Welsh miners-LGBTQ solidarity, in film Pride and history

This video says about itself:

12 August 2014

Pride Official Trailer #1 (2014) directed by Matthew Warchus, and starring Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West.

By Luke James in Britain:

Miners bust Pride homophobia myth

Saturday 17th January 2015

Revived supporters celebrate our history

MINERS’ strike film Pride has inspired the Welsh coalfield community it portrayed to re-form their famous support group — but they want to bust the blockbuster’s homophobia myths.

Labour MP Sian James has shot to fame since the Bafta-nominated industrial epic showed her role in building solidarity with legendary organisation Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM).

Now Ms James has taken a post as secretary of the newly revived Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valley Miners Support Group.

And the two hardy bands are set to unite once more in March to mark the 30th anniversary of the era-defining dispute that sparked their relationship.

Their shared solidarity is not however as unlikely as the culture clash portrayed in Pride, according to Labour MP and miners’ historian Hywel Francis.

In the film, members of LGSM arrive in the Valleys to a frosty reception and are given their marching orders by miners after their support is revealed in the right-wing press.

But Dr Francis told the Star: “We were a highly political support group and we welcomed the relationship.

“The overt homophobia that was clear at the beginning of the film didn’t exist and neither did the meeting where that relationship was severed.”

The former miners support group chairman also dispels the idea that the groups united by accident, remembering the “deliberate, strategic attempt to build an alliance.”

And he says the Communist Party “played a big role” in uniting the two groups, especially through then-Young Communist League general secretary and leading LGSM member Mark Ashton, which was written out of the film.

However the historian is clear that Pride will have a “positive impact” on Britain’s collective memory of the 1984-85 strike.

“People will be struck by the social and political solidarity between two besieged and vulnerable groups and the lessons to be drawn from that,” he said.

“The message is a powerful one.”

Ms James believes the support group now has an urgent new task — to extend that message of solidarity to benefit claimants.

Speaking to the Star in Parliament, she said: “What’s the new group under attack?”

“I tell you who it is — it’s benefit claimants. I make no bones about that. They are the people who are belittled, derided, made to feel marginalised.”

The MP, played by Jessica Gunning in Pride, expects to have more time for that case when she follows in the footsteps of Tony Benn by leaving Parliament to spend more time on politics.

She said: “I’ve had a wonderful time in Westminster.

“It’s been an honour and privilege to serve the people of Swansea East but I want to get back to real politics, back to the issues that concern people really at a street level in Wales.”

The two Labour MPs will be reunited with lesbian and gay comrades at a special event on March 14.

Pride actor Bronwen Lewis and Dulais Valley Divas choir will be among acts performing at the Onllwyn Miners’ Welfare Hall, the site of some of the liveliest scenes in the film.

All money raised will go towards the Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund.

This video says about itself:

Pride Movie CLIP – Shame Dance (2014) – Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy Comedy HD.

Also by Luke James in Britain:

Labour’s Sian James slams US Pride DVD cover for removing gay and lesbian references

Saturday 17th January 2015

LABOUR MP Sian James has condemned the decision to remove all gay and lesbian references from the United States DVD cover of the critically acclaimed film Pride.

In an interview published today in the Star, Ms James criticises the marketing for the movie which tells the story of solidarity between miners and lesbian and gay socialists.

The original poster showed members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) marching past Parliament with a banner bearing their group’s name.

But the banner was edited out of the scene for the cover of DVDs released in the US earlier this month.

Director Matthew Warchus defended the decision last week on BBC Radio, calling it clumsy but valid.

“I think someone in the marketing department in the US used their marketing judgement to try to remove any barrier to the widest possible audience,” he added.

But Ms James, played in Pride by Jessica Gunning, told the Star: “I just think it was bad judgement full stop.”

She has received fan mail from all over the world — including the US — since she was portrayed in Pride, which received three Bafta nominations last week.

She also spoke to the Hollywood press about the story behind the film when she travelled to the Toronto film festival.

“It was a silly thing to do because the sort of response the American public have given it has been absolutely fantastic,” she said.

“I think that was creating problem where there wasn’t one.

This video is called Pride Featurette – Real Life Inspiration (2014) – Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy Comedy HD.

Also by Luke James:

Pride: The Story Behind the Film

Saturday 17th January 2015

The Bafta-nominated film Pride tells a heartwarming story about the solidarity built between lesbians and gay men and striking miners during the great strike of ’84-5. Real-life activists behind the events Hywel Francis and Sian James tell the Star’s Luke James about their memories of how their struggle really unfolded

FRUSTRATED with watching Margaret Thatcher’s war on the miners from afar, Mark Ashton flicks through a well-thumbed phone book.

After finding “somewhere northern, industrial,” he calls to offer desperately needed cash for the strike fund but is cut off at the first mention of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.

So the rejections continue — until he dials the number for Onllwyn Miners Welfare Hall and, to his relief, hears kindly grandma Gwen.

The rest is history, as told by Pride, which was last week nominated for Bafta’s Outstanding British Film.

Well, not quite.

“There was a phone call,” says Hywel Francis, then chair of the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valleys Miners Support Group.

“It was from the Communist Party to me as a member.

“The Communist Party played a big role in this, Mark Ashton in particular as general secretary of the Young Communist League.

“It was not an accident as the film portrays. It was actually not contrived but worked at, building an alliance of this kind.”

Details like that, however, do not make for a fairy tale start to a film that was meant to awaken a new audience to the power of an old concept — solidarity.

Speaking to the Star in his parliamentary office, seated in front of a photo of his father, Welsh miners’ leader Dai Francis, he’s not bitter about the compromise, saying it will have a “positive impact” on perceptions of the period.

“Mark Ashton’s politics should have been more evident,” he says.

“But I’m a historian not a scriptwriter, so I can understand why he (writer Stephen Beresford) did it for dramatic effect. They have licence to do that.”

As a historian, Francis equally has licence to distinguish between events invented for dramatic effect and the real lived experience of miners, their families and supporters through the historic 1984-5 strike.

He’s recently been poring through minutes of local Miners Support Group meetings as well as records of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and plans to publish a new chapter of his book, History on Our Side, in March.

“The film has focused the minds of historians about the need to have a proper history of that period,” he says.

Francis is particularly keen to set the record straight about one thing: “There was no hostility to the link which we established.

“We were a highly political support group and we welcomed the relationship,” he adds.

“The overt homophobia that was clear at the beginning of the film didn’t exist and neither did the meeting where the relationship was severed.”

Sian James, who’s central contribution to this solidarity story was portrayed in Pride, admits plainly though that “it was a real clash of cultures.”

“We had gay men and women visiting who lived very exotic lives in comparison to us. They dressed differently, some of them were very flamboyant,” James remembers.

That clash is really rammed home in Pride’s trailer, which opens with the words: “In a small Welsh mining village deep in the valleys, the locals are about to get the surprise of their lives.”

I ask if, beyond the sartorial, there’s an implication in the film that Ashton and fellow LGSM members were responsible for importing socially progressive ideas to south Wales?

James says their new comrades “didn’t educate us politically, because that was already there.”

She explains that they instead “opened our eyes to something we’d found very easy to ignore in the past — that a lot of other groups were getting it bad.

“All of these people were interesting and different but we had one thing in common, we were all socialists and we all hated Margaret Thatcher.

“That’s what I took from people coming in.”

If the start of this inspirational story was not as accidental as it seemed, the spark for the latest chapter certainly was a coincidence.

The 2013 funeral of Miners Support Group secretary Hefina Headon, played by Imelda Staunton in Pride, brought James and Francis back together with LGSM stalwart Mike Jackson at the very time the film was being shot.

Without each other knowing, both support groups had been planning to re-form for the the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike.

Now they’re planning to reunite and party like it’s 1985 at the Onllwyn Miners Welfare Hall.

The parties held at the hall during the strike inspired the title for Dancing in Dulais — the name of LGSM’s documentary of the period — and the raucous disco scene in Pride, which sees Jonathan Blake, played by Dominic West, wowing the women and winning over the men with his dance moves.

Francis promises that the reunion, with tunes provided by Dulais Valley Divas and Pride star Bronwen Lewis, will “be just like a night during the strike.”

Those events reimagined by Pride, which has undoubtedly made the miners’ strike real and relevant to a new generation, will continue to be contested.

Official history books will document that the strike to save the pits was lost — but there’s no doubt that, 30 years on, the two groups and their incredible solidarity story is helping to write the people’s history of that strike.

Links established in 1984 between mining communities and Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) are still strong, and the film Pride continues to inspire, as Dave Lewis of LGSM reports.

The Star digs into the archives to reprint here HYWEL FRANCIS’S article from autumn 1984 marking the landmark first conference of the Wales Congress in Support of Mining Communities: here.

MANCHESTER’S LGBT community hit back yesterday at an attack by the region’s Ukip MEP on proposals for a sexuality education project: here.

The Women Against Pit Closures movement was a pillar of strength supporting the 1984-5 miners’ strike against closures. It also changed many women’s lives for ever. Betty Cook, from Barnsley, was one of them, as she reports: here.

27 thoughts on “Welsh miners-LGBTQ solidarity, in film Pride and history

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  18. Monday 7th September 2015

    posted by Morning Star in Britain

    FORMER Labour MP Sian James has revealed that she only has one regret about leaving Parliament in May — not giving more Tories a piece of her mind about the miners’ strike.

    Ms James made the confession in O’r Streic i’r Senedd, a new documentary about her journey from picket line to Parliament to be broadcast this Wednesday on Welsh-language channel S4C.

    Politicised during the 1984-85 miners’ strike, she went on to represent Swansea East between 2005 and 2010.

    The leading role she played in the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valleys Miners’ Support Group, and its unique tie with Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), was portrayed in Pride.

    Despite the Bafta-winning film making her one of Labour’s best-known MPs, Ms James insisted she “never saw Westminster as journey’s end.”

    But she said: The hard thing for me was seeing people I’d stood against during the strike — members of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet — and having promised myself I’d give them my opinion, given the opportunity, and not getting the chance to do so.”

    O’r Streic i’r Senedd sees Ms James reunited with Mike Jackson and other members of LGSM.

    Looking back, she said: “I can’t look upon the strike as a defeat because I gained so much and what I learned — the values — have become the bedrock of everything I’ve done politically ever since.”

    The documentary will be broadcast in Welsh with English subtitles on Wednesday at 9.30pm on S4C, available across Britain on Freesat and Sky. It will also be available at http://www.s4c.cymru.



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