The spirit of Durham's mining communities lives on. Although it is nearly two decades since the last colliery in Durham ceased production - Easington in 1993 - the trade union banners of dozens of the area's coalmines are proudly preserved by community-based banner support groups.
Every pit had a trade union branch. Every branch had a banner.
The weekend saw dozens of them raised for the historic march through the city to the Big Meeting, one of Europe's largest regular labour and trade union gatherings. More than 100,000 usually gather for the event.
Every year two or three new banners appear. Some are existing banners which have been found and restored, others are newly created banners replicating ones which have disappeared.
The new banners are marched into Durham Cathedral where more than 1,000 people witness the "blessing of the banners" by the Bishop of Durham.
The ceremony usually involves only banners from the Durham coalfield. This year there will be an exception - the new banner of the Women Against Pit Closures Movement (WAPC).
WAPC was born as the 1984-5 miners' strike against pit closures ran on from weeks to months, and it became clear that the struggle would be longer, harder and more brutal than the miners' strikes of 1972 and '74 which ended in clear-cut victories for the National Union of Mineworkers.
A group of women met in Barnsley and organised a women's rally in the town's civic hall for the end of May. Word spread round Yorkshire and other coalfields and 5,000 women turned up.
Anne Scargill, one of the founders of Women Against Pit Closures, says: "We were all marching to the civic hall with our placards and banners. The police said we couldn't go in with them. We said: 'You what? Who says?' We just marched past them and went straight in with our placards and banners."
After the rally women set up community support groups. There were 140 pits on strike, and around 1,000 miners at each pit.
Thatcher's Tory government had laid its plans well. Benefits to strikers had been axed, single miners had no income at all.
The support groups established kitchens serving hot meals and distributing food parcels. Outside the pit communities, hundreds more support groups collected food and raised money to supply the kitchens.
The rally also led to a new wave of political action by women through the launch of the National Women Against Pit Closures movement.
WAPC united women from the individual groups and from all the coalfields. The development involved Tony Benn and Betty Heathfield from the Derbyshire coalfield.
Delegates from support groups as far away as Scotland, south Wales and Kent met women from other areas at regular meetings in Sheffield, organising collective action.
Women began picketing, speaking at meetings and rallies. A rally in London in August was attended by more than 20,000 women.
Political involvement in the strike changed the personal lives of many women for ever.
"Before the strike some women never went out without their husbands," says Scargill. "Some had never been out of their pit village."
Betty Cook, whose leg was broken on the picket line, says: "I went to speak at a university. I'd never been to a university. I wasn't sure if you had to genuflect."
Later, in her fifties, she graduated from Sheffield University herself.
Nor was the work limited to Britain. Coalfield women travelled across Europe, to the US and Russia, speaking and raising funds.
Common wisdom has it that if it had not been for the women's action the strike would have foundered by October 1984. Instead it was maintained for another five months.
The end of the strike did not mean the end of WAPC. Its work went on. Links had been established with the women of Greenham Common.
Another wave of action came in 1993-4 when the Tories unleashed their final attack on the coalmining industry, selecting for closure a further 30 of 50 remaining coalmines and pledging to privatise the rest.
WAPC established "pit camps" at five threatened coalmines.
Four women conned their way onto an underground pit visit at Parkside colliery in Lancashire. Once underground they refused to leave, occupying the pit.
Their action put an international spotlight on the struggle of the women and the miners. When the women emerged into the sunlight after five days underground thousands were waiting at the pithead to cheer them.
Although the British coalmining industry is today reduced to five deep mines, the work of WAPC continues.
The movement has links in Cuba, raising funds for medical equipment and other materials denied to Cuba's people by the US trade blockade and embargo.
Other international links are maintained, including those with women miners in the US, and miners in Australia.
WAPC's connection to the National Union of Mineworkers remains strong. The group is based in offices at the NUM's headquarters in Barnsley.
When the Women Against Pit Closures Movement formed in 1984 it had a banner made. Worn by much use, it is now in storage.
Two years ago WAPC commissioned a new banner from Andrew Turner, a political artist and miner's son from West Lothian in the Scottish coalfield.
Born in June 1939, Turner's work over the last 50 years includes the creation of some of the British trade union movement's most stunning banners.
He created the last banner ever made for a new deep coalmine in the British coalfield - North Selby colliery in Yorkshire.
Painted in the late 1980s, it depicted the miners' strike - mounted police forcing a gravestone down on miners struggling to push it back, the forces arraigned against the miners: government, courts, media, police.
Traditionally each pit holds an annual open day when families visit underground and see loved ones' working conditions.
On open day the pits' union branch banners are raised at the pithead. Management at North Selby banned the banner from being raised because it was "too provocative."
Turner's work featured in the definitive book Banner Bright by John Gorman. His banners have appeared in exhibitions in France and his work has been reviewed in France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, the US, the former Soviet Union and East and West Germany before unification.
Two years ago an exhibition of his work at the National Coal Mining Museum of England at Caphouse colliery in Yorkshire attracted the museum's biggest ever turnout to such an event.
A book of 20 drawings entitled The Generals' Strike has a foreword by Dai Francis, former general secretary of the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers.
Turner has spent two years working on the new WAPC banner. As with his other banners, it has to be read, rather than simply looked at.
One face of the banner has been completed. Work on the reverse side will start after the banner has been raised in September at the unveiling of a memorial to miners who died at Allerton Bywater colliery, which in 1992 was the last coalmine to close in the Leeds area.
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