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Prebends Procession

Part 1 Project 2011
Alastair Speak
Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne UK
‘When one thinks of County Durham, the things that immediately spring to mind are Durham Cathedral and the Coalmines.’
(The coal miners of Durham. Norman Emery. 1992.)

The Gala was the highlight of the miner’s year. From early morning along the narrow lanes and byways of Durham’s rolling countryside, small groups of miners and their families were moving towards the city, proudly behind the colourful banners, expertly painted.

Each lodge had a banner that was set up on its poles as the crowds disgorged from the carriages on arrival to Durham City Station. Most lodges came with a band, and they would march under the shadow of Durham Castle, and up the Silver Street to the market place, where Gaetomo Marti’s statue of Londonderry, the colliery owner, dominates the space. Banner after banner passed him by on its way to the Elvet, bands playing, and the footpaths lined with crowds of people. On the balcony of the County Hotel, leading figures of the Labour Party and trade union movement would wave to the marches. Onward the banners and crowds marched to the racecourse, in a seemingly endless procession. When all the lodges were present, the field was bordered with painted, fluttering silk. In the afternoon Durham Cathedral hosts the miner’s service, which includes the blessing of any new banners.

The proposal involves an extension to the procession. A place for a ceremonial event where the delicate, loved pieces of art are rolled prior to being stored or exhibited for the public eye. There will be provisions to socialise and converse, to research and admire, and to remember and reminisce. The proposal will also cater for the conservation of banners that date back to 1892.

The site is currently occupied by a public garden that sits within the cathedral grounds, alongside the city wall. From here views may be obtained through the wooded land, to the heavily rowed River Wear that wraps the peninsular. The proposal is sensitive to the sites heritage, dissecting the plot in order to maintain such use.

Alastair Speak


Mr Benjamin Elliott
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