The Durham Miners' Gala developed out of miners' trade unionism, with the first Union being established in 1869. The Durham Miners' Union organised the first Gala in 1871 and it developed into the largest unofficial miners and trade union gathering in the United Kingdom . It is locally called "The Big Meeting" or "Durham Big Meeting". It is a highlight of cultural life in the North East of England.
There are no working pits left in the Durham coalfield but the Gala remains a paean to the proud political and cultural heritage of the former mining communities which are represented by colourful banners, each typically accompanied by a brass band, which are marched through Durham City to site of the old racecourse where political speeches are delivered. In the afternoon a Miners' service is held in Durham cathedral.
This year two of the trapped Chilean Miners were guests of honour and a Chilean flag was flown on the balcony from which local and national dignitaries observe the procession..