The traditional Durham Miners’ Gala, which typically attracts a crowd of 200,000 people, has been cancelled four months before it was due to take place due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) said the decision to pull its annual event, known as the Big Meeting and which features pit banners and brass bands parading through the streets, was taken to relieve the burden on public services.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has regularly spoken at the gala in recent years, and it is one of Europe’s largest trade union events, bringing thousands to listen to speakers on the Old Racecourse, as well as families enjoying fairground rides.
The DMA said previously only world wars and two national strikes have prevented the gala from going ahead since the first was held in 1871.
Its 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.
The 2020 Durham Miners' Gala has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 #coronavirus crisis. We have taken the decision early to relieve public services in the months leading up to this yearâs @DurhamGala.— Durham Miners' Association (@DurhamMiners) March 18, 2020
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“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.”
He said the gala would be back for 2021 – its 150th year.