Skip to content

Pride

November 13, 2015

PrideMy definition of a good film is one that makes me cry. This film, made me cry.

We in the Labour Movement too often forget that ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’

The gays and the miners both suffered oppression from the police and needed to stand together. But when asked to support the miners, the gays dropped out – one of them grew up in Durham and was bullied by miners on the way to and from school. Masny miners left their working men’s club when the gays came.

One uniting factor was the uplift from gay disco music which prompted a celebration of life in the midst of such oppression. My favourite music from the period.

A joke was – we don’t mind the lesbians and the gays but we don’t want anyone from North Wales.

The homophobic old woman confessed to her new lesbian friend – ‘Jesus, I’m pissed.’

AIDS rears its ugly heard towards the end – as if Thatcher-bitch wasn’t enough.

Then, gay pride became a ‘celebration’ which did not want to involve struggler – that’s when it went wrong, in my opinion.

The real hero of this vision which this film celebrates is Mark Ashton was born in Oldham, and later moved to Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland He studied at the former Northern Ireland Hotel and Catering College in Portrush, before moving to London in 1978. Richard Coles wrote about this period: “Mark also worked for a while as a barman at the Conservative Club in King’s Cross, or, rather, as a barmaid, in drag, with a blonde beehive wig. I was never sure if the patrons worked out that he was really a man”.

In 1982 he spent three months in Bangladesh visiting his parents, where his father was working for the textile machinery industry. The experience of his sojourn had a profound effect on him. Upon his return, he volunteered with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and joined the Young Communist League. In 1983 he featured in the Lesbian and Gay Youth Video Project film Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts, an early documentary that won the Grierson Award 1984 for Best Documentary.

He formed, with his friend Mike Jackson, the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group after the two men collected donations for the miners on strike at the 1984 Lesbian and Gay Pride march in London.

After LGSM, he became involved in the Red Wedge collective and became the General Secretary of the Young Communist League from 1985 to 1986.

Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Ashton was admitted to Guy’s Hospital on 30 January 1987 and died 12 days later of Pneumocystis pneumonia. His death prompted a significant response from the gay community, particularly in publication and attendance at his funeral at Lambeth Cemetery. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

The ballad “For a Friend” in the album Red from the Communards was written in his memory. Mark Ashton was a friend of Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles. Mark Hooper of The Rough Guide to Rock writes that this cut may be Somerville’s “most impassioned moment”. For a Friend reached number 28 on the British charts.

Ashton’s membership of the Young Communist League was not mentioned in the film to avoid alienating American audiences.Shame on you!

 This film was inspired by an extraordinary true story. It’s the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person. As the strike drags on, the two groups discover that standing together makes for the strongest union of all.

George MacKay is Joe, a just-turned-20 mummy’s boy on the brink of coming out who finds himself shaking a bucket for the miners in 1984 at the insistence of gobby Mark Ashton and his friends at London’s Gay’s the Word bookshop. Insisting that anyone demonised by Thatcher is a comrade-in-arms, Mark launches the inelegantly named Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (“it’s a support group, not a skiffle band”) and heads off to Onllwyn, a mining village in the Dulais valley, which seems to view “gays” and vowels with equal suspicion. Cue much La Cage aux Folles-style culture-clashing between the macho miners and metrosexual activists, mediated by theatrical luvvie Jonathan, who busts some outre disco moves with oddly unifying results.

Despite hefty donations, many of the miners and their wives remain frostily hostile to the incomers amid growing anxieties about Aids (these were the days of Greater Manchester police chief constable James Anderton’s “human cesspool of their own making” tirades, and apocalyptic “public health” campaigns more concerned with stonemasonry than safe sex).

The title “Pride” comes to mean different things for the film’s characters. For some, it’s pride in their achievements; for others, it is pride in who they are or what they have become. Each actor gets to play a riff on this.

In the UK the film received a 15 certificate by the British Board of Film Classification for “occasional strong language” and two scenes of a sexual nature; one scene in a gay club where men are depicted “wearing ‘bondage’ clothing”, and a comedic scene where some of the characters discover a pornographic magazine in a bedroom.

In January 2015, it was reported that the cover of the US DVD release of the film makes no mention of the gay content. A standard description of “a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists” was reduced to “a group of London-based activists”, and a lesbian and gay banner was removed from a photograph on the back cover.

The takeaway message of “Pride” is that meeting someone of a different race, gender, orientation or status is a lot more informative, honest and enriching than experiencing them from the error-prone safe haven of a TV set’s depiction or favorite website’s description of them. In doing so, one can make a difference for oneself and the world at large. We are not that different from one another, and we could use all the help we can get. This too can be seen as a clichéd message, but it’s one I wouldn’t mind repeated on infinite loop until everybody believed it.

The song ‘For a Friend’, which is heard playing over the end credits was actually written for the real life Mark Ashton. It was written and performed by The Communards, whose members Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles were both friends of Mark.

The UK government had already decided to close the coal mines long before the 1984 strike, as the industry was no longer considered profitable. Many believe the strike was only fighting against the inevitable. Almost twice as many coal mines had closed under Harold Wilson (1964-70, 1974-76) than under Margaret Thatcher.

In the film, the LGSM group chooses a pit in South Wales randomly. In real life, the group had deliberately chosen the South Wales area as it disagreed with the NUM leader Arthur Scargill’s funneling of donations to the most militant mining areas of Kent and Yorkshire, which left South Wales neglected.

[Giving a Speech in a Gay Bar] Dai: I’ve had a lot of new experiences during this strike. Speaking in public, standing on a picket line, And now I’m in a gay bar.

Jonathan: Well, if you don’t like it, you can go home.

Dai: As a matter of fact, I do like it. [Crowd Ooh’s] Beer’s a bit expensive, mind. [Crowd Laughs] But, really, there’s only one difference between this and a bar in South Wales. The women. They’re a lot more feminine in here. [the Crowd Laughs and Cheers] What I’d really like to say to you tonight is thank you. If you’re one of the people that’s put money in these buckets, if you’ve supported LGSM, then thank you, because what you’ve given us is more than money. It’s friendship. When you’re in a battle against an enemy so much bigger, so much stronger than you, well, to find out you had a friend you never knew existed, well, that’s the best feeling in the world. So, thank you. [the Crowd Applauds and Cheers Dai and LGSM]

Dai: Where are you from?

Gethin: Rhyl, originally.

Dai i: [Hefina, Dai and Cliff turn serious] No, no way.

Heflin: [to Johnathan] Listen, we don’t mind the gays, and the lesbians, that’s fine. But don’t you dare be bringing people from North Wales down here! [an awkward silence follows and they all laugh]

[singing in The Van Driving to Dulais] Steph, Stella, Zoe: [to the Tune of “Solidarity Forever”] Every woman is a lesbian at heart/Every woman is a lesbian at heart/Every woman is a lesbian at heart…

Reggie: You can’t possibly say that every woman is a lesbian.

Zoe: Why not?

Reggie: Because they’re not! Esther Rantzen isn’t a lesbian. My mum is not a lesbian.

Stella: How do you know?

Reggie: How do I know my Mum’s not a lesbian?

Ray: What he’s trying to say is, you can’t make grand, sweeping generalizations. It’s not acceptable. [beat]

Steph, Stella, Zoe [Resumes Singing] Every woman is a lesbian at heart/Every woman is a lesbian at heart/Every woman is a lesbian at heart/Including Reggie’s Mum!

[while Dancing in the Lodge in Dulais] Jonathan: God! I miss disco!

[Talking to the receptionist of a Record Company] Receptionist: There are no gay artists on this label. I’m sorry.

Mark: They don’t have to be gay. That’s the point. This is a coming together of all different people… [Phone Rings, The Receptionist Answers and Shoo’s Mike and Mark Away] [as They Leave the Building, Mark Runs Off to the Side]

Mike: Zoe What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? [Mark is Writing on the Wall Underneath Two Posters]

Mark: That’s the number for Gay Switchboard. You never know. One of them might need it one day. [the Two Posters are Revealed to Be of Soft Cell and Elton John]

[as Mark Leaves to Go to The March] Mark’s Crotchety Old Neighbour: I’ve spoken to the council about your deviant parties.

Mark: There’s no need to do that. Knock on the door, we’d let you in.

Mark’s Crotchety Old Neighbour: They’re sending a policeman!

Mark: Oh, I do hope so.

Bromley: I’ve never met a lesbian before

Steph: Really? I’ve never met anyone who irons their jeans.

Bromley: I live at home.

Steph: No shit! Is that where you got that lovely brooch? [Bromley Hastily Removes a “Happy Birthday” Pin]

Bromley: That’s embarrassing. It’s today.

Steph: What are you? Ten?

Bromley: I’m twenty.

Steph: I wouldn’t go spreading that around. [Bromley Looks Confused] You’re illegal, darling. Sixteen for the breeders. Twenty-one for the gays. Did you learn nothing on that march? You’re *still* a minor.

Bromley: Jesus!

Steph: Victory to the Minors.

Reggie: Nobody said anything about hiding who we are.

Mark: Yes, they did. You.

Reggie: I just think if everybody takes it easy on the…

Ray: Flamboyance.

Reggie: We’re more likely to fit in.

Jonathan: I’m sorry, just to be clear, when you say “flamboyance”, you mean gay. And when you say “everyone”, you mean me.

Mark: Jonathan.

Jonathan: Good. It’s just I haven’t spoken 1950s in quite a while.

Hefina: What the hell do you think you’re doing?

Carl: Just talking to Kev about something.

Hefina: You can talk to Kev any day of the week. Get over there and find a gay or a lesbian right now.

Carl: Look, Hefina, I’ve shaken their hands, I’ve bought them a pint. See? I don’t wanna labor the point, do I? I might, you know, give them the wrong impression.

Kevin: Right.

Hefina: [Sarcastically] Oh, Right. Because you’re so bloody irresistible, is that it, Carl Evans? [Seriously] Listen to me, I’ve seen you dancing round my backyard with no clothes on since you were this high, and I can tell you right now, these gays have thrown better away.

Hefina: [laughing while holding a dildo in one hand and a gay magazine in the other] Jesus God that takes me back!

[Explaining Why Lee and Carl Have Been Illegally Arrested] Jonathan: A police officer has the right to stop you if – that’s the important word here – *if* he has reasonable grounds to believe a crime is gonna be committed.

Dai: Are you absolutely sure about this?

Jonathan: Police harassment, dear. I could set it to music.

Sian: And if he does?

Jonathan: Then he must formally charge you within 24 hours of that arrest. But reasonable grounds means concrete evidence that can stand up in court. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like the look of you. That’s the same whether you’re standing on a picket line or trolling down Clapham High Street in full drag.

Joe: The thing is I’m actually from Bromley.

Mike: Well, don’t worry about that. We’re a broad church.

[Snooping Around Jonathan and Gethin’s Spare Room] Hefina: What I want to know is… [Pulls Out a Pink Dildo]: What’s this? [Hefina, Sian, Margaret, Gwen and Gail All Start Laughing]

Sian: Hefina! Put That Back Immediately!

Hefina: That’s nothing. Here, look what else I’ve found.

Margaret: You never went under his bed! [Pulls Out a Gay Porno Mag, Women Start Laughing Harder]

Hefina: When was the last time you saw anything like that, huh? When? When? [Cut to Gethin and Jonathan Trying to Sleep in Their Room, Women Hysterically Laughing Coming in from the Other Room]

Jonathan: Don’t those women ever sleep?

[Cut Back to The Women in The Spare Room]

Hefina: Jesus God that takes me back! [Hysterical Laughter Continues]

return to the home page

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: