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Pride: peace in social justice and the power of solidarity

    “Whether we march with banners or without, the important thing is that we march together, all of us. That’s what this whole thing has been about since the beginning, and that is absolutely how it is going to end. Together. Us united.”

    – a speech by ‘Joe Cooper’ in the film Pride (Matthew Warchus 2014)
    Fig. 1 – Photo of the real Pride event and banner of the LGSM group.

    The 2014 film Pride is based on the true story of LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (Fig. 1). Set in the UK in 1984, it depicts a series of real-life miner strikes against mine closures driven through by the government when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister – strikes which were aggressively opposed by the Thatcher administration. At the time, there was little to no money going towards these mining communities, especially after the government sequestered funds from the National Union of Mineworkers. In response, a queer group united to raise money for the mining communities through reciprocal visits and fundraising events (the biggest one being the ‘Pits and Perverts’ benefit concert). After this, there was an increase in miners’ labour groups that supported the queer community and would participate in events, including leading the London Pride parade in 1985. The alliance between communities is noted to be an important turning point for the progression of LGBT+ issues in the UK due to the greater support of these issues by the Labour party (the main political ‘opposition’ of the day to Thatcher’s government).[1]

    At its core, Pride celebrates the way communities can come together in solidarity, despite their differences. The film explores the ways in which these two marginalised communities are in conflict with the government and wider society and are thus in danger of discrimination, oppression and even violence. As the film narrates, these two communities are able to build bridges, overcome physical and structural violence, and fight for social justice – a key foundation for a peaceful society – through their support of each other.

    Fig. 2 – A community flag denoting human support, no matter the differences

    This is best seen through the film’s emphasis on personal connection and shared empathy. Pride shows the trips the LGSM took to the Welsh Mining town, Onllwyn, to build these connections. Initially, the village is wary, showing signs of ignorance or homophobia. However, the personal bonds that are formed lead to these barriers breaking down, with both communities able to educate each other about their lives and struggles. The emotional backbone of the film shows the importance of sharing one’s own experience and empathising with others in peace-building. There is a constant emphasis on support and friendship, seen most strikingly in a conversation between Dai (a spokesman for the miners) and Mark (the head of the LGSM). Dai insists that people should support one another in their struggles no matter one’s differences, citing a local flag of unionship (Fig. 2).

    “It’s a symbol … two hands. … You support me, I support you. Whoever you are, wherever you come from. Shoulder to shoulder. Hand to hand.”

    – Dai Donovan to Mark Ashton in the film Pride (Matthew Warchus 2014)
    Fig. 3 – Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) encouraging the support of the miners

    Beyond the confines of the cinema, this film also promotes relationship-building across divides beyond the screen, through its fleshed-out characters. Audiences are able to form their own connections with the characters by witnessing their personal lives, emotions, and sufferings. At the end of the film, there is not just empathy between the miners and the queer community but also between the audience and the characters they have been watching. Ultimately, it was personal relationships and community support which helped to fund the mining families and led to a more significant increase of LGBT+ rights in the UK. This was an event which promoted more peace living conditions for both communities.

    The film also highlights the crucial relationship between social justice and peace, which is too often overlooked in visualisations of peace. Conventionally, mention of the word ‘peace’ tends to bring the word ‘war’ to mind; and as other items in this museum discuss, peace is often thought of as something that governments deliver, via peace treaties and ‘top-down’ peace processes or settlements, after armed conflict. But this film reminds us that not all peace is made or fought for in the context of what we conventionally recognise as ‘war’, and ordinary people can work towards it from the ground up by righting wrongs that lead to conflict and violence.[2] Rethinking where and how people struggle for peace forces us to rethink how we define conflict itself. Even in times that are considered ‘peaceful’ by most, injustices can prevail, especially for marginalised groups – who may end up being abused either physically or through the restriction of their rights. These communities can often be in active conflict with government institutions, meaning peace is not as easily accessible or provided through government practices. Instead, Pride emphasises the importance of grassroots activism.[3] The LGSM does not raise money through their positions of power or wealth but through fundraising and community outreach activities.[4] It shows the power of people and the importance of simply voicing solidarity in a conflict. In a world where people can often feel disillusioned and lost (especially when one’s conflict is invalidated or caused by the government), the peace-making in Pride and the change it achieved can be incredibly inspiring.

    ‘And when you’re in a fight as bitter and as important as this one, against an enemy, so much bigger, so much stronger than you – well. To find out that you have a friend you never knew existed – it’s the best thing in the world.’

    – Mark Ashton, to encourage the rest of the LBGTQ+ activist group to support the minors, in the film Pride

    What do you think?

    • What other unlikely groups have united together to strive for each others rights and more peaceful living conditions?
    • How can connection and co-operation help individuals overcome their differences? And what difference can this make in society at large?
    • What connection do you see between the fight for rights and peace-making?
    • Does the film Pride prompt you to visualise peace in new ways?

    If you enjoyed this item in our museum…

    You might also enjoy Jojo Rabbit, Achilles in Vietnam and Peace Through Rehumanization, Education, a force for sustainable peace and Journey: visualising peace through gaming.

    Zoë du Bois, May 2022

    [1] See this link for interviews with the real people Pride was based on. They all stress the importance of solidarity and union between struggling groups.

    [2] For more on top-down vs bottom-up peacebuilding framing, see MacGinty, Roger, and Pamina Firchow. (2016) ‘Top-down and Bottom-up Narratives of Peace and Conflict’, Politics 36, 308–23.

    [3] For more on the importance of grassroots peacebuilding, see Hamidi, Marthe Hiev. (Nov 2018) ‘Why grassroots peacebuilding? Is ‘inclusive peacebuilding’ a more sustainable recipe for peace?‘, Peaceinsight.

    [4] For more on the history of protests and grassroots activism in LGBTQ+ liberation, see Brown, Leighton and Riemer, Matthew (2019) We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation (Ten Speed Press); Shepard, Benjamin (2009) Queer Political Performance and Protest (New York).

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