THE competing interests of town and gown have long been bones of contention in the tightly knit streets of Durham where a transient student population lives cheek by jowl with long term residents.

Durham University students make an enormously positive contribution to the city’s economy. They can also be a pain in the backside for some locals who worry their presence in the city centre hikes up rents and sees large swathes of prime land given over to student buildings.

Parties held by rugby clubs are seldom known for their restraint and propriety but whomever thought a striking coalminers versus police themed fancy dress bash was a jolly jape should perhaps be studying elsewhere. At best this was a daft idea at worst it shows an arrogant disdain for the place these students now call home.

For many mining communities the bitter dispute against pit closures left wounds that will never heal. It is also worth remembering that the ’84 strike will feel like a lifetime ago to undergraduates born just before the turn of the millennium. 

The invitation asked students to dress in “flat caps, filth..a few working-class-beating-bobbies wouldn’t go amiss..Think pickaxes. Think headlamps. Think 12 per cent unemployment in 1984”. Think is the last thing these highly-educated youngsters were doing but attending a posh prep school doesn’t prevent one from being a thoughtless oik. 

If those responsible worked a few shifts down a pit then they might have a greater appreciation for the bravery shwon by generations of Durham miners. Sadly there aren’t any pits left around here - Margaret Thatcher saw to that.