Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Built On The Huge Achievements


The Durham Miners’ Hall, otherwise known as Redhills, is in urgent need of repair – and UNISON branches can help to save this incredible part of UK working-class history.

For more than a century, Redhills has been the home of the Durham Miners’ Association, playing a central role in the lives of the people of the Durham coalfield. 

During the Second World War, it hosted the Pitman’s Parliament in the main hall (pictured above). Today, the grade II listed building needs urgent repairs to secure its future. 

The aim is to raise £5m through grants and donations, to return it to the community as a centre for education, culture and heritage. 

Former miner, care worker, UNISON president and Blaydon MP Dave Anderson is chair of Marras Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala and ambassador for the Redhills Appeal.

“With the addition of new buildings, modern facilities and cutting-edge audio-visual technology, Redhills will demonstrate what trade unions can achieve, and serve as a beacon for the entire movement,” Mr Anderson said.

“We have secured the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Durham County Council. But we need the support of trade unionists to raise the remaining funding.” 

Without it, he adds: “Redhills could still be lost”.

Urging UNISON branches to make a donation, Mr Anderson said that doing so would mean they “played an important part in ensuring that the long and proud story of the Durham miners does not end, and the lessons of history are not forgotten”.

There is still a way to go in order to reach the match funding amount that will ensure a grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, so every branch contribution can make a difference.

UNISON’s campaign fund committee and the Northern Region have already made contributions to the appeal. Northern Region’s regional secretary Clare Williams said:

“The Miners’ Hall in Durham has been recognised by Historic England as one of the 100 irreplaceable buildings in our nation. But for our movement, it is so much more – the home of the Gala or ‘Big Meeting’ and a monument to the struggle our predecessors fought to improve the lives of working people.

“Decisions taken in the council chamber led to the development of a welfare state, well before Beveridge. It was here that working people took control of their lives and built a platform for the trade union movement and engagement in political life.” 

Ms Williams continued: “Supporting the renovation and redevelopment of Redhills will provide a beacon for our movement in the 21st century – an inspiration for a new generation of activists, built on the huge achievements of those who have gone before us, and deliver a living, positive venue for a wide range of educational, political and cultural activity that will be a huge asset to our movement.”

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