Worcester CLP Socialist Film Club screens brilliant documentary about the fabulous, longstanding, Durham Miners’ Gala.

Worcester CLP Socialist Film Club screens "The Big Meeting"
Worcester CLP Socialist Film Club screens "The Big Meeting"

A fantastic evening hosted at the Worcester Brewing Company’s Sabrina Brewery in Arch 49 was the perfect inspiration for the upcoming general election campaign! The film “The Big Meeting” is a superb feature-length documentary about the annual Durham Miners’ Gala; arguably the most significant expression of working class culture in the UK and a joyous celebration of progressive politics and life above ground forged by the experience of collectively fighting the brutal conditions imposed by ‘rapacious capitalism’ on miners underground.

During the interval, many filmgoers checked the date of the next Gala – always the 2nd Saturday in July (since 1871!) – having been thoroughly enthused to attend. Once an integral part of the Labour Party (no MP could hope to gain the leadership of the party without the support of the mighty Durham Miners Association whose superb Redhills headquarters building is a testament to that power) it’s now felt a resurgence as the determination to fight exploitation and inequality – as expressed in the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who’s a regular Gala attender – has focussed attention on the dynamism and energy of working class solidarity and its potential to unite all sections of our diverse communities.

 

Redhills: Durham Miners
Redhills: Durham Miners' Association HQ

The filmgoers also enjoyed a personal and heartfelt introduction and conclusion to the film from Andy Fenwick who was born and brought up in County Durham. Andy pointed out how deep-seated the solidarity and organisation of the miners’ wives was – so powerful in the miners’ strike 0f 1984 – and how freshly wedded spouses would be initiated into this circle by being taught the art of extracting their new husband’s unopened pay-packet so that they could manage the household finances!

An evocative and moving film, two examples of many: the clip of the miners’ art collected in the book ‘Shafts of Light’; the bit where Durham Cathedral swells to brass band music as glorious banners (many artistic masterpieces in their own right) are held aloft carrying slogans like Maya Angelou’s quote “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. All in all, this film is the perfect tonic to the nasty, divisive and caustic politics of the right.

Although we got to watch it while enjoying the hospitality of the Worcester Brewing Company (brewing delicious coffee on the night, too!) the film needs to be watched whatever your surroundings if you’ve not yet seen it. Just as the Durham miners, like miners up and down the land, once powered the country, this film will do the same for your motivation to kick out the Tories and fight for a Labour government – for the many, not the few.

 

Charlotte Austin of the People
Charlotte Austin of the People's Bookshop, Durham, holds up their sign
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