It is fair to say that the 1980s were not easy years for anybody concerned with social justice. This was the decade of riots in Brixton and
Liverpool and of the Labour Party being torn
apart. It was also the decade of the miners’ strike of 1984 – 1985 as hard pressed
communities fought against Margaret Thatcher’s pit closures. For anyone
interested in the background of that strike there was an excellent summary in
the New Statesman Magazine earlier this year –
Those communities were eventually worn down, most deep mines were closed and almost 150,000 jobs were lost.
This is the back cloth for Pride, a film written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. It is the true story of an unlikely alliance between a group of Lesbian and Gay activists and a small mining village in the welsh valleys. The L and G group led by Mark Ashton see a synergy between the oppression experienced by them on a daily basis and the way that the striking miners were treated by the establishment. They decide to help and go on to establish Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and adopt the small mining village of Dulais. The group eventually became one of the biggest contributors to the miners’ cause. It was not an easy alliance. A small mining village in the 1980s was certainly not ready to welcome the LGSM. One local bigot contributes to a press story about ‘pits and perverts’. The phrase is brilliantly stolen by the group as they put on the Pits and Perverts Benefit Concert headlined by Bronski Beat, a real event from December 1984.
The drama and the humour of the film develop as two very different communities begin to work together for a common cause. The script is sharp and witty, particularly when the middle aged welsh women grill the LG group about their lifestyles –
‘Is it true that lesbians are….you know…all vegetarians?’
And to two gay men –
‘If you live together as husband and wife which one…..does the shopping?’
There are many sub plots within the groups as they get to know and accept each other. It is a wonderful film and one which should be seen by anyone who wants to understand how oppressed people feel and live; and laugh and sing! There are great performances throughout but particularly from Ben Schnetzer as Mark, Faye Marsay as Steph and also from Bill Night and the ever brilliant Imelda Staunton.
In one of my earlier blogs I talked of the need to move away from talking of equal rights as an issue. I said that we needed to see the real people behind the discussion.
How timely therefore that this film comes along and demonstrates the humanity of a group who were marginalised as 'perverts' but showed a humanity way beyond their peers.
Alongside the humour and the great 80s music is the tragic story of Mark Ashton. He is the young gay communist who inspires and leads the group and who sadly died in 1987 from AIDS aged just 26. He is an unsung hero of his age who merits more attention than he has been given. On his death Jimmy Summerville of Bronski Beat and the Communards penned a moving tribute – For a Friend –
If you see no other film this autumn please go and see Pride. It is a great night’s entertainment and will change many people’s ideas of the LGBT community. For many it will also shed a new light on the miners’ struggle in the 80s.