‘I feared the story of Pride could have been lost forever’

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Mike Jackson, the co-founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), tells PinkNews he’s delighted that his group’s story has finally been told to a cinema audience.

‘Pride’, one of the most celebrated British gay films in recent years, tells the real life inspiring tale of how a group of gay activists in London decided to fundraise for a mining community in South Wales during the miners’ strike of 1984-85.

In the film Mike Jackson is depicted by British actor Joseph Gilgun, best known for his roles in Misfits and This Is England.

Mike told PinkNews that Joseph has done a magnificent job of capturing his characteristics as a young man.

He said: “Joseph actually originates from a town where I come from in Lancashire so the accents were more or less spot on and we both come from a very similar background – quite poor, working-class, so he’s perfectly cast for my part and I’m really proud of him.”

Mike also praises Pride’s screenwriter Stephen Beresford. “I tell you the first time I saw that movie I just thought ‘my God Stephen has listened to every single word that we’ve said to him’ because the detail is incredible.

“I mean we are still so thrilled that this has happened because there was a great danger that the story would be lost to history forever. I mean OK yes I did keep an archive of everything that we did but it’s a chicken and egg argument – it’s no good having a historical archive gallery in a museum if nobody actually knows about the history in the first place.

Mike explained his role as secretary within LGSM, recalling how the group collected money in the streets and organised raffles for the community of the Dulais Valley pit – in the face of widespread hostility and scepticism.

“I would get on my bicycle and post sixty copies of the minutes every week to people who lived in all parts of London,” Mike said. “Collecting money was absolutely essential, that was core of what we were doing. We would collect outside lesbian and gay venues, pubs and clubs, ‘Gay’s the Word’ [and other] book shops, sometimes in Camden Town”.

LGSM’s legacy lives on today. Friendships between two different communities were made for life. Fixed attitudes shifted. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), who refused to acknowledge the support of LGSM during the strike, eventually recognised its contribution to their cause.

At the 1985 Labour Party convention in Bournemouth, a resolution committing Labour to support LGBT rights passed for the first time due to block voting support from the NUM.

“I will contend to this day that that NUM intervention was part of lesbian and gay liberation and equality”, Mike declared with passion.

‘Pride’ has many remarkable characters, and what is unusual for a film is that many are around in the present to share their account of history. They include Siân James, who went from being a miner’s wife to a Labour MP, and Jonathan Blake, a member of LGSM, depicted by actor Dominic West as having a debonair presence and raucous dance moves.

But the film also serves as a testament to those who are no longer here, most notably Mark Ashton. Mark is depicted by the American actor Ben Schnetzer as a brazen, fiery idealist who clearly sees the logic of one community helping another.

It’s not until the end credits of the film that the audience is told Mark died from AIDS around 18 months after the end of the miners’ strike in 1987. “He died incredibly quickly,” Mike Jackson said of his friend. “It was 11 days from diagnosis to death. He thought he was just suffering from asthma as he routinely did but then got diagnosed” [with AIDS].

Mike added: “Of course these days he would have been given some antiretroviral medication and that would have been it – but we didn’t have such treatment then so we lost him really quickly, really early on and it was an absolute tragedy, which is what prompted Jimmy Somerville to dedicate a song to him.”

“It’s breathtakingly realistic”, Mike said of Ben Schnetzer’s portrayal.

“It’s a bit scary actually because it’s like Mark has come to life again”.

Mark Ashton

Click here to find out more information about the Mark Ashton Memorial Fund.