Pride: The Unlikely Story of the True Heroes of the Miners’ Strike by Tim Tate (John Blake Books, £8.99)
WRITERS often struggle with the personal accounts offered up by those whose stories they are trying to capture.
Memory has been called the greatest myth maker. As diligent as we strive to be — even keeping notes and journals — the archivist in us can be elbowed out by the storyteller.
Anecdotes and tales acquire flourishes, with motivations “clarified” and personalities simplified.
A tough task, then, for author Tim Tate in writing “the inspiring true story” behind the hit film Pride. Not only was he faced with reconciling accounts from some 20 players in this key piece of working-class history but another writer had got there first and splashed the whole damn lot all over the big screen.
In writing the screenplay for the film Pride, Stephen Beresford employed some creative techniques — creating composite figures, portraying some in the mining village of Onllwyn as homophobic and erasing any mention that activist Mark Ashton was a communist.
But his skilful work brought the story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) to a worldwide audience. More than that, it’s inspired more activists in the same mould, especially in support of migrants.
Tate is an investigative journalist by trade. Good choice. He told LGSM and their Welsh comrades from the start that he would not be telling their story. They would.
The book’s format, recollections in the participants’ own words, may seem unsophisticated.
Yet it works, because those words come from people who have never forgotten the events of 1984-85.
There were cultural clashes when the two groups met but LGSM “originals” are delighted that the book can deliver nuances the film didn’t.
As LGSM’s Clive Bradley says: “It’s important to realise that the transformative power of LGSM wasn’t just in one direction.
“It wasn’t just a case of these worthy cosmopolitan Londoners bringing pasta and opera to the remote valleys. These were communities that had generations of miners who had a radical tradition and they didn’t need lefties from London to tell them about all this stuff.”
What resonates in the voices the book captures is the realisation that any differences were never going to stop these groups from fighting a common enemy. It was political synergy that bonded them.
Dave Lewis, another LGMS “original,” says in the concluding pages: “If anyone reading this still believes that the British state is liberal, plural, benign or paternal, please look and see just how that state machine was treating the striking miners in 1984.
“And then take our story with you into future battles — because you need to know what you’re up against in order to stand a chance at victory.”