Miners' leaders have welcomed a decision by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, to speak at this weekend's annual Miners' Gala in Durham.
He is the first leader to attend the event since Neil Kinnock in 1989. Tensions between the party leadership and the union movement led to John Smith, Tony Blair (whose constituency was Sedgefield in County Durham) and Gordon Brown to snub the celebration, which attracts up to 100,000 people each year.
Neil Kinnock was the last Labour MP to address the Gala:
Organisers of the 128th Gala are expecting up to 50 bands to march through the city on Saturday, accompanied by around 70 banners.
Among the new banners at this year's march will one from Felling, Gateshead, which was unveiled on Friday by the former socialist Labour MP, Tony Benn. Children from Lingey Primary School helped create it, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Felling Pit Disaster in 1812, in which 92 people died.
- 8.30 am to 11.00 am: Banners are marched through Durham to the racecourse
- 12.15 pm: Speeches begin (include Ed Miliband, Tom Watson MP & Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty)
- 3.00 pm: Service at Durham Cathedral
- 5.00 pm: Screening of 'Will and Testament', documentary about Tony Benn, plus questions, at Gala Theatre
The Gala, often known locally as 'The Big Meeting', dates back to 1871, and is the largest trades union gathering in the country. At its peak, 300,000 people attended, more than the population of Durham itself. It continues despite the closure of all of County Durham's deep coal mines.