London 1984, a group of gay and lesbian activists led by Mark Ashton founded a group they called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). Quickly noticing that the gays and lesbians in London faced similar oppression and shared some of the same enemies as striking Welsh miners—Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the police and the press—LGSM began to collect money to support the miners. Directed by Matthew Warchus, this British film tells the story of two seemingly different groups coming together and supporting each other. They face threats and overcome their own prejudices, resulting in lifelong friendships.
On March 6, 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) went on strike. Margaret Thatcher had begun preparing for the dispute with the miners when the Thatcher Government implemented the Ridley Report. Written in 1978, the Report had outlined recommendations for defeating national strikes. Power stations were converted from coal to oil firing and transport companies were encouraged to hire non-union drivers. Also, in 1983, Thatcher appointed union buster Ian MacGregor to the National Coal Board. She referred to the striking miners as the “enemy within.”
It was announced on March 1, 1984 that Cortonwood Colliery in Yorkshire was going to be shut down and 20 other pits were on a “hit list” totaling around 20,000 jobs. Word spread, and quickly more than half of Britain’s 187,000 miners were on strike. Thatcher cut benefits for the strikers and their families and designated special police squads to go after picketers.
At the same time Thatcher was stripping the miners of their rights, she was charging forward with an anti-gay agenda, including the passage of Section 28, which prohibited schools from teaching acceptance of homosexuality. Mark Ashton had a passion for supporting all people who struggle and believed that everyone depends on each other in a community. Recognizing that the miners and the gay and lesbian community had a common enemy in Thatcher, Mark formed Lesbains and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). In the documentary All Out! Dancing in Dulais made by LGSM, Mark says, “One community should give solidarity to another. It is really illogical to say, ‘I’m gay and I’m into defending the gay community but I don’t care about anything else….’”
In an effort to embarrass and shame LGSM and the Wales miners, the British tabloid, The Sun (published in the UK and Ireland) wrote an article about their alliance calling them “Pits” and “Perverts”. Deciding to take ownership of this title and advantage of the publicity, the miners and LGSM had the biggest fundraiser of the entire year—a concert they called “Pits and Perverts” that raised £5,650.
On March 3, 1985, NUM voted to end the strike and go back to work. A few months later London’s Gay Pride parade was led by LGSM and the miners from Wales in a show of solidarity. Mark Ashton died in February 1987 shortly after being diagnosed with AIDS; he was 26. Most of the group remains friends today, and in May 2015, after Pride was released, they led London’s Gay Pride Parade together again. When LGSM and the Wales miners viewed Pride they were extremely touched, seeing the film as an accurate portrayal of their story.
BBC News. N.d. “1984: Miners Strike over Threatened Pit Closures.” Web.
Kellaway, Kate. 2014. “When Miners and Gay Activists United: The Real Story of the Film Pride.” The Guardian, August 31.
Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. 2012. “All Out! Dancing in Dulais.” YouTube website.
Doward, Jamie. 2014. “The Real-life Triumphs of the Gay Communist behind Hit Movie Pride.” The Guardian, September 20.
Mulholland, Ciaran. 2004. “1984–85 Miners’ Strike, Britain.” Socialistworld.net, September 4.
South Wales Evening Post. 2015. “Three Decades After the End of the Miners’ Strike We Ask Swansea MP Sian James How Should It Be Remembered?” March 2.
Clews, Colin. 2012. “1984. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Part One.” Gay in the 80s, September 10.
Doran, Tom. 2013. “Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy on Gay Rights.” The Daily Beast, April 8.
Henderson, Odie. 2014. “Pride (Review).” Roger Ebert.com, September 26.