What happens when a group of London-based gay and lesbian activists pledge to support small-town Welsh miners?
That’s the question behind the 2014 film Pride, directed by Matthew Warchus. Set in London and Wales, Pride follows the unlikely partnership of two distinct groups throughout the lengthy National Union of Mineworker’s Strike.
It’s 1984. Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister. The government has just announced plans to close more than 20 coal mines, resulting in the loss of 20,000 jobs. The nation is in uproar. The closures will undoubtedly leave many communities destitute.
As miners across Scotland, Wales and England go on strike, a young man watches the situation unfold from ‘Gay’s the Word’, a speciality bookshop in South London. Unable to ignore the injustice – and never one to sit on the sidelines – Mark rallies his friends to help the miners.
“Mining communities are being bullied, just like we are! What they need is cash.”
Mark coordinates a fundraising campaign, placing people on street corners with money buckets to collect small change for the Union of Mineworkers. The group comes up with a name: Lesbians and Gays Support the Minors (LGSM).
Before long, LGSM has raised a decent sum of money – only no one wants to take their cash. Pride, it turns out, can be closely linked with prejudice. However, it’ll take more than a few rejections to stop Mark from trying to do what is right.
“It doesn’t matter – it’s the right thing to do.”
LGSM pick a random mining town from a map and make a phone call. They reach someone from the small Welsh town of Onllwyn and tentatively ask whether or not the miners will accept their support.
Through a stroke of good luck – that may or may not have had something to do with an old lady’s poor hearing – a new partnership is formed. LGSM descends on Onllwyn with financial aid, food and a fighting spirit.
The friendship that blossoms between the people of Onllwyn and LGSM is heart-warming and entertaining. But it is also quite normal – within days the two groups realise they aren’t so different after all. They find partnership in solidarity.
In fact, it is the people of Onllwyn who refuse to accept the aid of LGSM that become the outsiders. These people are clearly portrayed as the prejudiced, small-minded, insecure fear-mongers they are.
United, Onllwyn and LGSM do more than raise money and awareness, they challenge bigoted opinions and prove what can be achieved when people are united, not fractured.
“Do you see what we’ve done here? By pledging our friendship? We’ve made history.” - Dai
Pride made me laugh, cry, swear and even yell. Based on a true story, it felt impossible to watch the film as a passive bystander. It didn’t matter that the strike is now part of history – I was on the edge of my seat, rallying for solidarity, community, justice. My emotions went up and down with the characters. I was wholly invested in their success.
First, the laughter. Pride is, after all, a comedy. The scenes where LGSM meet the miners for the first time are hilariously awkward, and by the time they are old friends it’s hard to stop laughing.
The element of ‘difference’ between the miners and LGSM breaks down barriers and people lose their inhibitions. It’s beautiful to watch both parties open their eyes to new ideas and realities. Pride is a testament to the importance of covering new terrain, of going someplace new – even if it terrifies you.
But Pride is so much more than just a feel-good flick. The best comedies draw attention to real issues in a light and constructive way. I learned a lot about the plight of homosexuals in Britain, and I couldn’t help but wonder: could this movie have been made ten years ago?
The tears flowed during the scenes when the LGSM group were cursed at, spat at and even physically abused. Another familiar theme was that of AIDs, and the very real fear of death that many of the LGSM community felt.
I found myself swearing out of surprise when I saw how homosexuals were treated, and then I realised they must still be treated this way in so many parts of the world. I found myself yelling at the screen out of frustration at the way some people can be so incredibly prejudiced and cruel.
The way human beings treat one another can be atrocious. How is it that, on one hand, we can cooperate in such beautiful harmony, out of a place of love and unity, yet on the other hand we can act from a place of violent and hatred?
Pride shows both sides of the coin – humanity at its best, and humanity at its worst. It is a confronting film with an underlying seriousness, but at the same time it is light, fun and uplifting.
When the credits appeared on screen, I felt a mixture of sadness and elation – sadness that some people can be so awful, but elation because the film reaffirmed that when people work together, for a good cause, beautiful things happen.
Like all great stories, Pride is about love prevailing.