The best "unlikely allies" story you've probably never heard.
September 27, 2014 1:02 AM   Subscribe

"Pride", a critically-acclaimed new film given a limited release in the US today, tells the true story of how a small group of LGBT activists became the biggest fundraiser for the year-long British coal miner's strike of 1984-85. The miners faced a pre-meditated, organized, thuggish, dishonest, deceptive, and illegal surveillance and smear campaign by the Thatcher government, which froze all mining union funds, cancelled their unemployment, and denied food and housing welfare to their wives and children, in an attempt to starve them out. For the first time, the British government trained Britain's police into a paramilitary force, bused in at great expense and in great numbers to overwhelm the protesters, using violent, repressive, and corrupt tactics against non-violent protesters, with prolonged police detentions and the indiscriminate arrest of over 11,000 British citizens. The government was supported by the rightwing tabloid media, who used sensationalist, crude headlines to shape public opinion. LGBT activists reclaimed one such headline as the name of their most successful benefit. Although the miner's strike was broken by the Thatcher government, the miners kept their promise to support the LGBT community, by marching alongside them at the front of London's 1985's Pride parade.. Later that year at the Labour Party conference, a motion was tabled that supported adding equal rights for gays and lesbians as part of the Party's platform. This motion was opposed by Labour's executive committee, but the motion went to a vote – and passed, thanks to the votes of the National Union of Mineworkers and their allies.
posted by markkraft (33 comments total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
For the sake of clarity, I have nothing to do with the makers of "Pride", but did win a pair of tickets to see an advance screening of it from Gofobo. (I go to a couple such screenings every year, with mixed results.)

The story was completely new to me, and led me to dig further into the history of the coal miner's strike and the LGBT organization which supported the miners.

The movie, btw, is every bit as good as the reviews would lead you to believe. I was stuck between cheers and tears at the ending of the film, which is a real rarity for me... and for films in general. It's not only one of my favorite LGBT films ever made... it is also my favorite film ever about unions, and my favorite comedy of the last several years.

Pride is aptly named, indeed. It points to the absolute need for all oppressed groups -- which still includes gays and lesbians, and absolutely includes today's working class -- to stick together for basic human(e) rights, and to defend against their common enemies.

It truly is a wonderful film, to the extent that it's a small miracle it ever got released as a major picture at all. If you want this movie to get a wider release and the attention is deserves, I would go see it, soon. Bring friends, even!
posted by markkraft at 1:17 AM on September 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

The tabloids weren't the only ones to shape public opinion through smearing: the BBC was caught taking video footage of police attacking miners and reversing the order of events, so it showed miners throwing stones at the cops and the cops then charging them, instead of the truth.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:37 AM on September 27, 2014 [14 favorites]

posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:24 AM on September 27, 2014

Great post, thanks markkraft!
posted by evil_esto at 3:55 AM on September 27, 2014

I rarely post thanks or anything on here but this is an awesome post.
Thank you for the time taken to make something smart and interesting.
posted by debord at 4:21 AM on September 27, 2014

Awesome post! Thanks!
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:12 AM on September 27, 2014

Anyone interested in the historical background to the film should read Diarmaid Kelliher's excellent article, 'Solidarity and Sexuality: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners 1984-5' (History Workshop Journal, Spring 2014). Apart from anything else it's great to see a recent academic article made available for free, not just hidden behind a paywall.

I haven't seen the film, but from all accounts it's made a real effort to be historically accurate, though one or two people have pointed out that it plays down the left-wing politics, apparently for fear of alienating American audiences:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the change in attitudes in recent decades, it wasn’t the LGBT but the socialist theme that people had an issue with.

A major US distributor went so far as to abandon the project entirely because it deals with socialism and from an early stage the crew were advised not to use the word “communist” under any circumstances or there’d be stiff opposition to marketing the film in the US.
The film also avoids naming the Murdoch-owned Sun as the newspaper responsible for the notorious headline PERVERTS SUPPORT THE PITS. I'm sure this reticence has nothing whatever to do with the fact that 20th Century Fox happens to be one of the film's UK distributors.
posted by verstegan at 5:45 AM on September 27, 2014 [13 favorites]

It's embedded in one of markkraft's links above, and clips from it appear in the trailers for Pride, but in case you missed it, here's the original LGSM documentary from the 80s.
posted by ceiriog at 7:03 AM on September 27, 2014

Excellent post.

Just wondering, do they still run bus tours to Thatcher's grave so you can contribute a full bladder to the scenery? It might be on my to-do list whenever we get to England.
posted by Ber at 7:23 AM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Fantastic post, *stands and applauds* Seamus Milne's The Enemy Within: Thatcher's Secret War Against the Miners is an excellent resource for this.
posted by marienbad at 7:57 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amazing. I knew nothing about this, and am definitely adding "Pride" to my must-see list.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2014

I was living in Yorkshire for a lot of the strike period and I knew nothing about this. Thanks for this post.
posted by immlass at 8:55 AM on September 27, 2014

Thank you for this wonderful post. I look forward seeing the movie.

A tiny request (hopefully the mods will agree to it if you ask them to); for the sake of clarity changing the phrase ' motion was tabled' to 'motion was introduced'. In the the US to 'table a motion' means to remove it from consideration, but in the UK it means to put it up for consideration. The word has directly opposite meanings in the US vs UK. Using it international context (with US and British speakers) tends to be confusing.
posted by el io at 9:08 AM on September 27, 2014

much of the world's english tends to inherit the British meaning, I find.
posted by cendawanita at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2014

Seriously fantastic post - looking forward to exploring the links / seeing the movie.

(Also, I'm American, and never picked up on the different usages of "tabled" before this post, but it was clear enough here through context.)
posted by Nyakasikana at 9:51 AM on September 27, 2014

I found this in the yt comments to the rl documentary: When miners and gay activists united: the real story of the film Pride. And in the comments, there's a recollection from a former Nottingham miner.
posted by cendawanita at 10:03 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to see this so bad. I wish stuff like this got released in the Midwest - we have, you know, the gays here too.

Interesting though not unexpected that the politics gets downplayed. That's something I've noticed in almost all semi-popular documentation of past radical movements - their actual radicalism gets downplayed both to make them more palatable to contemporary audiences and because (I think) people just can't fucking get their heads around the idea that weird old people in the benighted past could have been as radical or more radical than we are in the enlightened present.

My union? Voted down a motion in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson. (I wasn't there and didn't get a chance to vote.) So hands up for the mine workers, who fucking knew what solidarity meant for once.
posted by Frowner at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I still snarl inwardly whenever I see Thatcher's name. I think I always will. I also snarl outwardly whenever I see some know-nothing punk who didn't live through those black times trot out some bullshit line they learned out of some bullshit books about how great she was for Britain.
posted by Decani at 11:15 AM on September 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

It takes 2 to tango. The Unions and Scargil did untold damage to the UK in those days. Rose tinted glasses are nice though.
posted by PaddyJames at 11:40 AM on September 27, 2014

Thatcher and Reagan deserved each other but the public at large didn't deserve either. You can tell a lot about a person--they're ignorant or heartless--if they admire either.

And thank you for this awesome post. One of the most disturbing things is that an elected leader should not be able to change the core functioning of an organ of government. If your agency provides support for families in need, a new minister or whatever should not be able to say "you will not support THOSE people", without a LOT of work involving input from lots of different people.
posted by maxwelton at 11:42 AM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

PaddyJames: Can you elucidate? (I have no idea what you are trying to say).

The last time I saw that phrase ('it takes 2 to tango') it was in the context of domestic abuse. I would suggest that if you have a point to make about the Union's role that you actually make the point you want to make and not just say 'they are to blame as well'.

The damage they did will continue to be untold until someone starts telling us all.
posted by el io at 12:33 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

It takes 2 to tango. The Unions and Scargil did untold damage to the UK in those days. Rose tinted glasses are nice though.
posted by PaddyJames at 7:40 PM on September 27

This is me snarling. And restraining myself, so I don't get timed-out.
posted by Decani at 1:43 PM on September 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Wow, great post. I look forward seeing this one of these days. Thanks, markkraft.
posted by homunculus at 1:57 PM on September 27, 2014

Looking forward to seeing Pride. And, also, the sooner we are rid of the glorification of Thatcher the better. She damaged the UK beyond belief and the ramifications are still with us in every imaginable way.
posted by kariebookish at 2:06 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

No, it definitely takes two to tango. It takes the government, the police, the legislature and the army on one hand, and a miners' union on the other hand, to tango. It takes Margaret Thatcher on one hand and Arthur Scargill on the other. It takes power and it takes hunger to tango, tango in this case being a verb that means a jaunty two-person ballroom dance where villages and towns are gone, strikers' families are suddenly legally excluded from welfare, and where violence is doled out by imported foreign constabularies against civilian activists. Tango is characterised by a tight grasp and small faltering steps with violent staccato movement.
posted by forgetful snow at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

It takes 2 to tango.

I agree. If they'd all just obeyed without question it would all have been so much tidier. None of that fuss or unpleasantness.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:37 PM on September 27, 2014

Well, this makes me happy...!

"CBS Films’ Pride can be proud of scoring the weekend’s highest average among new titles. The Cannes and Toronto feature grossed $84,791 in six locations, averaging a cool $14,132. . . The distributor said the Friday-to-Saturday jump was 49 percent and they “expect word of mouth to be the film’s strongest asset in the weeks ahead.”

Pride is set for a slow expansion, adding theaters in existing markets next weekend followed by a ‘handful’ of additional cities Oct. 10. CBS said it will position Pride’s long-term rollout similarly to two of its recent successes (Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and The Kings Of Summer) that gained solid grosses as word of mouth spread."

Clearly, it's MeFi at the movies!

Did any of you see it yet? What were your thoughts?!
posted by markkraft at 10:14 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've not seen the film, but Nick Cohen posted this interesting article about it and the other British "industrial nostalgia" films of recent years - concluding thus: "Imagine that trade union power was built in Britain again. Do you think that the cinema industry, which treats its young and low-paid employees like serfs, would make celebratory films about it? I suspect producers would find the reality far less comfortable than the fantasy."
posted by Mellon Udrigle at 4:40 AM on September 29, 2014

LGBT and unions?? It's like this film was made for me! Any idea when it hits general distribution?
posted by rebent at 7:39 AM on September 29, 2014

I saw this yesterday and it was great, really lived up to, and exceeded the hype. Go and watch it everyone.
posted by Ned G at 5:23 AM on October 2, 2014

It's also the only film I've ever been to see where the audience applauded it at the end. Admittedly, it was the student picture house in Leeds (not much love for Thatcher up here), but still, a great atmosphere.
posted by Ned G at 5:25 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's going to show in Minneapolis (well, in Edina actually) for a week starting on October 10. I am going to buy tickets as soon as they are available. Woo-hoo, I never get to see the movies I want to see and my favorite bands never tour here, so this is great.
posted by Frowner at 7:55 AM on October 3, 2014

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