Centre of the Community

Following an announcement by the Chancellor George Osborne last year where he revealed his plans to stop the current NHS bursary for a student loan system from September 2017 a small but vocal group of student nurses, midwives and their supporters held a rally against the cuts in Middlesbrough this afternoon.

For the trainee nurses and midwives in the northeast region the cuts would leave them with up to £50,000 worth of debt while working up to 37.5 hours a week without a wage.

The NHS bursary previously covered course fees and helped with living costs for things such as childcare.

The rally in Middlesbrough was also attended by Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar and Labour MP for Middlesbrough, Andy McDonald.


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Images copyright Ian Forsyth

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No usage without arrangement.

The real Northern Powerhouse

More than two decades after the last pit closed in the Durham Coalfield the Durham Miners Gala or the ‘Big Meeting’ as the event is also known remains as popular as ever. The Gala forms part of the culture and heritage of the area and represents the communal values of the North East of England. The 131st gala held today saw the traditional colliery bands marching through the city ahead of their banners before passing the County Hotel and heading down to the Racecourse. In the early years of the meet those attending left their villages early in the morning and then made their way on foot to Durham from all directions but these days people either drive or arrive on buses.

Beginning in 1871 the Gala is now the biggest trade union event in Europe and many thousands of people still meet up in the market place of the city to follow their banner and pass the County Hotel on Old Elvet as they walk past union leaders, invited guests and local dignitaries who greet the march from the hotel balcony.

Once all the bands have passed through speeches are held on the racecourse. Amongst those speaking this year or joining to march with the procession (and shown in some of the pictures below) were Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall. Tosh McDonald, the president of ASLEF – The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen – and Owen Jones, a columnist with the Guardian newspaper and political activist and many more.

The contemporary artist Grayson Perry also attended. Visiting the gala as part of a documentary he is making and the actor Alun Armstrong, the son of a miner and originally from Anfield Plain in County Durham stood on the County Hotel balcony.

More importantly though than all of these guests and trade union speakers and their rhetoric are the men, women and children who attend the miners gala each year without fail and who make the event the occasion that it is. These people and the pride in the mining heritage of the region is where the real northern powerhouse is to be found: The group of ladies who arrive very, very early each year to secure the same place on the steps near the market place who start the day with strawberries and pink champagne.

To Nora Newby, a wonderful 81 year old from Chilton who has attended 60 out of the last 61 gala’s who arrives at around 6am on the morning of gala day to stand in the same spot each year. The missed year was so that she could attend her granddaughters wedding! An unfortunate tongue-in-cheek fact that she reminds (scolds) her granddaughter of often.

Former miner Billy Raine, 89, from Easington is a regular who entertains the crowds outside the County Hotel wearing his orange coveralls and miners hat as he dances and salutes as the bands perform and of course the thousands more who attend but especially the colliery bands and the former miners and miners wives who make this occasion what it is and who help create an event that continues to bring well over 100,000 people back year after year. Long may it continue.

CLICK to listen and recorded today: Gresford – The Miners Hymn

To keep the Durham Big Meet going any contributions and support are welcome through the Friends of Durham Miners Gala website.


Some of the pictures that I shot from the day are below. Enjoy Marra.


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Strawberries and pink champagne0004

Nora Newby, 81, from Chilton0005 0007 0008 0009 0010 0011

Grayson Perry0012 0013 0014 0015 0016 0017 0018

Former miner Billy Raine, 89, from Easington0019

Alun Armstrong (centre)0020 0021 0022 0023 0024 0025 0026 0027 0028 0029 0030 0031 0032 0033 0034 0035 0036

Labour MP Liz Kendall0037 0038 0039 0040 0041 0042 0043 0044 0045 0046 0047 0048 0049 0050 0051

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn0052 0053 0054

Tosh McDonald, the president of ASLEF – The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen 0056 0057 0058 0059

Owen Jones0060 0061 0062



See more of my work on my website and blogs…  HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth /  Getty Images

No usage without arrangement.

All rights reserved

Newcastle becomes United

Newcastle was very much united today as the city, its inhabitants and many others who travelled in from further afield came together to hold a counter-demonstration and march in response to a demonstration by the German based far right movement – PEGIDA. The group formed originally by a German PR agency owner called Lutz Bachmann, held its first ever demonstration in the UK and three to four hundred people attended.

The group whose name translates as ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West‘ claim to be trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.

In response, a newly formed group called ‘Newcastle Unites’ quickly put the word out and organised a counter-march and community groups, trade unionists, political figures, anti-facists, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Islamic communities and other men, women, children and families formed a three thousand strong multi-cultural group that marched through the centre of the city in response to the Pegida demonstration….


Here’s a few pictures from the day that I shot whilst on assignment for Getty Images , you can see more via the link, and I’ve broken the pictures down into 4 groups as you will see from the sub-title above each set…


Anti-Pegida Demonstration organised by Newcastle Unites

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Pegida Demonstration

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See more of my work on my website and blogs…. HERE

Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth /  Getty Images

No usage without arrangement

Degrees of separation

Middlesbrough town centre hosted two demonstrations yesterday. The first was a counter demonstration held to celebrate diversity on Teesside and also to show opposition against an English Defence League demonstration that had been planned for later the same day…


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TECH STUFF: All pictures were shot with a Leica M9 with a 50mm f2 Summicron lens and a Fuji X Pro 1 with an 18mm f2 lens (28mm equivalent on full frame). Images were edited and turned into Black and White using Lightroom 5.5 and Photoshop.


See more of my work on my website and the links to my blogs here

Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

Red Faction march against racism

Members of ‘Red Faction‘ – A supporters group of Middlesbrough Football Club held an anti-racism march in the town today ahead of their home game against Brighton and Hove Albion.

The march was organised in direct response to an incident last Saturday at the Birmingham away game when a small minority of supporters are said to have ripped up a copy of the Qu’ran. An incident that is under investigation by the Police.


Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough

Anti-racism march in Middlesbrough


Tapestry of Tradition

From early morning on the twelfth of August in 1871 groups of miners and their families made their way steadily towards the City of Durham. Like small conquering armies they headed towards the cathedral city along the small roads and tracks that snaked through the countryside marching behind heavy canvas banners held aloft by those at the head of the column. Many travelled by foot but some rattled their way towards the city on horse drawn wagons. The pitmen, whilst a little apprehensive about the welcome they might receive from the city folk, marched proudly and with purpose.

The city people were not happy that these pitmen were making their way towards their city. They were, in the eyes of those who lived within the relative comfort of the city, a race apart. Living hand to mouth in small isolated villages they eked out a meagre existence. These pitmen who lived constantly within earshot of the clatter of the winding engines and who were always covered by the ever present black dust that permeated everything they owned. Living in their small homes engulfed with the sulphurous fumes that spewed from the ventilation furnaces they were, to the city dwellers, like marauding clans. Coming to their city and taking their pleasure in ale-houses, gambling at pitch and toss or wagering on cockfights. On their way to town they poached the squire’s pheasants and game and stole turnips from his fields and if all of this wasn’t bad enough it was their smouldering discontent, which could erupt at any moment into riot, that was feared most.


These days the Durham Big Meeting is a little more sedate, if no less lively or busy. Still open to the odd pint or two being swilled and in its recent past even the odd fight or two has been known to break out. But generally speaking the Durham Miners Gala, or ‘Durham Big Meeting’ as it is called locally, is a little less violent. The winding engines have slowed to a halt. The black dust has now settled. The sulphurous fumes no longer rise into the air. Where once a hundred mines made up the mighty Durham coalfield, today, none remain.


Today, events began with many hundreds of people meeting up in the Market Place of the city. the main assembly point for the start of the parade through Durham. The colliery brass bands and banners, followed by those with allegiance to those former great colliery villages start to march from there to the cities Racecourse. As they pass the County Hotel on Old Elvet they walked past union leaders, invited guests and local dignitaries who greet the march from the hotel balcony.

The procession can take three to four hours to pass the County Hotel due to the huge numbers of people attending and the frequent pauses at the hotel. However, an amazing atmosphere of street theatre is created making the occasion more a fiesta than a march.

The bands pause beneath the balcony to play their musical ‘party piece’ before marching on the rest of the distance to the Racecourse where a platform waits for the speakers to address the crowds. There are food stalls, funfairs and rides offering excitement and thrills to those willing to have a go. Their banners, carried with pride through the city are now all secured to the surrounding fences in a tapestry of tradition and working class history that remains a source of pride and sadness for an industry lost to the people of the Durham coalfield.




Middlesbrough – Marching for the Alternative

A march and rally against public sector cuts was held on Saturday 27th April 2013 in Middlesbrough, Cleveland. The march was organised to voice opposition to the Government’s continuing austerity measures which are believed to be having a damaging affect on the economy and the people of the Northeast.