Pits and Perverts

Thirty years ago, the National Union of Miners (NUM) was in a desperate battle with the Thatcher Government to save their livelihoods and their communities. It was a war of attrition that went on for twelve long months. It was also during the dark days of the gay ‘plague’ with John Hurt scaring the life out of OAPs with crashing tombstones every night on national TV and a certain fire and brimstone chief constable saying that gay people were ‘swirling in a human cesspit of their own making.’ Believe me, it was no fun on the picket line or the dance floor. The Police had a habit of raiding both. At the time, I was living with a quantity surveyor who was neither ‘out’ at work or to his family. What sexuality has to do with counting bricks I shall never know but that was the way back then – most closets were firmly locked from the inside. Society had a habit of making hypocrites of us all. I was his guilty secret (needless to say, he wasn’t mine).

So what do striking miners have in common with dancing queens? Not very much you might think. I didn’t think so either until I saw Pride, a new BBC Film by Marcus Warchus, the new Creative Director at the Old Vic. On general release today, this funny and illuminating movie is based on the true story of a small group of London activists who raised money to help the families of the strikers. They called themselves ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ and they did exactly what it said on the collecting tin. Officially, the über-straight, blue collar, backs-to-the-wall-lads NUM weren’t too keen on accepting the support of a gaggle of dirty pervs, even during the worst of times. So the brave pervs took their cause direct to the coal face by sprinkling a little fairy dust (and quite a lot of cash) on a small Welsh mining village. Cue the considerable talents of some seasoned pros (Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy) who know how to deliver a line or two and some gifted fresh faces to inject a dash of youthful angst and exuberance. The clash of cultures is pure magic. Moving without being sugary, political without being preachy, candid without being gratuitous and clever without being patronising, the film is a joy to watch and one of the best British films I’ve ever seen. Really, it’s that good.

19 thoughts on “Pits and Perverts

  1. My goodness. It sounds quite the story. I love when people get together and support each other in hard times. That’s what it seems like in the end but not sure from the trailer, although the story sounds intriguing to me.

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  2. Looking forward to seeing it with our Girl from the Valleys next week whose parents’ shop went out of business due to giving the striking miners credit and seeing none of it paid back! In the mean time, here’s a link to a clip made by the real activists back in the eighties. A great bit of social history. Not with the humour of the film but moving nonetheless: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHJhbwEcgrA

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  3. Thanks for the review. This was a big audience favourite at the Toronto International Film Festival last week but I didn’t get to see it – can’t wait until it gets released generally…Loved your comment about it being ‘right up your valley’ you are so funny!!

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  4. I have to say that whilst I found this a jolly good film, it certainly wasn’t the jolly good film I’d thought it would be. Despite the subject matter it’s been billed as a laugh a minute, but it was heavy on the pathos and light on guffaws for me.

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