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Pride

It’s impossible to talk about Pride without talking about the real-life events that it’s based on. This is based on a much-missed part of working-class history that deserves so much more awareness than it has. Most people will associate Th*tcher’s reign as Prime Minister with the miner’s strikes, but something that much fewer people will be aware of is the story that Pride tells, of the activist group Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners who were brave enough to stand side by side with striking workers. Despite experiencing extreme prejudice from the people they were fighting alongside, the group recognised a common enemy in Th*tcher, who was as responsible for regressive laws and policies that made the lives of LGBT+ people much harder in the same vein that her regressive laws and policies made the lives of working-class people in general much harder too.

The hero of the story is the activist who started it all, Mark Ashton. We start off with Mark approaching members of his community with the idea that they should do something to help their brothers in arms, the miners. This is, of course, met with resistance from both sides. The striking miners don’t want to accept help from a group calling themselves Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners for fear of making themselves a laughing stock in an already fiercely homophobic world, of which their community is a fiercely homophobic part of. Similarly, Mark’s contemporaries question why they should bother reaching out to a group of people who would happily leave them for dead given the chance. One character even comes from the area where the miners are striking, and he recalls times when the people striking now had targeted him in the past. Ashton’s argument for why they should help them eventually wins, although there is a hard-fought skepticism for a long time afterward, from both sides still. One of my favourite scenes is where they deliver some money that they’ve raised and one of the elders of the miner’s group realises that they are just people after all. Like with most prejudices, it shrinks as the characters on both sides come to realise that they’re dealing with real-life people rather than just monoliths with undesirable labels. In the scene, this character talks about how the labour movement is signified by a handshake, and that that’s ultimately what it’s all about – you help me and when the time comes that you need it, I’ll help you in solidarity.

Now, something that I sometimes find cheesy in this kind of true story films is when, at the end, we get a short paragraph on each of the characters to tell us what they’re doing now. Usually, I think well, if you haven’t told this part of the story in the film then it’s clearly not all that important. When Pride did it, I’m not afraid to admit that I cried. One of the more endearing characters is a housewife named Sian, whose husband is on strike. Like most of his colleagues, he’s homophobic and ignorant when we meet him, and really the only chance of redemption that he has is that Sian is far more open-minded. She battles with him throughout until he eventually steps up and becomes a better man for it, putting himself on the line to stand up against homophobic hate in his community, but the thread that runs all the way through Sian’s character is that she’s an incredible woman who underestimates herself. There’s a beautiful scene where she’s told not to waste the time she has in a world where so many don’t get much of it, and then at the end, we’re told that she went on to become the Labour MP for Swansea, and in fact, Swansea’s first woman to hold the seat. I blubbed like a baby. Good on you, Sian.

There are visual clues to the time period scattered throughout shots, one, for example, being an awful homophobic advert from the 80s about the AIDs pandemic. Of course, it would’ve been very difficult to tell a story like Pride’s without mentioning such a monumental part of LGBT+ history in the UK, made especially harder given the fact that Mark Ashton, unfortunately, died from the disease himself. The subject is treated with the most respect, and represented with a fantastic sense of authenticity.

Ultimately, Pride tells a very important story about a very important part of working-class history, but it does it in a way that’s accessible. Amongst all of the heartache and grief from both sides, there are some really funny moments, and there are even more heartwarming sequences that could soften even the most ardent conservative. Possibly. This film is a true-to-life example of how far a little bit of empathy can go, and how little weight prejudices actually hold.

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