This film is part of Free

Downstream Through Durham

Banners and brass and North Country quilters: just some of the working class traditions and crafts encountered on a trip along the River Wear.

Amateur film 1957 33 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


A retired 1930s dance band musician takes a meditative trip along the River Wear. On a tireless mission to promote the picturesque and resourceful rural North East, he films Amy Emms, who crafts Durham quilts of real beauty, fluorspar miners at Blackdene in Upper Weardale, and the Durham Miners’ Gala, an annual political event that was ‘bigger than Christmas’ in its 1950s heyday.

The first Miners’ Gala was held on August 12, 1871, in Wharton Park, Durham. The event began as a campaign by Northern mine workers to lobby pit bosses, who met regularly at the Royal County Hotel to set wages. Always a political rally as well as a celebration of men who contributed so much to the nation’s wealth, it attracted quarter of a million people at its peak. Left-wing politicians and trades union leaders still cheer on the parade of brass bands and banners that present ‘a colourful tapestry of working class history’ when gathered at the old Durham Racecourse.