Thursday 4 September 2014

Pride (the movie) 2

Pride is a new film directed by Matthew Warchus, and recommended.

It's set in 1984 when the struggle between the coal miners' union and the Thatcher government is at its height. 

In London an ill-sorted group of young gay men (and one lesbian) form LGSM, the ungainly acronym standing for Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners. Equipped with banners and buckets they start collecting money in gay pubs and clubs and on the street. When the National Union of Miners nervously refuses their contributions they all pile into an old van and drive to a remote mining village in South Wales to hand over the money directly to the striking miners and their families. Here (after some misunderstandings) strong friendships and alliances are forged.

It's a very loveable film, and moving. There are fine understated performances all round (especially from Bill Nighy as a retired, gentle, tongue-tied miner and Imelda Staunton, a pocket battleship of feisty goodness). On what must have been a shoestring budget the director has re-created a whole community, using a large (and partly non-professional) cast. It has the look and feel of the period without being in any way nostalgic. Yes - this is what it was like, then. Times were tough and most of us in one way or another supported the miners' cause. We really hated Thatcher - those of us, I mean, who didn't adore her.

At the first-night screening there were two groups in the audience - of ex-miners (and all miners are ex-miners now) up from the Welsh valleys with their wives and families, and a smaller contingent of LGSM activists and supporters. The ex-miners were all very smart in suits, collars and ties and the Bredegar Brass Band was also present in their uniforms. When footage of Thatcher appeared there wasn't so much a derisive jeer (which is usual in British cinemas when the Iron Lady materialises) as a roar of loathing. It was like the old times, a brief reminder of former solidarities.

Now here we are, thirty years later. The pits are all closed and a nation-defining industry gone, and with it the communities based around the pit. We are all capitalists now, in the post-Thatcher world. We have to import our coal (or begin the controversial practice of fracking). We have civil partnerships though. Swings, roundabouts.

When Thatcher infamously said "There is no such thing as society" she injected a toxic line of political thinking into our democracy that continues, horribly, to circulate. She was wrong - there was such a thing, as this film demonstrates. Perhaps there still is. Do see it.

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