Marching with pride as With Banners Held High returns to Wakefield during TUC festival

The With Banners Held High March makes its way through Wakefield. Pictures: Simon Hulme
The With Banners Held High March makes its way through Wakefield. Pictures: Simon Hulme

Historic miners’ banners were carried with pride through the centre of Wakefield for the first time in more than three decades this morning as trade unionists came together to reflect on past battles and the challenges ahead.

Cheers and applause from onlookers greeted the procession which marched off from Wakefield Cathedral following a blessing by the Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs.

Read more: Pit banner parade to return after 30 years

It marked the opening of the fourth With Banners Held High (WBHH) festival and the culmination of the week-long Collective Spirit Festival sponsored by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) for its 150th anniversary.

WBHH committee chairman Martyn Richardson said: “It’s my understanding this is the first time that a banners march has taken place in Wakefield since about 1986.

"It was an integral part of how people within the trade union movement expressed their collectivity.”

He said he had been keen to have not only contemporary unions represented, but also the miners’ unions and action groups that were once at the very heart of cultural life in West and South Yorkshire.

Read more: How the miners’ strike changed the trade union movement

“This morning when I walked outside and saw the array of National Union of Mineworkers’ banners, a smile immediately came on my face,” he said.

“It was absolutely buzzing, just what we wanted.”

The day’s programme is continuing with brass bands, performers and guest speakers, including Labour deputy leader John McDonnell MP, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett.

Mr Richardson said the hope was to turn the annual Banners festival into Yorkshire’s answer to the Durham Miners’ Gala and it felt like they were on the way.

Read more: Spirit of mining celebrated at With Banners Held High festival

Other events during the Collective Spirit Festival included an evening of spoken word poetry, music and film; a banner-making workshop, and an exhibition at Wakefield Cathedral.