After winning the Queer Palm award at the Cannes film festival, Pride (2014) grossed over £3.5million at the UK box office in its first month.[i] With such a reception, it was inevitable that Pride would come to be a widely known film showcasing the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners’ (LGSM) group. Much has been written as to the representation of historical events in this film, and there is a clear acknowledgement of the importance of cultural representation and memory in the making of Pride.[ii]
Pride is a film that attempts to showcase the history of a seemingly unusual alliance between ‘a group of London based lesbian and gay activists’ and the striking mining community of Dulais.[iii] The film begins focusing on one young man, Joe Cooper (later referred to as Bromley) going to the Gay Pride Parade in London. In starting this way, Pride locates itself within the British Gay Liberation politics, a movement that attempted to ‘eradicate the stigma and shame from the identification of being gay’.[iv] Bromley here, though, is only 20 years old, and thus not legally able to consent to homosexual intercourse. Although secondary to the main plot of the film, it is an acknowledgement of the disparity between homosexual and heterosexual ages of consent.
The other key element of the film is the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. Having started in reaction to the planned closure of 20 mines, and thus the loss of 20,000 jobs, across the North of England and South Wales, this became one of the longest disputes in British industrial history.[v] Mining communities across South Wales lost their income; combined with the increasing police presence and, in some cases brutality, on picket lines across the country, the resilience of the miners and their family was stretched.
Pride finds itself at this intersection, with leader of LGSM Mark Ashton, arguing that the police’s arresting of miners reflected what the gay and lesbian community had experienced for many years. Early in the film, Ashton answers the question ‘Who hates the miners?’ with ‘The Police, the public and the tabloid press. Sound familiar?’.[vi] This demonstrates the connection Ashton saw the gay and lesbian community having with the miners, and the motive of what would become LGSM in their actions of solidarity.
Despite being a cinematic piece, there are a number of elements that make Pride historically accurate. The ‘Pits and Perverts Benefit Ball’ at the Electric Ballroom, Camden is an example of the film’s incorporation of actual events into its storyline. The use of Bronski Beat’s song here, ‘Why’ links Pride’s representation of the Benefit Ball to the actual events where the band played in 1984. Doing so brings another dimension to Pride – it attempts to bring the historical events to life for the audience in a way that is as accurate as possible within its remit.
Real media footage of miners clashing with police, especially at the ‘Battle of Orgreave’, is also included in Pride. Using this near the beginning of the film gives the audience a way of locating the events within this widely seen imagery of the time, and in popular memories of the Miners’ Strike. This also places the majority of the audience in a similar position to the characters that would form LGSM as, for most of them, this was the only way they had seen the Miners’ Strike whilst living in London.
Pride does well in its representation of the different groups, debates and problems within LGSM and the gay and lesbian community of the early 1980s more broadly. A sub-plot to the film which is most notable at its end is that of the difficult position of lesbian women within LGSM. Here, this is seen in the decision made by some lesbians to create ‘Lesbians Against Pit Closures’ separate from LGSM as a way of creating a lesbian-only, non-confrontation space.[vii] Despite this splintering, they still marched ‘alongside LGSM and the mining communities’ in 1985, showing that many groups still worked together at national events, as they did in the film.[viii]
Finally, Pride carefully integrates the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Although not the centre of the film, there is continual reference to the fear of HIV/AIDS both within the gay community and the public more generally. For example, Maureen (played by Lisa Palfrey) refuses to house any members of LGSM when they visit Dulais for fear of catching HIV/AIDS. This very simple example demonstrates the fear of AIDS in the 1980s and the difficult position for the gay community. This is not the only reference to HIV/AIDS though; later in the film, it is revealed that one of the main characters, Jonathon, is one of the first people in the UK to have been diagnosed HIV positive. Also, whilst LGSM take some of the Dulais mining community out for the night in London, Ashton meets an old partner who himself is HIV positive, and which brings the epidemic back to the story. In these instances, both the fear and prevalence of HIV/AIDS is brought to the fore, with the realities of HIV/AIDS being shown at the end of the film with it stating the Mark Ashton passed away on 11th February 1987 after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
In LGBTQ+ History Month, it is interesting to look at films such as Pride to understand the popular memory and understanding of events in the LGBTQ+ community’s history. This film does well in bringing a coalition between LGSM and the Dulais mining community to the fore whilst also acknowledging the difficulties each community faced. The complex incorporation of historical accuracy with audience enjoyment as well as difficult topics such as police violence and HIV/AIDS demonstrates an awareness of the complex position of this history in wider understandings of the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike and Gay Pride. This film, then, serves to broaden public memory of events to better remember activists such as Mark Ashton, as well as those less politically-active and thus unnamed like Bromley, who were part, and thus shaped the history of, the LGBTQ+ community.
Amy Longmuir is a PhD History Student at the University of Reading, specialising in modern British women’s and feminist history.
All comments and opinions presented in this article are that of the author.
We have made every effort to abide by UK copyright law but in the instance of any mislabelling of images, please contact the author of the blog post
[i] ‘Festival de Cannes: la « Queer Palm » décernée a « Pride » du Britannique Matthew Warchus’, Le Soir, 23 March 2014, https://www.lesoir.be/art/553101/article/actualite/fil-info/fil-info-culture/2014-05-23/festival-cannes-queer-palm-decernee-pride-du-britannique-matthew-w, (accessed : 23/01/23) ; C. Grant, ‘Gone Girl finds gold and Dracula Untold sucks bucks at the UK box office’, The Guardian, 2 October 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/07/gone-girl-dracula-untold-uk-box-office-charts, (accessed: 23/01/23)
[ii] L. Robinson, ‘Thoughts on Pride: No Coal Dug’, Open Library of Humanities, 5(1) (2019).
[iii] N. Richardson, ‘‘What I was told about lesbians really did shock me. It can’t be true, can it? You’re all vegetarians?’: Greywashing Gay Shame in Pride’, Open Library of Humanities, 6(1) (2020).
[v] ‘Miners’ Strike 1984-1985’, Archives Hub, [website], https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/features/mar04.shtml.
[vi] Pride, 2014, Scene 1
[vii] W. Caldon, ‘Lesbians Against Pit Closures’, LGSM, [website], http://lgsm.org/our-history/243-lesbians-against-pit-closures, (accessed: 24/01/23).
You must be logged in to post a comment.