Film ID:
NEFA 10688



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Edition of the Tyne Tees Television series Big Jack's British presented by Jack Charlton, which reports on the Durham Miners' Gala, its significance to the mining communities.

The documentary opens with the title sequence for the series with various general views of the parades at the Gala including black and white archive shots. 

Charlton piece to camera at the pithead of Easington Colliery. He used to work down the pit but could only put up with the life for one year before he decided it was not for him. He has great sympathy for the miners as it is still a dark, damp and fairly dangerous job.

Preparations take place at the participating pit villages on the morning of the Gala, also known as 'The Big Meeting". A colliery band marches.

Interview with Mrs Bella Robinson, who has been attending the Galas since  she was a toddler, at first with her father and later her husband.

General views of the Gala parade follow, including Jack Charlton and the National Union of Miners (NUM) leader Arthur Scargill. Interview with Scargill, who says it is a great honour to be invited to speak at the Gala and that the atmosphere and people in the north east are tremendous. 

In voice-over, Charlton describes the origin of the Galas, which started in 1871, over black and white archive footage of miners working underground and children on slag heaps. Life was hard and this day represented their big day out.

General views of the parade, with Charlton now teamed up with 'Big Louie from Horden', and of Durham Cathedral. [Horden Colliery closed closed on 28 February 1987.] The numbers in the procession to the Old Racecourse dwindle but are reinforced by juvenile jazz bands. 

Interview with author and historian Sid Chaplin, remembering the old days when enormous numbers of people took part, intercut with archive film and photographs of the Gala. 

The Vane Tempest Lodge band (sponsored by Amoco Oil) play in Durham town centre. There are various shots of the crowds and of the banners on display, while Charlton describes the history and types of banner to be seen. 

Interview with Joe Gormley (President of the National Union of Mineworkers from 1971 to 1982), whose face now features on the South Hetton Colliery banner.

The parade continues down Silver Street in Durham "where the Bishop's mint used to be", to the County Hotel on Old Elvet, which is a focal point of the parade. Here, the union leaders, invited guests and local dignitaries greet the march from the hotel balcony and the bands pause to play what is known as their “party piece”, before marching to the Racecourse where political speeches are made. Interview with Barry Hall, the hotel manager, about the atmosphere in the hotel. General views of the official guests on the balcony and the crowds below.

Archive footage of the Gala is intercut with interviews with Bella Robinson and her husband Kit, former Easington Lodge Secretary, who remember the day when the Easington band marched with the banner draped in black to commemorate the 81 miners who had been killed in an explosion underground in May 1951. Archive newsreel footage of miners and officials gathered at the pithead after the accident follows. Interview with another ex-miner. 

The next sequence alternates black and white stills of the crowds picnicking at the old racecourse field and today's crowds. Interview with woman who talks about the great harmony of the people involved in the Galas.

The official party arrives including Jim Callaghan, Joe Gormley and Arthur Scargill. Scargill makes his speech to the crowds. This is intercut with black and white archive footage of past speeches, including Tony Benn, Harold Wilson, Joe Gormley, Barbara Castle and Jim Callaghan. Interview with Callaghan who remembers his first Gala in 1953.

General views of a marching band. The interview with Sid Chaplin continues about the celebrations that went on all day in Durham and later on in the individual clubs in the pit villages. The bands march into Durham Cathedral for the special Gala service. Interview with Archdeacon Stranks about the history of the Church's connection with the Gala, especially Bishop Westcott, a former benefactor. Black and white archive film of a service in the Cathedral and the Gala crowds follow.