Love and Pride; When Writer Stephen Beresford Heard about an Unlikely Alliance between a Gay and Lesbian Group and a South Wales Mining Community during the Miners' Strike, He Was Determined to Share Their Remarkable Story. He Tells Rachel Mainwaring How Proud He Is of His Latest British Film, Pride

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Love and Pride; When Writer Stephen Beresford Heard about an Unlikely Alliance between a Gay and Lesbian Group and a South Wales Mining Community during the Miners' Strike, He Was Determined to Share Their Remarkable Story. He Tells Rachel Mainwaring How Proud He Is of His Latest British Film, Pride


Byline: Rachel Mainwaring

VER since writer Stephen Beresford was told the tale of Mark Ashton he has wanted to share it with the world.

EBut it was a story he barely believed himself, almost so unbelievable he thought it was a myth.

After all, surely a group of gay and lesbian activists, led by Ashton, wouldn't join forces with a tight-knit mining community to protest about the Miner's Strike in a country gripped by pit closures and political despair? But as soon as he learned about the story, and found it was true, the desire to write it has burned away at him - until it was finally given the green light by producer David Livingstone three years ago and is now about to be unleashed in cinemas for a worldwide audience.

Beresford, whose debut stage play The Last of the Haussmans, starring Julie Walters, was a critical and commercial hit at the National Theatre in 2012, says: "Most people don't believe the story when they first hear it and I was exactly the same. But a tiny bit of me thought if that's true, it's an incredible story. It was so good, I couldn't believe that no-one knew about it. But there were so many other issues and stories going around at the time, I can see why it got missed.

"I really thought it was a myth, but I was intrigued. I looked it up and found a tiny reference to it and years later I happened upon a book with a passage about Mark Ashton, which confirmed it was true. I knew then that I had to write about it.

"I did lots of research and discovered that the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners had made their own video which I managed to track down and that was the beginning. It was a long time gestating."

So, what was Mark Ashton's story? In 1984 the UK's National Union of Mineworkers began a nationwide strike in protest at planned coal mine closures around the country. The Thatcher government responded with measures that were not only tough, but frequently brutal.

Among the many groups who supported the striking miners was a group of gay and lesbian activists in London who, following the Gay Pride march in the same year, decided to raise money for the strike fund on the grounds that they had the same adversaries: the Thatcher government, the police and the tabloids.

Calling themselves Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and, unable to get their early donations accepted by the miners' union, they set off in an old minibus to a remote village in Wales to hand over the money in person. So began an extraordinary tale of friendship and solidarity, following the events of a fraught 12 months during which LGSM became one of the biggest fund raisers in the whole of the UK.

Based on these true events, Pride is a film about the two worlds colliding and then entwining. It's a rousing celebration of the alliance between two disparate groups of people who came together over their shared history of oppression, shattering prejudices and forging unlikely friendships along the way. The story is about what happens when communities stand in unity against a common enemy.

Beresford is obviously hugely excited about the film, which is released next Friday and received its Welsh premiere in Swansea on Thursday.

Unusually for a writer, he was on set every day and paid tribute to the Welsh community that allowed him to tell the tale.

"There was an awful lot of detective work to do as there was very little information available. The LGSM were young and inexperienced but I managed to track some of them down. Then I got hold of Mike Jackson, who had been the secretary and he helped a great deal. …

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Love and Pride; When Writer Stephen Beresford Heard about an Unlikely Alliance between a Gay and Lesbian Group and a South Wales Mining Community during the Miners' Strike, He Was Determined to Share Their Remarkable Story. He Tells Rachel Mainwaring How Proud He Is of His Latest British Film, Pride
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