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Our Crack Tongue & Groove

durhamcomment.jpg Unity is strength

The 133rd Durham Miners’ Gala is fast approaching and if you’ve never attended before then here are a few reasons as to why it’s one of the best days out of the year.

Depending on when you are reading this – before or after the general election – you’ll either be looking forward to a glorious socialist future, or, ahem, now living in one. (At the time of writing I suppose I should concede that the general election could throw-up a different outcome – and “throw up” is a very useful phrase here - but after years of grinding austerity, the destruction of workers’ rights and public services, and a government that lets the rich write their own rules, surely voters are not going to be queuing up to place their crosses next to any party offering ‘more of the same but even worse next time’. Are they?)

But whatever the outcome of the election the Durham Miners’ Gala will go ahead as usual because it is as much a part of our summer as pac-a-macs and wasps in your jam sandwiches. And despite the fact that there are no working pits in Durham any more, the event – popularly known as the Big Meeting – will still be thronged with tens of thousands of people. If you’ve never attended before then you should know it’s a real celebratory affair, with countless colliery bands marching from their respective villages to various assembly points in Durham - the main one being the city centre Market Place - before making their way to the Racecourse.

Just being in and around Durham on the day is incredible with the bands playing everything from beautiful Elgar pieces to pop songs (last year I heard the full gamut, from Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now to Uptown Funk. I even caught some dignitaries shaking a tail-feather to Meghan Trainor’s homage to fat arses, All About That Bass).

And the Big Meeting is a visual feast too, not least through the banners aligned with former pits which are proudly lofted skywards and emblazoned with defiant messages of working class solidarity: “Need before Greed”, “For the people, by the people”, “The past we inherit, the future we forge”. Eventually everyone assembles at the Racecourse which is the perfect spot for a picnic, or jumping on a fairground ride, or hearing a speech, or, indeed, having a pint (it’s not unknown for the bands to indulge themselves at this point, which always makes for some real off-piste playing on the way back into the town centre).

The most moving aspect of the whole day is the sense of community it imbues, which is the chief reason why the left can hold such an event while Tories never can. After all, the progressive cause is nothing unless it’s about a coming together, while the right concerns itself with greedy individualism. And as everyone knows: it’s hard to throw a party when you’re stuck on your own.

The Durham Miners’ Gala is free to attend and will be held on Saturday 8 July. More information: durhamminers.org