Pont Valley at Durham Miners Gala: A Grand Day Out

Guest Author: June Davison from Campaign to Protect Pont Valley

On Saturday 13 July we paid our second visit to the Durham Miner’s Gala. Again, the weather was good to us, at least in the morning. On route to the field we boogied to crazy 70s and 80s favourites performed by Brandon’s brass band.

As we passed in front of the County Hotel, Jeremy Corbin’s eyes were drawn to our banner. He got his phone out and took a photograph. We wondered how much he’d heard about our campaign. Maybe he thought our banner was a bit different from the traditional banners, or maybe our MP, Laura Pidcock has had a little word with him about supporting us?

Last year at the 134th Gala, the Big Meeting, we made history by marching with the first ever banner to explicitly oppose opencast coal extraction and by inference, coal. A sensitive issue as despite the age-old abuse suffered by north eastern communities at the hands of powerful coal corporations, there are still those who hold fast to the belief that coal created and sustained their families and communities.

This year, the 135th Gala, our participation reflected the fact that we are still here, still opposing the destructive exploitation of communities and the natural environment for coal. We rallied at the same point on North Road, but this time a contingent from Extinction Rebellion congregated near us. In the months since their inception we’ve had some reservations about ‘XR’ but they’ve added their support to our campaign and it’s strange to think that this time last year they were just an idea not a reality. Lots more has happened in the 12 months since the last Gala. We launched a judicial review against the Secretary of State’s flawed decision to allow Banks to opencast the Pont Valley, we made new allies with Dewley folk campaigning against Banks near Throckley in Newcastle and our collaboration with Save Druridge has strengthened.

We met old friends and new along the way and picked up an invitation to exhibit our banner at the British Textile Biennial and an invitation to take part in the Easington Miners’ Picnic!

I believe we will return for the 136th Durham. Let’s hope we aren’t still waiting to hear from the Secretary of State and let’s hope Banks expansion plans in Durham, Newcastle, Northumberland are curtailed – that would be a real cause for celebration!

By June Davison from Campaign to Protect Pont Valley

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