Genesis cinema recently chose to host a screening of the 2014 film Pride, which is fitting considering the tumultuous political climate in universities across the country. Pride depicts the story of the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) who endeavoured to monetarily support the miners of the Welsh town, Onllwyn, in the midst of the miner’s strikes of 1984. Pride’s depiction of what the BBC described as the ‘most bitter industrial dispute in British history’, is fitting as last month students were faced with discerning how best to support those lecturers that are striking in order to protect their pensions from devastating cuts.
This screening of Pride was followed by an enlightening panel hosted by the Lesbians and Gays Support Migrants activist group. This panel featured two men who were members of the original LGSM in 1984. These men set an important example for how politically active individuals can support strikes today. Both men agreed that their motivation for supporting the strikes was largely political, the members of LGSM were tied together by their opposition to Thatcher’s Conservative government. Indeed, many of the members for LGSM were socialists – yet this is largely ignored in the film. One of the panelists – Gethin Roberts, jokingly admitted that the only two things banned from being mentioned in the film were ‘fisting and communism’.
The panelists further explained their motive for getting involved in the strikes by describing their ‘revulsion’ in light of the government’s attempt to starve the miner’s back into work. The panelists admitted to feeling a deep sense of injustice in response to Thatcher’s treatment of the miners, they reject the film’s depiction of LGSM as a group of charitable philanthropists- they were first and foremost a political group empowered by a deep sense of injustice.
Ultimately, the 142,000 miners who participated in the strike were ordered by the National Union of Mineworkers to return to work. The mining communities who populated these British towns were financially devastated. The year of miner’s strikes concluded with a decisive Tory victory, and tragic unemployment in mining communities. Yet, despite the fact the mining strikes are generally considered a devastating failure, the panellists only encouraged the audience to politically engage with their surroundings. Dave Lewis, (the other member of the panel), defiantly reminded the audience ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down!’ Roberts echoed Lewis’ call for action. Indeed, Gethin Roberts went so far as to boldly challenge the venue’s questionable moral standpoint in regards to the treatment of their employees. Roberts rightly referred to Genesis’ refusal to pay their staff the London minimum wage. It was clear through the whole panel that these men refuse to dilute their opinions or compromise their morals. The argument of the film and indeed of the real members of LGSM who were interviewed, is that winning a fight is not as important as challenging that which is immoral.
While the film documents a specific moment in queer history, it has something relevant to say about how people today fight for justice. In a revealing interview, Mark Ashton – one of the characters in the film, argues that ‘one community should give solidarity to another. It is really illogical to say ‘I’m gay and I’m defending the gay community but I don’t care about anything else…’ This film proves that even when a community appears to have nothing in common with you, we each have the responsibility to identify injustice and support those going through hardships.