WATCH: Thousands turn out for Durham Miners’ Gala

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The sunshine brought crowds out in their thousands for the 131st Durham Miners’ Gala.

In what was possibly the biggest Big Meeting yet, officials were expecting the visitor number to have topped more than 150,000 by the end of the day.

Durham Miners' Gala

Durham Miners' Gala

By 8am the streets around the city were lined with crowds waving and cheering as the bands prepared to make their way one by one through the city and onto the Racecourse.

Mining banners from former collieries across the region, including East Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside, were carried by proud communities, joined by a number of union banners including the NASUWT and the GMB.

This year the Turner Prize-winning transvestite Grayson Perry joined in the event as part of a documentary about masculinity.

The artist-turned-television presenter marched with the Trimdon Grange Banner.

Also there were representatives of trade unions in Cuba and Venezuela.

Adding an authentic twist to the day was former Easington miner, Billy Huitson, 89, who was dressed at a pitman, singing and dancing for the crowds as the banners passed by.

Billy, said: “I always like to take part, I absolutely love it.

“It is a fantastic day for the family and that’s what it is all about bringing people together.”

Heather Wood, who was accompanying the Easington banner, said: “We are all very proud to be part of it. Everyone is holding their heads high. You can’t keep good people down.”

Alan Cummings, a National Union of Mineworkers’ official, said last year the crowd was in region of 150,000 and they hope to top that.

He said: “The gala is a hugely important event. It is about celebrating our heritage, this whole area was built on coal.”

The Gala is the biggest trade union event in Europe and the speakers this year include Guardian columnist Owen Jones, teachers’ union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates, Fire Brigades’ Union general secretary Matt Wrack, and train drivers’ union ASLEF president Tosh McDonald.

As well as the speeches there was also family entertainment and a variety of campaign stalls and later today will be the traditional blessing of the banners service will take place in Durham Cathedral.