10 years in the making

Pride is an absolute joy from the beginning with the preparations for the anti-Thatcher protest, through the dodgy Welsh accents and Dominic West‘s disco dancing to the stirring climax of the 1985 Gay Pride March.

You couldn’t imagine two more different groups of people than the London-based lesbian and gay campaign and the National Union of Mineworkers Dulais Valley branch, but Mark (Ben Schnetzer) saw the fact that Thatcher, the police and the tabloids hated them both as a reason for them to join together. And in one of the stranger, true life stories of the 1984 Miners Strike, without much support from either gays and lesbians or the miners, he launched LGSM, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.

There’s a lot of comic potential in this unlikely alliance and director Matthew Warchus doesn’t miss a trick. The glitter and energy of the lesbian and gay contingent jars with the apparently dour Welsh mining village and its inhabitants where the men don’t dance, and the women are only just beginning to assert themselves. There are some great jokes from writer Stephen Beresford about lesbians and vegetarians and the transmission of sexual diseases, sleeping bags and extensions, delivered by some of the best new and old British acting talent. On the Welsh side there’s Paddy Considine as Dai, a gentle and decent community leader, Bill Nighy in a quiet and affecting performance as Cliff, and the gutsy Hefina, played by Imelda Staunton who looked like she was wearing one of my Nana Blod’s blankets as a dress. On the gay side the charismatic Schnetzer, Andrew Scott as Gethin and Dominic West as Jonathan stood out, but so did Faye Marsay, Freddie Fox and George MacKay, as well as Jessica Gunning. And it’s all accompanied by the uplifting 1980s music of Jimmy Somerville, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Boy George, among others.

It could have been a recipe for schmaltz, but despite the laughs and tear-jerkers, it doesn’t shy away from the serious issues. LGSM has to tackle bigotry from union members and not all the bigots are converted, vicious homophobic violence persists, families torn apart by ignorance and prejudice are not always reunited and the communities of South Wales have to live with the defeat of the NUM. It all takes place in the shadow of AIDS, the mass closure of pits and the deprivation caused by the destruction of the mining communities. It’s an appropriate film for a time when inequality, union bashing, scapegoating and bigotry are all on the rise.
You may need some tissues for Dominic West’s turn as disco queen, or for the rousing Welsh choirs, and Gethin’s tearful reunion with his mum. But what can be wrong about a film that celebrates generosity, diversity and solidarity and reminds us that they aren’t dirty words but values to be championed?