Campaigners demand hometown memorial for pioneering gay activist and proud communist Mark Ashton

Mark Ashton co-founded Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners in 1984

Campaigners are pushing for a new memorial for gay activist and proud communist Mark Ashton in Northern Ireland, where he grew up.

A petition states: “11 February 2021 falls within both LGBT+ History Month and the centenary year of Northern Ireland and is the anniversary of the death of Mark Ashton.” It currently has more 1,500 signatures of its 2,500 goal.

While he was born in England and did much of his activism in London, he spent a large portion of his childhood living in Portrush in Northern Ireland. He was also a graduate of the Northern Ireland Hotel and Catering College.

“Paris has a garden named after Mark, London has a blue plaque for Mark, but Northern Ireland has nothing,” Jude Copeland, creator of the petition, added. “Please help change that.”

The blue plaque memorial for Ashton in London is above the Gay’s The Word bookshop near King’s Cross, where his activism group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners met to organise campaigns.

Many have posted on the petition and on social media emphasising the importance of recognising Ashton in his hometown of Country Antrim.

Ben Schnetzer played Mark Ashton in the 2014 film Pride

Mark Ashton co-founded Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) with his friend Mike Jackson in 1984. The activist group raised £22,000 for Welsh miners who went on strike to prevent the closure of coal mines under Margaret Thatcher.

The story of LGSM gained widespread recognition after the acclaimed 2014 film Pride, which told their story. Actor Ben Schnetzer portrayed Mark Ashton in the film.

Aside from his work supporting Welsh miners, he also volunteered with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and was the general secretary for the Young Communist League.

Ashton died at 26-years old of AIDS related illnesses in 1987. 11 February 2021 marked 34 years since his death.

HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust have been fundraising for the Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund to mark the anniversary of his death.