HUNDREDS of defiant ex-miners gathered at a social club for a “Thatcher party” on the day of the former Prime Minister’s funeral.
While millions of people paid their last respects there were scenes of protest in Easington Colliery.
Anti-Thatcher banners were unfurled outside Easington Colliery Club and Institute before an estimated 700 former miners and supporters, some of who arrived by bus, packed into the club for a party.
Down the road at Easington Social Welfare Centre a slideshow of mining scenes was aired to commemorate 20 years since the closure of the local pit.
Outside the two venues local and national media gathered to record the historic scenes.
The official line for some quarters was that the events were being held to mark the anniversary of the closure of the pit, but others were more blatantly admitting they were there “for a Thatcher party”.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), said: “I’m here for Thatcher’s funeral and the DMA is supporting the event.
“It was absolutely disgraceful what Thatcher did not only to Easington, but the whole of County Durham.”
At Easington Social Welfare Centre, committee chairman Dr David Boyes said: “There is a misconception that we are celebrating Thatcher’s death. It’s a commemoration of the pit shutting.
“This event has been organised for a good few months. We were asked by a good few people if we could move it as it happened to be on the same day as Thatcher’s funeral.
“But why should we move it for this woman.”
Dr Boyes, whose father Roland Boyes, from Peterlee, was a front-bench spokesman in Neil Kinnock’s opposition against Mrs Thatcher, said the former pit community is working to get over its hurdles and “we are just starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel”.
Former Dyke House School teacher Mike Elliott, who played a boxing coach in the film Billy Elliot that was filmed in Easington, spoke to reporters during the party in Easington Colliery Club and Institute and described the mood inside as “fun, fun, fun”.
He said: “It’s a Thatcher party.
“I make no apology for that.”
Outside the Easington Colliery Club and Institute, Heather Wood, who worked in the soup kitchen at the welfare hall during the Miners’ Strike, said: “The funeral doesn’t change our lives, its got nothing to do with us.
“No-one is mentioning her name, well I’m not.”