‘Pride’, released on 12 September, has already won critical acclaim. It’s the story of how the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) group brought solidarity from their community to the miners of South Wales during the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-5. Waltham Forest Left Unity member Ray Goodspeed was an activist with LGSM and contributed his experiences to the scriptwriters. We asked Ray some questions about the film and LGSM.
How did you get involved in the project?
Mike Jackson, who was secretary of LGSM, has kept the flame alive since the end of the strike. He kept all the minutes, posters and documents relating to LGSM. They’re now at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. Mike is a friend of mine and I’ve done bits and pieces in the past, speaking at meetings and writing articles. The film’s writer, Steven Beresford, tracked Mike down after watching a film called “Dancing in Dulais”, which was made by LGSM. My involvement started there.
Can you explain a bit about the process? Did the writers use dramatic license?
Steven initially met with Mike and they got on well. A number of us then met Steven. He told us that he wanted to use our story but that it would be fictionalised and if we weren’t okay with that we could drop out. But Mike trusted him and we did too. We related our experiences, showed him photos to help him get an authentic feel, and explained why it was such a significant part of our lives. But until the first screening we hadn’t seen the script. That was part of the deal. You can imagine the trepidation! Interestingly all the jokes and comedic scenes are based on real events, but the writers introduced elements of conflict, in order to further the story, that really weren’t an issue at the time.
How did LGSM come about?
It was a time of sharp polarisation in society, when the only important question was whether you were for the miners and their communities or for Thatcher and her oppressive state machine. There was a sense of shared suffering at the hands of a common enemy. Lesbians and gays faced police repression and draconian interpretations of archaic laws. So when Margaret Thatcher called the miners ‘the enemy within’ it was quite clear which side we should take.
At the same time many of the original founders of LGSM were already politically active. We knew that the miners’ struggle was of huge significance for the British working class so we felt it was vital to build support for the strike.
What was the impact of LGSM?
We became the largest single donor to the Dulais Support Group, organising a major benefit concert and other fund-raising events and support meetings, where miners, and particularly the women of the community, attended and spoke to thunderous applause. LGSM members were caught up in the violent police attacks on a miners’ demonstration in Whitehall in early 1985. The 1985 Pride march was led off by miners’ banners, and the influence of the NUM, previously one of the most sexist and dismissive of unions, was crucial in changing Trade Unions Congress and Labour Party policy on lesbian and gay rights.
Why do you think the film has struck such a chord?
I think the anniversary of the strike and the death of Thatcher has brought the miners’ strike back into focus. But more importantly the brutal cuts imposed on working people under the guise of ‘austerity’ have polarised society once more, and brought into question the legacy of that period and the whole neo-liberal project. For this reason I think the film is incredibly timely.
What message do you think viewers will take away from it?
The film is extraordinarily political. The Tory press hates it of course! There is depth and complexity to the characters, and it evokes a real sense of the spirit and principal of solidarity. But at the same time it’s a potential blockbuster with worldwide appeal. That’s certainly what the producer and distributor, Pathé, are aiming for. I hope the film plays a small part in rediscovering this sense of solidarity.