Gala’s future secure

SAVED FOR NOW ... Durham Miners' Gala.
SAVED FOR NOW ... Durham Miners' Gala.

ORGANISERS of the long-established Durham Miners’ Gala are celebrating after confirming that the event’s future is secure for at least the next two years.

The event, known as the Big Meet, had been under threat as funding was drying up.

It came after organisers, the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) struggled financially following £1.4m legal costs after it lost its fight to win payouts for members suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee due to their work in the mining industry, as reported by the Mail in December.

But following a public appeal for donations, the DMA has announced that the event that is “integral to our history and heritage”, will go ahead for at least for the next two years and “maybe the next three or four or five”.

The 144th Durham Miners’ Gala will take place on Saturday, July 13 and guest speakers include Bob Crow of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), Len McCluskey from Unite and Frances O’Grady, the first-ever female general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), along with left-wing journalists Owen Jones and Kevin Maguire.

DMA general secretary Dave Hopper said: “We are delighted.

“The response we have had from the Friends of the Gala has been pretty overwhelming.”

Mr Hopper said lots of people had pledged to donate to help offset the costs of the gala, which costs £60,000 to run.

“It’s been a worthwhile response - the people in County Durham like the gala, it’s still a great family day out and great to meet people once a year,” he added.

“And long may it continue.”

Mr Hopper said supporters wanted the event to go ahead more than ever, in the present climate.

He added: “It’s about looking at our members and communities in relation to this period of so-called austerity where our benefits are being attacked, a lot of men are on state benefits or industrial injuries benefits.

“They are suffering at the same time, there are no jobs in our communities, this Government is signing people off and telling them to get to work, when there is no work to be had.

“I am pleased we have the gala as a springboard for our attempts to come into the community and have meetings in and around the coalfield areas so we can talk to people and help them.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband will not be attending, despite being the first Labour leader to address the Gala in 23 years last summer.

But Mr Hopper said: “He gave us a promise he will be back next year, which will be the last gala before the General Election, and that’s good enough for us.”