.

The Northern Echo: The outside of Durham Miners' Hall. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.The outside of Durham Miners' Hall. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

What’s the history of Durham Miners’ Hall?

The Miners’ Hall, or Redhills, is the HQ of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA). It was designed by H.T.Gradon in Edwardian Baroque style and opened in 1915 as a replacement to a similar structure on North Road, Durham.

Since that point, it’s acted as the debating chamber and committee area for the DMA and has inspired the ideas for each year’s Durham Miners’ Gala and goes alongside the Durham Mining Museum to hold up the mining heritage of Durham and the wider County Durham.

After receiving a £4m investment in 2020, the hall is currently undergoing a restoration and renovation project that will make it an arts centre and space for the whole community, which will allow Redhills to continue hosting events and exhibitions.

Here's some pictures of Durham Miners' Hall (Redhills):

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A brief overview of ‘Beergate’

  • In April 2021, the Sun newspaper first published an image clipped from a video which showed Sir Keir drinking beer with Labour activists at an event in Durham.
  • Sir Keir was joined by the City of Durham’s Labour MP Mary Foy and deputy leader Angela Rayner at the Durham Miners Hall, where they also ate curry while campaigning in the 2021 local elections campaign.
  • Durham Constabulary revealed on Friday following the results of the local elections that it would reopen an investigation into the event.

The Northern Echo: Sir Keir was pictured having a beer in Durham Miners' Hall in April 2021. Picture: PA MEDIA.Sir Keir was pictured having a beer in Durham Miners' Hall in April 2021. Picture: PA MEDIA.

What has Sir Keir said?

The Labour leader has maintained that no rules were broken and claimed he and other Labour colleagues returned to late night work once they had finished the meal and beers.

He has now also committed to resigning if Durham Police fine him for the ‘breach’ in Covid regulations.

The Northern Echo: Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: PA MEDIA.Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: PA MEDIA.

What do the Conservatives say?

The Conservatives have accused Sir Keir of hypocrisy, pointing out that he called on the Prime Minister to resign over the Partygate scandal before a criminal investigation into the parties at Downing Street had been opened.

Richard Holden, Conservative MP for North West Durham, who pressed police to investigate after presenting new evidence, said it was “vital that the man who wants to be prime minister is held to the same standard as the Prime Minister and everybody else”.

The Northern Echo: Durham Police has launched an investigation into 'beergate' after making a statement on Friday (May 6). Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.Durham Police has launched an investigation into 'beergate' after making a statement on Friday (May 6). Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

The position of Durham Police

While the police force has reopened an investigation after “significant” new evidence presented to it - the force has previously taken the position that it does not issue retrospective fines for Covid breaches.

When former Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings was accused of breaking lockdown rules by travelling to County Durham in 2020, the constabulary said it had a “general approach” not “to take retrospective action” regarding Covid fines.

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