A FEW weeks ago my wife Ann and I were planning our annual visit to the Durham Miners’ Gala — the greatest annual celebration of the power of the working class and the fight for socialism in this country.
We weren’t sure if the lockdown would be over by then, but there was good news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was allowing people to make the journey to Durham, however far it was.
Then came the bad news. You could only make the journey if you worked in the Cabinet Office and needed an eye test.
Then we heard that the Big Meeting was cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
In a splendid demonstration of public responsibility, the Durham Miners Association (DMA) had called off their event to save putting any more strain and stress on already overloaded public-service workers.
The good news is that the 2020 Durham Miners’ Gala, the 136th, will be celebrated online from 1pm on Saturday July 11.
The centrepiece of the day will be a live online event entitled The Second Saturday in July, streamed to Facebook and YouTube.
There will be specially produced content celebrating the spirit and values of the Gala, which will feature in new videos including archive footage from its long history, brass band music and, of course, images of the colourful banners that are always such an important part of the great day.
Those banners, long before video, painted a colourful portrait of what and who Durham miners thought important. They present a colourful tapestry of working-class struggle.
My favourite banner comes from the village of Chopwell, once known as “Little Moscow.”
It’s a relatively new banner painted only a few years ago to replace a well-worn and battle-scarred older one.
Red and glistening gold, this wonderful silk icon of working-class culture features Marx, Lenin and Keir Hardie.
Other banners have portraits of other great socialist leaders. No wonder they put the fear of God into Maggie Thatcher and her many lackeys.
The online Gala won’t just deal with our proud history. Today’s struggles will be featured too.
Leading public-service and NHS workers who’ve been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, along with key labour-movement figures including trade-union leaders, will bring greetings, messages and speeches to the virtual Gala.
The live event will be screened from Redhills, the home of the DMA.
DMA secretary Alan Mardghum told the Morning Star: “The 200,000 people who usually attend the Gala will miss their great day out.
“We want to mark the day as best we can and bring people together in a spirit of solidarity and celebration.
“The Gala has always provided a platform for working people, and this year we will hear from key workers across various sectors.
“Their efforts over recent months should have made clear to everyone the vital contribution they make to our country.
“We hope as many people as possible will join us for The Second Saturday in July.”
Morning Star readers are encouraged to use social media to post their own solidarity messages.
Favourite photos from previous Galas or other working-class events will also be welcome. Use the hashtag #DurhamMinersGala.
Meanwhile, plans are going ahead for next year’s Gala, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the first Gala held in 1871.