Recent release Pride is based on the real story of solidarity between the LGBT movement and the miners during the great strike of 1984-85. Andy Fenwick reviews this uplifting film that is full of joy and sadness in equal measure.
Since seeing the trailers for the movie Pride, I had been eager to see this retelling of the miners’ strike from the perspective of the support groups. The trailers had promised a comic story pitted with despair.
The recent release of Pride is the real story of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), which was set up during the 1984-85 miners’ strike by members of the LGBT movement in London. This solidarity group raised over £11,000 for the striking miners, which is the equivalent of a magnificent £33,000 at today’s prices.
Inevitably, the film focuses on the LGSM. But when it portrays the miners’ strike, it is through rose coloured spectacles. This is natural, as memories of those who participated in such a long strike are filtered to remember only the “good times”, and the humour of the struggle lives longer after the wounds have healed.
The producers of this film could have shown the real brutality of the state and the hard times the families of miners suffered. Even films such as Billy Elliot show more of the horror that miners went through than this film does.
To make the story go further, it was necessary to restructure the facts. For example, in one scene, the NUM (National Union of Miners) headquarters are shown to refuse money from the LGSM group due to supposed prejudices on behalf of the NUM. The reality is that the NUM could not accept money from any groups, as its funds had been seized by the Thatcher government – but this fact would not have fitted the film’s narrative based around the clash of cultures.
At the time, support groups up and down the country worked hard collecting money and raising awareness of the strike. All the money was going to individual lodges. In doing this, strong links were built up between mining communities and support groups, which spurred the groups to double their efforts.
This general effort from across the labour movement and the wider public is not shown in Pride. For example, when the support group is collecting on the streets, all we see is hostility from the public, not the overwhelming support that was given. Even the accounts of those from LGSM activists themselves prove this depiction of hostility towards the miners in Pride to be wrong.
The film is layered with multiple threads affecting the gay community in the 1980s: a young man coming to terms with his sexuality in a hostile family; the spread of AIDS; homophobic attacks and a repressive Tory government, which leads to one of the best lines in the movie: “Miners and gays suffer from the same attacks from the police, the press and the Tories; the only difference is Mary Whitehouse”.
But the main theme is how the LGSM members are accepted by a Welsh mining village, which is used as an allegory for the changing attitudes towards homosexuality within society as a whole.
For anybody around in the eighties the sound track is familiar, as it is littered with sounds of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Bronski Beat, but union songs have their place also with a beautiful and powerful rendition of Bread and Roses.
This review may seem rather critical of Pride; but this is only because I do not want a sugar-coating of history. This is an enjoyable story; and within a capitalist society, where giant media conglomerates control the mass media, it would be impossible to get an accurate documentary of 1984-85.
This is shown by the power of the Murdoch press. In one scene an article in a newspaper is headlined “perverts support the pits”, but the producers were cowardly in not showing the paper’s title. This abuse was printed in The Sun, which now would like to distance itself from the rabid homophobic attitude of its past.
If you want to have a good night out, I would highly recommend Pride. But do not see it as a truthful representation of labour history, despite the ending of the film on an enjoyable high.