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Gala Day (1963)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Durham, early Saturday morning. Preparations are in train for gala day. Workers build temporary structures and policemen set out crowd barriers. Gradually the day begins to take shape as people begin to arrive on the scene.

A train pulls into the platform and a crowd of young women and men spill out of the station. Also arriving are bandsmen and women in their crisp uniforms trimmed with braid, carrying huge brass instruments, like belly drums, trumpets and trombones. The band members hand out music sheets and tune up. In the city the massive banner of the National Union of Mineworkers is unfurled and raised on poles.

Afternoon: the gala is in full swing, led by the brass band, followed by miners who march behind their banner. Young people link arms and dance; children fool around; an old grizzled man pulls faces.

In another part of the fair, Hugh Gaitskell and George Brown address a political rally. An older, more sober crowd listens to rousing speeches about the welfare state, the human condition and social justice.

The day goes on. The crowds are now deep waves of humanity, filling the main street, thronging the rides and the entertainment tents, dancing, eating, running down grassy slopes towards the parade and hanging out of the windows watching it all.

Come the evening, faces stretch with sadness and fatigue. The parade now files into the cathedral and a column of priests in their white vestments solemnly walks down the central aisles. The cathedral is packed with people and echoes with the sounds of the service.

Elsewhere a pair of lovers make love in the woods, observed by a man with binoculars. A youth is chased and arrested by policemen to the cheers of bystanders. The bandsmen pack up their instruments. People make their way home. Children play cricket with the litter that covers the ground.

Darkness falls. Young men and women throng the bars and penny arcades. Somewhere a jukebox plays a spiritual version of a popular song (song: "I can't stop loving you"). Finally, it is pitch dark. People sing and laugh as they make their way home.

Early next morning people dismantle the tents; the fairground is empty. Refuse men clear the streets. A man gazes over the fence at the denuded tents and in the distance we hear the sound of the band playing the Socialist anthem, The Red Flag.