With Banners Held High on May 11 – Wakefield’s trade union march will mark 40 years since miners’ strike

With Banners Held High, one of the fastest growing festivals of trade union and working-class culture, is back for its ninth year on Saturday, May 11, in Wakefield

What was originally planned as a one-off event back in March 2015 to celebrate the courage and resistance of mining communities at the end of the year-long strike has now become a special occasion in the trade union calendar.

The organisers said: “The aim of With Banners Held High is to remind people what it feels like to stand together, as a community, and believe in something better. That purpose is clearly shown in the painted words and the stitched images in the colourful fabric of trade union banners: ‘united we stand, divided we fall’, ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’, ‘united we bargain, divided we beg’.

“Working together to improve our working lives is trade unions’ bread and butter. But if that’s not for you just yet, then don’t worry. This festival is for everyone, to celebrate our culture and remember our history.

“So come along come and join us for this special day.”

Timeline of events

The event starts with a march through the centre of Wakefield. People will assemble behind the bands and banners at 10.45am and march up Wood Street at 11.30am where a rally with music and speakers takes place outside the Town Hall between noon and 4pm.

The With Banners Held High banner will be at the head of the march with historic miners’ banners immediately behind. The bands taking place in the march are Emley brass band, Crofton Silver band and the PSC Samba band.

The event is reminiscent of what used to be a regular feature of Yorkshire life – the annual miners’ galas organised by the Yorkshire region of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

In 1984 the Yorkshire Miners’ Gala was held in Wakefield during the year-long strike. The Sheffield-based photographer, the late Martin Jenkinson, captured the size and energy of the event with his photos for the Yorkshire Miner.

50,000 miners and their families assembled behind their banners and marched with their brass bands playing to Thornes Park to hear the Yorkshire NUM President Jack Taylor and the MP Dennis Skinner deliver their defiant speeches.

This year’s WBHH has the theme ‘Remember the Miners’ strike: Defend the Right to Protest’ and speakers will show how those momentous events forty years ago connect with trade unions’ struggles today.

Speakers include Chris Kitchin, NUM General Secretary, Heather Wood, Women Against Pit Closures, and Chris Peace from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Other confirmed speakers are Dave Ward General Secretary of the CWU, Mattieu Boole-Reddat, General Secretary of the French CGT, Jo Grady of the UCU and John Trickett, MP for Hemsworth. Sharon Graham, General Secretary of UNITE has also been invited.

Music and entertainment will be provided by Attila the Stockbroker, Joe Solo and Sally Cinammon.

Ian Clayton will compere again this year – as he has, in his inimitable way, every year since the event started in 2015.

As well as the rally there are also plenty of stalls with food vendors, campaign groups and artisan products. Children’s activities have been organised in the Town Hall where historic NUM banners will also be on display alongside a slide show of NUM banners presented by Past Pixels.

Organisers said: “It should be great a day! Dust off your banners, check you have poles and comrades to carry them and come and join us With Banners Held High.”

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