Still fighting for equality: So So Gay speaks to Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners

We have yet to hear anything negative about Pride, 2014’s UK film highlight. Tracking the fascinating real-life friendship forged between a Welsh mining community and a group of London-based LGB activists at the height of the strikes, the film has struck a chord with audiences worldwide. We were keen to find out a little more about what has become of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners in the years that have passed, so caught up for a chat with Martin Goodsell and Brett Haran, the group’s treasurers and founder members of LGSM.

So So Gay: Hi, how are you both today?

LGSM: We’re both very well, thank you. Thanks for asking us about our involvement in LGSM. We know there’s lots of interest in the group following the huge success of Pride.

What have you been doing with yourselves in the 30 years since the events depicted inPride?

Quite a lot of things, as you can imagine, over such a long period of time. We’ve continued to be involved in various political campaigns over the years. In addition to our campaigning work, we both became dads to two delightful kids: a daughter, now 29, and a son, now 23. They’re both really proud and fascinated by what their dads and their comrades were involved in all those years ago.

lgsmSo how do you feel about the positive response to the film?

We think it’s been fantastic. The reviews have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic; many people have said they can’t remember the last time they found a film so moving, uplifting, joyous and life affirming. It really seems to have struck a chord, with many people saying there was spontaneous applause at the end of the film.

Do you feel it’s an accurate portrayal of events?

Well, the film is obviously not a documentary. It’s a dramatised account that’s aiming to get the story and its key message across to as wide an audience as possible. Some elements of the film have been fictionalised for dramatic effect, but the essential story as depicted in the film is very definitely an accurate portrayal.

Before the film came out, many of us felt that the amazing story of the coming together of our two communities – LGBT and the miners – could so easily have been forgotten. The film has ensured this is no longer the case and that’s very gratifying. It’s an important part of working class and LGBT history. As a direct result of LGSM’s involvement in the strike, the National Union of Mineworkers supported a motion which secured the Labour Party’s formal manifesto commitment to lesbian and gay equality – which led to significant advances for LGBT rights in the UK when Labour finally returned to power in the late 90s.

This includes the equalisation of the age of consent, outlawing discrimination against LGBT people in employment and the provision of goods and services, the inclusion of homophobia in the definition of hate crimes, repealing Section 28 and the introduction of civil partnerships, which paved the way for marriage equality.

To what extent do you feel the gay rights movement has become less political?

As a community we’ve achieved many goals over the last 30 years – we’ve just mentioned some of the key achievements in terms of equalities legislation. Because of these successes there’s a danger in thinking that the politics has gone and it’s now more about lifestyle. But there are plenty of stories in the press and online that show us that violence and discrimination against LGBT people – including homophobic bullying in schools – are still depressingly common and need to be confronted. We can’t be complacent and need to continue to support and defend the rights of LGBT people at home and abroad. In political terms, we’re still the target of abuse and hostility from those on the far right including Ukip. This must be challenged and exposed for the naked bigotry that it is. Thankfully, there are still plenty of people, LGBT and straight, who are committed to tackling these issues, through grass roots campaigns, community organisations and the trade unions.

Are you still in touch with any of the miners or their families?

We’ve seen Sian James on a couple of occasions over the last few years, but it was only at the premiere of the film Pride that we caught up again with many of our old friends from the Welsh mining communities.

What do you consider the greatest political challenges for the trade union movement and the LGBT community in 2014?

The biggest challenge for the trade union movement is the continuing fight against the government’s austerity measures, with cuts in public services and attacks on welfare. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable people are bearing the brunt of these measures. It’s very much an ‘us and them’, ‘divide and rule’ agenda. Just like 30 years ago during the miners’ strike, people are being scapegoated. The trade unions must continue to stand up for these people and give them a voice.

It’s important for us in the LGBT community to show solidarity with communities coming under attack. The gains we have made as LGBT people have come about when we have made common cause with others who have been fighting for their rights. The message of the Pridefilm demonstrates this perfectly.

lgsm-3-1-publicity-copy-of-a3-poster-pits-and-pervertsLGSM has regrouped. How has that been for you?

It’s been an incredibly emotional and inspirational experience. We had kept in touch with many of our old LGSM friends over the last 30 years but through the film and the regrouping of LGSM, we’ve also met friends and comrades again that we hadn’t seen for almost 30 years.

What does the future hold for the group?

It’s exciting how much energy and commitment there is for getting involved in new campaigns around LGBT issues and wider solidarity campaigns. There’s been an incredible amount of interest in LGSM generated by the film and not only in the UK but around the world.

We are planning to go back down to Dulais in March 2015 to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the strike. We can’t wait to see if Jonathan will be able to match the dancing skills of his film counterpart when we find ourselves once again in the Onllwyn miners’ welfare hall! We are also looking to have a high profile presence at London Pride 2015, to mark the historic 30th anniversary of the miners and their families leading the Pride march in a show of solidarity with the LGBT community.

 

So So Gay readers can purchase a Pits & Perverts t-shirt, as sown in the film, directly from Martin by email at martin2003brasil@yahoo.co.uk. All proceeds go to supporting the campaigning work of LGSM. You can also follow LGSM on Twitter: (@LGSMpride)

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