THOUSANDS of people turned out to see the banners, brass brands and barnstorming speeches at the 127th Miners' Gala in Durham at the weekend.

A few drenching showers failed to dampen the spirits, and the ranks of the marchers were swelled by public sector workers with large balloons, highlighting their fight against job and pension cuts.

Click here to view pictures from the Durham Miners' Gala 2011

Marchers arrived from the crack of dawn on Saturday to begin their procession through the streets - with more than 80 banners paraded through the city, led by more than 40 bands from throughout the country.

In time-honoured tradition, each band performed outside the Royal County Hotel for dignitaries on the balcony above, before making their way to the racecourse.

Among those waving the bands on from the balcony were Durham City MP Dr Roberta Black-Woods, Durham County Council leader Simon Henig, Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner and a variety of other union leaders.

The guest of honour was Chilean miner Carlos Bugueno Alfara - the 23rd miner to step out of the rescue capsule at the San Jose copper and gold mine after being trapped underground.

Senor Bugueno, who proudly draped his country's flag over the balcony, said later: "I was really touched by the reception I got. I never realised there was such a strong mining tradition in the UK."

Hundreds of people then gathered on the racecourse for speeches. Labour leader Ed Miliband was criticised for not attending after learning that Bob Crow, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, would share the platform.

The Lib Dems were pilloried for "selling out" their principals, but the Conservative Party came in for heavy criticism.

Commenting on the sporadic rain, Mr Crow said: "You have been p***** on by this government for a year, so half an hour is not going to bother you."

He condemned British Gas for putting the price of gas up by 18 per cent up and said: "Our call should be that the gas industry and iron industry and coal industry be pulled back together in one industry. Not to compete against each other but to complement each other."

Unison general secretary David Prentis, who criticised the raids on pensions and pay packets, said: "Here in the North-East, as so often before we are bearing the brunt."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said he would not shed a tear for the News of the World that had "denigrated trade unions and progressive individuals in any form".

The clear darling was Dennis Skinner, who opened his address saying: "I blame the rain on Murdoch. He's flying into Britain, he's created all that turbulence coming over and its found its way to Durham. But he won't dampen our spirits will he?"