This year was The 136th Durham Miners’ Gala, the first after a three-year halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The miner’s gala has been the most prominent display of working-class culture in Britain since it started in 1871. Although the pits are closed and Thatcher is long gone, the colliery brass band and banners march on as strongly as ever.
The Gala saw almost 200,000 people in attendance, with over 50 banners and bands marching in the procession, making it one of the biggest the city has seen for years. Even though Durham is not my place of birth, it’s still my home. My mam was born and raised on a council estate in Durham and worked in local working men’s clubs for years. There are so many things uniquely beautiful about the working-class culture in the North East. Where else would you find men competing to grow the largest leeks?
As the event proceeds, the locals from ex-mining villages follow the bands as they march toward the County Hotel. Many have cheered from the balcony of the County Hotel over the years, from Arthur Scargill to Aneurin Bevan. This year it was dedicated to those on the front line during the pandemic.
The Gala is ingrained into the ex-mining culture and is a tradition that has been going on for generations. After documenting the event, it’s clear that it holds the same level of, if not more, cultural importance to the people of Durham, just as it did all those years ago.