Pride and prejudice are two concepts well explored by renowned English author Jane Austen in her novels in an age when battles and ballrooms seemingly went together.
Reforming the attitudes of society as a whole from the top down and also from the bottom up, has indeed taken a great deal of time. It has been an ongoing battle against prejudice during my lifetime.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said “… never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.
Pride the movie, written with great finesse by Stephen Beresford and sensitively directed by Matthew Warchus, is a true and quite extraordinary story about love, companionship and family.
In all love stories protagonists must seek to overcome numerous stumbling blocks, beginning with the tensions caused by the lovers’ personal and often very complex characteristics. And this includes sexuality.
Cheering out loud about our differences or similarities should be something we all do with Pride.
This gem of a movie from CBS Films is a celebration of the ongoing emancipation of gay men and women in our time and about rejected people looking for a world in which we all share both ‘bread and roses’.
The LGSM as a group were led by the passionate Irish reforming society visionary Mark Ashton.
His role is performed with great élan by American actor Ben Schnetzer.
Striving to attain both dignity and respect, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) were a small group of activists in London during the early 80’s. They marched with Pride and solidarity against the Thatcher government and the draconian laws that still existed in England.
Mark Ashton and his colleagues set out to help support the families suffering during the 1984 British Miner’s strike.
This story is beautifully crafted by all the cast and crew, many of whom were involved in the process of bringing it to fruition.
The LGSM idea was simple; to roam the streets with buckets grabbing people’s spare change. It is a premise, that becomes a powerful tale in the telling.
By December 1984 the LGSM had donated some £11,000, which was more than any other fundraiser in the UK. They also donated a minibus emblazoned with their logo LGSM: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.
Britain’s brilliant actor Bill Nighy declared he just had to be part of the cast when he heard about the story, because of what it meant in terms of 21st century enlightenment.
He said he was proud and privileged to be in it and I have to say I felt very privileged to watch Pride.
In the movie Mark makes a poignant point when he says “It is really illogical to say, ‘I’m gay and I’m into defending the gay community but I don’t care about anything else…’.”
Mark, who died tragically in 1987 is still a hero in Wales today. He figures the miners are, as he and his friends are, a marginalised group in society.
He makes the point that when someone calls you names you should embrace them and so names LGSM’s biggest fundraising event ‘Pits and Perverts’
It is important we are able to all enjoy a dignified sense of self equally, so that we can enjoy both emotional and physical nourishment.
Everyone should be able to celebrate chosen relationships with equal respect. Goodness as if its not hard enough to find love in the world at all today, without other people putting you in the boxes they have chosen for themselves.
Prejudice was one of the attitudes my grandmother believed shamed the people of her generation, one she railed against constantly. ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you…’ is a rhyme she repeated to me many times, wanting me to grow up not only worldly aware but also able to see beyond the square and, without prejudice.
As she was born in 1876 you can understand that not only was she an intelligent woman, but also one whose enlightened attitude was well ahead of her time.
Being honest and going against attitudes seen as a ‘norm’ in society is hard enough. For young men or women finding out you are ‘different’ in your teenage years is very hard for many to process, let alone accept, especially if they live in a family where parents continually advocate prejudice.
During my teenage years it would have been like committing professional and personal suicide to admit you were gay. Like so many other societal attitudes of the time such as familial child abuse and abuse of children in church homes or boarding schools, it became too hard to deal with, and so it was hidden, only talked about in whispers.
My pathway in life has always been clearly defined by my chosen belief; we are all created equal in any ‘God’s’ eyes, so why not in each others?
In England of the early 80’s the iron lady Margaret Thatcher was in power stirring everyone up. Meanwhile the National Union of Mineworkers are on strike, with the result that their families are quite literally starving. We see lots of original footage, highlighting the times.
The LGSM group realise early on that the funds they raise would not be real, or even seen to make a difference unless they targeted a specific group of people they wanted to be involved with and show them solidarity.
They choose a village in Wales on the map with a pin. They then phone the number listed and talk to Gwen, played by Menna Trussler, a well known Welsh actress who does herself proud.
Paddy Considine is Dai the erudite and gentle Welsh spokesman who travels to London to meet the group that want to help his village. Such generosity of spirit is something he has never encountered before.
He has also never met anyone ‘gay’ before, but wonderfully has no prejudice. All the members of LGSM take both him, and by default his village back in Wales, to their hearts.
They pile into an old van and set out to go and meet them.
Apart from having to work hard to break down the prejudices that surround their own lives, the LGSM have to now tackle the miners, who are traditionally renowned as a rough lot and used to putting on brave faces.
But then they hadn’t encountered anyone like Mark before. He believes if statistics prove one in five people are gay, then as gender and race don’t discriminate, one in five miners must be gay as well.
George MacKay is just perfect as Joe, the sensitive young adult wanting to break loose from his mother’s cloying behaviour and admit his sexuality to both his parents and gain their support.
He meets this small band of friends while going in search of both his identity and his life in London and soon finds himself not only caught up in events, but also at the heart of their motivation. They become his family and give him Pride in self.
Bill Nighy plays an aging gay Welsh man married to the worldly and truly wonderful Welsh lady Hefina, played with such gusto and guts by Imelda Staunton.
She gives a heart wrenching powerhouse performance; they are indeed wonderful together.
Imelda plays a wise woman who has always known about the love of her life’s sexuality.
Supporting him unconditionally, she has in her own way been protecting this gentle soul she adores from a society that would have carved him up for breakfast and lunch had he admitted it.
Well at least before all of these monumental LGSM events unfold in their local Welsh village.
The moment when they finally confide in each other over buttering bread in the village hall kitchen is indeed poignant, moving and quietly powerful.
Jessica Gunnings performance as Sian James, who is inspired by all that happens to eventually go on and become a Welsh Labour Party politician, is also very special.
As a King of disco in days gone by, the wonderful hip shaking Dominic West almost steals the show with his daring dance along a bar top in a room full of hardened miners, some of whom then surprisingly, ask him will he teach them how.
Andrew Scott’s performance as the love of Jonathan’s life the Welsh born Gethin, who had been more or less forced to leave his homeland and much loved mother behind years before to go to the swinging London of the late 60’s and 70’s, where gay communities were springing up everywhere, is finely drawn.
Facing going home again for him is a huge challenge and his sensitive performance certainly connected with me.
No one wants to feel ‘homeless’.
His touching reconnection with his Mum although fleeting, is a point succinctly made as he simply says ‘Hello Mum’.
I fell apart.
His relief at being able to cross that border from Britain back into Wales is very moving.
A truly wonderful scene at a meeting in the village hall is when a young girl, inspired by the LGSM and their unconditional support stands and sings the beautiful Welsh song Bread and Roses and everyone joins in.
The whole room is inspired, starting first with the women for whom this is an anthem, and then all the male miners join in – all the hairs on my arms stood up.
A huge ‘goosebump’ moment!
It has always been hard for me to believe there is a ‘mother’ alive that wouldn’t understand her own child’s sexuality and embrace them both, moving from the role of mothering into one of guiding and supporting their child.
This truly wonderful movie is inspired by an extraordinary true story.
Shooting took place on location, in the village in Wales where the events originally took place.
Everyone in the cast took on a ‘crash course in the history and politics of that time’ to better draw their characters and their personalities.
In the making of the movie in London extras were people who had marched back in 1984 and 1985 and so knew what is was like, helping with the recreation of the finale scene when I have to say I truly wept for joy.
The musical scoring is marvellous, including the song ‘For a Friend, originally written for the film’s main character Mark Ashton.
It would be hard not to be moved by the truly great ending, with miners arriving in busloads from all over Wales to join their newly found LGSM friends by all marching together with Pride.
For me it simply had to be a 5/5. Pride certainly made me cheer!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
Watch the Trailer
- Directed By: Matthew Warchus
- Written By: Stephen Beresford
- Bill Nighy: Cliff
- Imelda Staunton: Hefina
- Dominic West: Jonathan
- Paddy Considine: Dai
- Andrew Scott: Gethin
- Joseph Gilgun: Mike
- George MacKay: Joe
- Ben Schnetzer: Mark
Bread and Roses – James Oppenheim, 1911
As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing:
“Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for—but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler—ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories:
Bread and roses! Bread and roses!