Durham Moot: Sunday 12 July 2015

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Palace Green Library, Durham

This July, tens of thousands of people again will gather behind bands and banners at the Durham Miners’ Gala. At a time when we are told there is a disconnection between politics and people, the “Big Meeting” remains an impressive occasion and today stands as a significant expression of the importance and resilience of community.

Historically, though, the Gala fulfilled many functions, among which was its role as a place for debate. The Gala traditionally was a space for thinking aloud about how to make a more just, egalitarian and better society.

Such a space has never been needed more, especially in the North East. The political, social and cultural challenges facing the communities from which the Gala has drawn its strength have never been greater.

In the aftermath of a General Election in which there was a widespread sense that the big issues were not discussed and that the language of debate was further coarsened, the case for remaking a space for debate is strong.

On Sunday 12 July, Durham Book Festival and Durham Miners’ Association, in association with Palace Green Library and The People’s Bookshop, are joining forces to create such a space for thoughtful discussion.

We’ve called it Durham Moot. Why Moot? It’s an old English word that, in its adjectival form suggests something subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty, and as a noun refers, historically, to an assembly held for debate or a regular gathering of people having a common interest. It captures usefully what we are trying to achieve.

Come, let us reason together.

Durham Moot programme: Sunday 12 July 2015

All sessions chaired by Professor John Tomaney, UCL

1pm-2.15pm: Community & Generations

How are our communities faring? What is a good community, and what can we learn from the past about communities? What can the generations learn from each other?

Speakers include Heather Wood, Easington Action Group; Dave Temple, National Union of Miners; Julia Heslop, Durham University.

2.45pm-4pm: Democracy

The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta points to the long struggle for democratic rights, but we live in an age when there is widespread disillusion with politics. How did we reach this state? What kind of democracy do we want? What kind of democracy is possible? What are the rights of the citizen? How are these rights defined, framed and asserted?

Speakers include Owen Jones, journalist and author of The Establishment; Simon Henig (Leader, Durham County Council); Dr Christian Liddy, Durham University and academic curator of Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt exhibition at Palace Green Library.

4.30pm-5.45pm: Conversation and Culture

How should we communicate about our needs and aspirations? How are our lives and communities reflected and debated in the local and national media? How can we create a productive public conversation about the future? The North has a rich tradition of indigenous cultural production, but who is consuming and making our art and culture?  Is the culture that we produce representative of our region and its people?

Speakers include Ian Wylie, editor, Northern Correspondent; Alex Niven, assistant editor, New Left Review; Sean O’Brien, poet; Ros Rigby, performance programme director, Sage Gateshead; Richard Benson, author (The Valley; The Farm).

All sessions take place in Palace Green Library. Tickets cost £6/£4 concessions for each session, or £15/£10 concessions for the whole afternoon. Book online at

Following a day of lively conversation, we hope you will join us for an after-party in Vennels Yard organised by The People’s Bookshop. Headliners The Kets will be joined on the bill by Dennis, The Ree-Vahs!, Joe Solo and Chloe Lawton.Tickets cost £5 and are available from The People’s Bookshop. The party starts at 5.30pm. See for more details.