The Durham Gala 'Big Meeting'

Modern Durham Gala - Elvet BridgeThe Durham Miners' Gala (The Big Meeting or Durham Big Meeting) is held in Durham City, England, every 2nd Saturday in July.

The gala developed out of the miners' trade unionism after the first miners union was created in 1869.
The pit bosses used to meet at the Royal County Hotel in Durham City to set miners' wages, mineworkers came to lobby the event and over time, they made a big day of it and brought their banners and brass bands with them. The Durham Miners' Union organised the first Gala, which was held in 1871 in Wharton Park, Durham. The meeting was later moved to its present location on the 'Old Racecourse' and attracted socialist politicians who reviewed the passing bands and banners from the balcony of the Royal County Hotel, they then proceeded to give speeches on the racecourse.
In the afternoon a Miners' service is held in Durham Cathedral which may include the blessing of any new banners.

Durham Gala 1947At its peak the Durham Gala developed into the largest unofficial miners and trade union gathering in the United Kingdom with a maximum of over 250,000 visitors (approximately 6 times the population of the city) being recorded.

The Gala has only been cancelled due to War (1915 -1918 & 1940  - 1945) or strikes in 1921, 1922 and 1926. This last date is of merit as it is the only time that the Durham Gala has been held outside of the City when miners from the Burnhope Collieries decided to host their own Gala in the Village.
The 1984 - 1985 miners strike, which affected collieries across the whole of the Durham Coalfield also led to the Gala being cancelled in 1984.

The subsequent closure of collieries in County Durham, particularly after 1945 has reduced the numbers attending the Gala, but the banners of the closed mines are often still marched and it is still an event that is very close to people's hearts in County Durham.