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WOMENS WORDS

Durham Miners' Gala 2022: WRN Banner and Presence

Written by: Liz Panton


This year’s Durham Miners Gala was set to be the biggest of modern times, with more banners and brass bands taking part than at any time since before the Miners’ Strike. Diane Jones, member of WRN Newcastle Shoppers, arranged for several women’s organisations to attend this year's Miners' Gala and march in the procession with their banners.


WRN Newcastle Shoppers and WRN Northern Coven (otherwise known as WRN North East & North Yorks) cover the same geographical area from Co Durham up to the Scottish Border east of the Pennines. We decided to club together to get a WRN banner made for the Gala, rather than just walk behind banners from other organisations.


WOMEN WITH BANNERS

Many women's organisations marched together in the procession with their banners.



And, of course, the Women's Rights Network




MEETING OTHER WOMEN

This was a wonderful opportunity for WRN members to meet each other in real life and for some it was the first time they had met other WRN members. We also enjoyed meeting women from the other organisations who joined us on the day.

Cheryl (Newcastle Shoppers) and Leigh (Northern Coven aka NE & NY) carried the WRN Banner





Despite WRN's being the smallest of the women's banners, the strong contrast of the white foreground image and white lettering on a black background, plus the height of the banner on the hand-held flag-poles, made our name, "Women's Rights Network", visible and legible - even in a large crowd at a distance.


THE MARCH

The marching bands and the organisations with banners started marching from 8:30 am, this year from three set locations. Everyone queued, banners raised, moving slowly along one of the routes to the main procession from Market Square to The County Hotel. This was a slow stop-start procession, as each group stopped outside the County Hotel.


There are lots of videos on Twitter showing the size and noise of the procession and crowd:





We gathered from 10:30 - 11:00 in the market square, joining the end of one stream of marchers, and it was 12:30 before we reached the County Hotel. Here, labour movement leaders, invited guests and local dignitaries greeted the march from the hotel balcony and the bands paused to play their “party piece”. This part of the procession took a few hours to pass the County Hotel due to the huge numbers attending and the frequent pauses at the hotel."

From the County Hotel the procession moves on to the Old Racecourse, where the "Big Meeting" started at 1:00.


CAMPAIGNING AND RECRUITING BY THE BANNER

The stop-start nature of both the lengthy queue to join the procession, and the procession itself, meant that there were plenty of opportunities to talk to members of the public who came to look at the banners. We were also cheered on by women in the crowd lining the street, who called out in support as we passed by.


Some women approached us who were interested in joining WRN, either already aware of WRN or wanting to know more about us. Diane had designed some small slips for us to print at home to hand out at the Gala. These were more convenient and discreet than the printed A6 WRN fliers.

Jane (Newcastle Shoppers) is on the WRN Leaflet Group and is going to revive the proposal to print WRN "Business Cards". These would have been even more convenient to hand out and we can see them being useful at other mass gatherings.


OPPOSITION TO OUR ATTENDANCE

There probably would have been none, if we had not been directed by the Gala marshalls to join the end of the queue right behind the "Intersectional Anarchists". We, along with the Labour Women's Declaration, followed the instructions of the Marshalls, not realising where that would lead us.


We got a few nasty stares but were rescued by Emma Dolan from Leeds Spinners. Emma had spotted the problem before we did and asked the Marshalls to direct all our women's banners to the end of the other queue, for our safety.


These "Intersectional Anarchists", and a handful of members of major political parties, expressed their fury on Twitter about "TERFs" being at the Gala. It is disappointing to see other women being so angry about the presence of women who want to uphold women's rights. It is notable that at least some the women objecting to our presence also promote prostitution, so their opposition would be more accurately described as coming from female Men's Rights Activists rather than "feminists". The most antagonistic messages on social media were posted by people who were not at the Gala or even from Durham.


Estimates of attendance at the Gala range from 150,000 to 200,000. Only a very tiny minority of people objected to our presence - and only a few of those were actually at the Gala. Whether this will blow up into anything more serious before the next Gala, we have yet to see. We are aware that we have relevant support locally.


Overall, WRN and all of the groups marching with us were received warmly and we had many friendly conversations with other marchers and members of the public.


BANNER DESIGN, MATERIALS, CONSTRUCTION AND PRICES


The Logo

Obviously, it was important to use the WRN Logo. There are three choices from the image files stored in the WRN File Share area:

  • black background

  • white background

  • transparent background

The black background gives maximum impact. However, only the white and transparent background image files were 300dpi print-quality resolution. This is being rectified by the artist and WRN. Also, for digital printing on an object this size, a different type of file is required. Obtaining a digital file of the right type was the most difficult and lengthy part of the process. WRN is aware of this and is planning to make things easier for members in future.


The Artwork

I designed the artwork with the logo as large as possible, offset to the right and raised above the midline. This was for three reasons:

  1. I anticipated that the mesh would be lightweight enough that the banner could also be used as a flag and the off-set to the right would maximise visibility of the logo. In fact, the mesh is too heavy to function as a flag.

  2. The off-set to the right emphasises "moving forward" rather than a static, centred position.

  3. It leaves some space to the left and underneath the logo that could be used to customise the banner, eg. by using velcro or glue to attach the name of a local WRN Group or a particular campaign.

The Banner

The banners are 4ft x 2ft lightweight PVC mesh. For printing material this size, without blurring, you need to supply a vectorised PDF file. The nearest I could manage was an SVG file and it was not good enough. Eventually the banner company produced the artwork for me to my design without charging extra. HFESigns were extremely helpful with both the artwork and chasing the courier to ensure delivery in time to use the banners at the Miners Gala.


Most companies advertise banners of this type and size at between £20 to £25 including VAT. However, there is a catch: they have a minimum value for orders, ex VAT, which can be anything from £50 to £70. Rather than pay a surcharge for thin air, I bought 4 banners from HFESigns in Burton upon Trent for £71.75.

Cost per banner: £17.93


The Side Poles

The side poles are lightweight, telescopic, aluminium, hand-held flag poles. Only the top parts of the pole are extended in the photo above. These poles measured 178cm (70 inches) when fully extended, and 76cm (30 inches) when retracted. Diameter approximately 25cm (1 inch). Each hand-held flag pole has two clips for attaching 5ft x 3ft or 3ft x 2ft flags, with a rubber grip handle on the bottom end and a silver finial ball on the tip.


There are several specialist flag companies in the UK. I used The Flag Shop. You might be able to get better ones cheaper elsewhere.


The only thing that concerned me about these flag poles when they were delivered was whether the fixings would be strong enough to hold the mesh banner. I do not know, yet, if they would be because I reinforced the top fixings. The bottom fixing is not designed to fit eyelets so I passed a carabiner through the eyelet to attach the banner to the fixing.


These poles are advertised at £16.98 each and "All products include VAT and Free UK Delivery". This is misleading. When you get to the check-out you find that the price advertised excludes VAT. I paid extra for next-day delivery as standard delivery would have risked them not being delivered in time. I bought four poles, to make up two banners, one for Newcastle Shoppers and one for Northern Coven. Total cost was £74.87.

Cost per banner (2 poles): £37.43


Pole Holsters

If you are carrying a heavy flag or banner you will do yourself a favour by using a pole holster. You can buy these from marching band suppliers and they cost about £30. For this lightweight banner, I improvised with belt-worn "mini treat bags" used in dog training. From Pets at Home: £2 each. Cost per banner: £4.00




Total Cost

Mesh banner = £17.93, two side poles = £37.43, and pole holster = £4.00.

Total cost per banner: £59.36


IMPROVEMENTS PLANNED

We plan to improve the banner by adding top-bracing to prevent sagging. First thoughts are to use light-weight extendable/telescopic plastic or metal rails for hanging net curtains, attached to the poles and the central eyelet.


We are also going to experiment putting two banners back-to-back so that the logo is visible from all angles. However, there might be a "ghost image" showing through from one side to the other. If this is successful, it would increase the cost of single banner to £77.29


An alternative, if you were starting from scratch, would be to order banners printed on both sides. However, this is unlikely to be successful using mesh. The reason for using mesh rather than a solid fabric is to reduce wind resistance and weight whilst retaining strength. As well as making it easier to control the banner, this puts less strain on the flag-poles and the fixings.


SPARE BANNERS FOR SALE

Newcastle Shoppers and Northern Coven have a banner each. If we decide not to use a second banner to construct a double-sided banner then I might have two banners for sale (without flag-poles). Cost would be about £20 each including postage.


CREDITS

Many thanks to

  • Diane for organising us to attend Durham Miners Gala and designing "recruiting slips"

  • Leigh and Cheryl for carrying the banner

  • Everyone who came along to walk with the banner

  • Nancy Detchon, Sandra Robinson and Eggen for helping source graphics files for the art-work

  • Members of Newcastle Shoppers and Northern Coven for offering to chip in to pay for the banner and flag poles.

Not forgetting Molly and Sasha for being such good dogs throughout!





Report by Liz Panton

WRN Newcastle Shoppers

WRN North East & North Yorks (Northern Coven)





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