The Durham Miners Gala 2020 has been cancelled due to the Covid 19 coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 Big Meeting would have been the 136th Durham Miners Gala to have been held, and have marked the 149th year since it first began.
However, despite the Durham Miners Gala 2020 still being some months away, the Durham Miners Association (DMA) made the decision now not to hold it. They said their early decision was for several reasons: to relieve emergency services and public bodies from having to go through the months of planning that the Big Meeting entails, to avoid exposing people to the virus, and to give advanced notice to people who have to travel to Durham.
Durham Miners Association 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.
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"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.
"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.
"We will make sure that we make up for this year's cancellation by staging the biggest and the best Gala ever seen to celebrate its 150th year. The Big Meeting, as it is known, has a central place in the culture and history of the people and mining of County Durham. More and more people come each year despite the last colliery having closed in 1993. We will continue to organise this most spectacular and important event. We will not see it fade."
Everyone who has booked camping at the official Gala campsite will be refunded over the coming days.
County Durham's 60 banner groups, who raise money to bring the bands and banners in to the Gala, will be stood down and will not meet until it is safe, and brass bands throughout Durham have already been instructed by their own associations not to practice or perform while the virus circulates.
The Durham Miners Gala has only previously been cancelled during the world wars and two national strikes since the first was held in 1871.