Durham Miners’ Gala celebrated at The Auckland Project Thursday, 16 June 2022

Mcguinness Big Meeting (web Cropped)

Tom McGuinness-Big-Meeting

A new exhibition at Bishop Auckland’s Mining Art Gallery will celebrate the return of the  Durham Miners’ Gala.

Unity is Strength: Durham Miners’ Gala, which opens on June 22nd, will bring together mining art from lenders across the North East with pieces from the Gallery’s renowned Gemini Collection, including works by artists such as Tom McGuinness, Norman Cornish and David Venables.

The exhibition promises to capture the community spirit, pride, solidarity and identity which has been celebrated through the biggest annual event in the labour and trade union movement calendar – also known as the Big Meeting – since its inaugural gathering was hosted in Wharton Park in 1871.

It will include the earliest known image of the Durham Miners’ Gala, Racecourse at Durham (around 1880), by an unknown artist. Other notable works in the exhibition include Big Meeting by Norman Cornish (1942); The Years of Victory (1947), by John Bird; and Durham Big Meeting (1968) by Tom McGuinness.

Anne Sutherland, assistant curator at The Auckland Project, which operates the Mining Art Gallery, said: “The Durham Miners’ Gala remains an important reminder of the proud mining communities of the North East and we are honoured that the Mining Art Gallery can play a part in marking its return.

“Mining artists used art as a means of expression and communication, as well as a social documentation and record of the day itself.

“The artworks which have been brought together in Unity is Strength document the course of the day, capturing the spirit of the Big Meeting and demonstrating its significance for the people of County Durham and the wider mining communities across the region.”

During its proud history, the Big Meeting has grown and evolved to include political speeches, an iconic procession of banners through the streets of Durham, and the Miners’ Festival Service at Durham Cathedral.

The Gala continues to be a colourful, joyful and emotive celebration of County Durham’s mining communities and has become more popular than ever.

The past two years have seen the Gala cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Durham Miners’ Association, which hosts the Gala, have announced that this year’s event – taking place on July 9th – will be dedicated to all the key workers who kept society functioning throughout the pandemic.

Ross Forbes, director of the Durham Miners’ Association said: “The Durham Miners’ Gala is the largest event of its kind in the world.

“On the second Saturday in July tens of thousands of people take their banners and bands to the streets. They celebrate the strength of community and unity which has bound the people of County Durham since the Gala was first staged in 1871.

“It is very fitting that the Mining Art Gallery’s exhibition shows the depth and breadth of this unique culture in the year the Gala celebrates the role of key workers through the pandemic.

“The Gala may have been paused for two years but it will be back stronger than ever on July 9.  It is an annual reminder of the resilience and dignity of working people who cherish their collective values in the most spectacular way.”

Unity is Strength: Durham Miners’ Gala will open at the Mining Art Gallery, Bishop Auckland on June 22nd and run until the end of 2022. For more information, visit www.aucklandproject.org/venues/mining-art-gallery/