The 2020 Durham Miners’ Gala has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis. The Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) took the decision today despite the Gala not being until July.
The reasons for taking the early action are:
1: To relieve the public services (police, local authority, medical and fire services) from the detailed planning and preparation in the months leading up to the Gala.
2: To ensure that the 200,000 people who attend the event will not be exposed further to the virus (whether or not the immediate threat has subsided by then).
3: To give early warning to all those who travel to Durham for the biggest event of its kind in the world.
Previously only world wars and two national strikes have prevented the Gala from going ahead since the first was held in 1871. The 136th Durham Miners Gala was due to take place on Saturday 11 July 2020.
DMA Secretary Alan Mardghum said: ”We have consulted our main partners who help us organise the Gala and have decided we should not burden our public service colleagues with the extra work involved in staging the event.
“They will be stretched beyond belief over the next weeks and months and we need to do all we can to help. Furthermore, the DMA represents communities and members who are at most risk because they are older and many have serious health problems related to our industrial past, particularly respiratory diseases.
“There will be many thousands of people disappointed by this news but the whole world is having to rethink how best we assist and protect our people during this crisis. It is only fair that we make an early and clear call to cancel the Gala.”
Mr Mardghum promised that it would be back next year as 2021 is the 150th year of the Gala.
He added: “We will make sure that we make up for this year’s cancellation by staging the biggest and the best Gala ever seen to celebrate its 150th year. The Big Meeting, as it is known, has a central place in the culture and history of the people and mining of County Durham. More and more people come each year despite the last colliery having closed in 1993. We will continue to organise this most spectacular and important event. We will not see it fade.”
Hotels, pubs and market traders will be hit as the Gala brings an estimated £10 million to the City of Durham every year.
The county’s 60 banner groups, who raise money to bring the bands and banners in to the Gala, will be stood down and will not meet until it is safe.
Brass bands throughout Durham have already been instructed by their own associations not to practice or perform while the virus circulates.
The DMA will use the Gala organisation time to concentrate on developing its successful National Lottery Heritage Fund bid for the restoration and renewal of the Grade II listed Miners Hall in Durham.
The former miners union will also do all it can to protect vulnerable members and assist in community support initiatives during this most challenging time.
Mr Mardghum said: “We wish all Gala supporters the best of luck and health in the coming weeks. We will all need it. We will do all in our power to help people stay safe.”
Everyone who has booked camping at the official Gala campsite will be refunded in the coming days.