Pride explores the unlikely collaboration arising from the 80s Mineworkers Strike
Writer Sarah Alexander reviews Pride, the story of an unlikely union between miners and a group of Lesbian and Gay activists in a small Welsh village
23 September 2014
Pride is the uplifting, Cannes 2014 award winning, film based on the exceptional true story of a group of gay and lesbian activists based in London who in 1984 supported the Mineworkers Strike by raising money to support their families. Although rebuffed at first, the group led by Mark Ashton, press forward with their campaign, imposing themselves on a small, rural Welsh Village and by doing so, set about blurring the lines between gender, class and sexuality. With Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party in power and the strike dragging on, the two groups realise that by standing together, against all odds, their joint union could be not only successful, but a historical victory.
The film starts with a Pathe archive clip of the speech given by National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur Scargill, followed in quick succession by another speech from the Prime Minister of the time - Margaret Thatcher. Without emotion, she addresses the nation, pointing out that “One is not here to be a softie, I am here to be a good, firm leader”. Well OK then.
After this, the Mineworkers strike was announced on 12 March and three months later at London’s Gay Pride March, activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) introduces the idea that the lesbian and gay community should be the ones to stand up and support the miners. His belief and reasoning for this unlikely union is that both groups are openly oppressed by the government and the tabloid press as we see later on they are classed as “perverts supporting the pits” by one newspaper in particular. Undeterred by the NUM’s hesitance and embarrassment of being offered help by “the gays” (as the Welsh called them) the LGSM plan meetings and make a b-line for a rural village in South Wales to deliver their support and donations in person.
Those in Support of Mark’s plan of action include fresh faced Joe (George MacKay) a recently outted Gay man from Bromley who becomes involved by accident, and a couple, Jonathan (Dominic West) who is an actor and his partner Gethin (Andrew Scott) a quiet man for whom a return to Wales holds a much deeper meaning than just offering support to Miners. They find when they reach Wales an equally entertaining set of characters including Hefina (Imelda Staunton), Dai (Paddy Considine) and Cliff (Bill Nighy).
The casting of this is perfect, almost as if the characters were fictional and had been written especially for the actor/actress presented on the screen. Bill Nighy is of course expectedly brilliant as Cliff, a mining man on strike with the rest of his kin and unsure of what to make of the LGSM team.
Imelda Staunton far from her all pink everything role as Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter, here she plays Welsh Village dweller Hefina, one of those busy body types we all know and recognise and she plays her exceptionally well. Almost nailing the accent, she engages the audience with one of the most pivotal scenes in the entire film (you will know it when you see it) and gives unnecessary but welcoming support to Cliff.
Dominic West provides an engaging and believable performance as a gay actor Jonathan split between his acting and politics and as the loving other half of Andrew Scott’s Gethin. Andrew Scott is an actor I would like to see more of after his portrayal of the psychotic archenemy of modern day Sherlock, Moriarty!
What this film leaves you with, along with a lovely warm sensation and restored faith in humanity, is a lingering thought that although we are three decades on from the NUM strike and have made significant leaps forward, the echoes of the past are not really past, they are quite unequivocally here and now. We are still a world fighting for equality, fighting against oppression, losing the battle against corrupt Governments, and live with the daily divide between the wealthy and the working class.
It has the same British film feeling as successful, feel-good predecessors like The Full Monty, East is East and Philomena. Engaging the audience, delivering solidarity, togetherness and support without being shy, pointing fingers and turning a positive into a negative.
Pride is a heartwarming, feel good film filled with humour, emotion and facts despite the reminder that bad 80’s fashion and music existed. I recommend this to both old and new generations alike.
Pride is now screening at Picturehouse at FACT. Tickets are available now from the Box Office, online and by phone on 0871 902 5737.