On the eve of the Pride march MIKE JACKSON speaks to Luke James about the LGSM’s memorable past and assesses the movement’s future direction
It’s 30 years since LGSM led the 1985 Pride parade alongside Welsh miners and their families. How will you feel leading a huge trade union block on today’s parade?
What’s interesting this time is that there are more organisations and more people involved than 30 years ago.
Whereas in reality, 30 years ago there was only one coachload of south Wales mining families and one lodge banner.
This time around, reality is copying art because there are miners and banners coming from Lancashire, Yorkshire, south Wales.
We’ve got Women Against Pit Closures coming from Kent. Ann Scargill and Betty Cooke are coming. So really it’s bigger now than it was 30 years ago.
So I’ll have mixed feelings. It’s a bloody tragedy we lost the strike and there’s hardly any miners left. But what’s interesting is that all these former miners are pinning their flag to LGSM’s mast as an act of solidarity.
It’s a way that workers don’t forget who their friends and enemies are.
You know in Dulais, there was a pub that had been boycotted since 1926 and continues to be because it was the scab pub. They never forget.
In the same way that my grand mother hated Winston Churchill because he sent the troops in on the miners in Tonypandy. People don’t forget these things.
How many of the LGSM’s founding members do you expect to join you today?
When we had our first reunion in November 2013, there were 19 people who turned up. I would imagine a good 15 or so of those will be there today.
And we’ve got people coming from places like Manchester, because there was more than one LGSM group.
Admittedly ours was the biggest and had the highest profile. But there was one in Manchester supporting Bold colliery in Lancashire.
But we’ve also got schoolkids coming from Pontefract. A young lad who’s started his own LGBT youth group in Pembroke, which is a pretty isolated part of Wales.
It’s good. It’s what we’ve aspired to, to help people become activists.
Today’s Pride march would seem a natural ending to an incredible story. Where do you see the future for LGSM?
We’re all approaching or in our sixties now and I really think LGSM, it’s acted as a bit of a symbol for people, but it’s up to the next generation to carry our mantle forward.
We’ve done what we have been able to do since the movie came out to get people to subscribe to our Facebook page and Twitter feed.
As a result of that all sorts of wonderful things are happening. In Norway there is now a Lesbians and Gays Support the Dockers.
The dock workers in Norway are on strike and we got contacted by a group who formed the group. They completely lifted our banner, which is fine.
And they’ve just put an insert where it says “miners” and put “plus dockers.” They took that on a march in Oslo recently. So stuff like that is just fantastic to see.
So it seems like the momentum behind your story is now reaching different parts of the world...
We’re still being invited to speak at things — I’ve got a programme that extends to October at the moment.
We’ve just come back from Maastricht where we attended the Dutch gay pride and we’ve got another invitation to go to Antwerp soon.
In South Korea too, there was a gay pride march planned, but it was banned. So there’s been an international campaign to try to get the Korean authorities to step up. LGSM’s Facebook page has been quite important to Korean campaigners, because it’s got so many members.
So there’s all kind of repercussions coming from the film.
How far has Britain come in terms of LGBT rights since the strike?
We’ve come much further in my lifetime than I could possibly have imagined in my wildest dreams 30 years ago.
We’ve got gay marriage, legal protection at work and all kinds of things. That’s bloody marvellous.
Still a long way to go. There’s still bullying that goes on, there’s still homophobia around. I heard a straight guy only recently outside pub say: “Do you know what gay stands for? Got aids yet.”
So homophobia is still there. We’ve got legislation but that’s not the end of it. And of course the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Rights can be taken away as quickly as we gain them.
In Pride, your group was shown on the fringes of the LGBT community. After Pride organisers prioritised the interests of big business over LGSM in this year’s parade, do you feel you’re still in a minority?
Initially the Pride committee invited us to head the march and then got cold feet. But I mean it’s the natural home for us to be marching with the unions, so that’s fine.
The miners’ strike was so big and had such a huge impact on British society. It gave working-class people, regardless of sexuality, a voice.
We had to step up. I’m a firm believer that most people are workers and their interests are working-class interests.
Although most people are not aware of that.
When you get a huge momentous struggle, then people suddenly start learning very quickly.
What was wonderful for LGSM, was the way the working-class element of the LGBT community suddenly asserted itself and gained confidence.
In just the same way that working-class women in the pit villages also gained confidence. You get that little taste of the revolution when that happens.
So will today be another “taste of revolution” for you?
I think so, yeah. I think we’re going to get a tremendous reception from people in the crowds and on the march. And it just shows that we are the many.
The powerful and rich might be powerful and rich but they’re certainly not the many. This will be a complete assertion of that.