On the 9th July 2019 Gravesham Pride CIC were proud to host an audience with LGBTQ+ legend Mike Jackson and it was a sell-out success!
During the Q and A Mike talked about what life was like for the LGBTQ+ community in 1980’s Britain, the work of LGSM, and the way its story was re-told in the 2014 film Pride which was written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. The film was first screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Queer Palm award. It then went on to be nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture and for the BAFTA for Best British Film, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Imelda Staunton and for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. In the film Mike Jackson is immortalised by actor Joseph Gilgun who is best known for his role as “Woody” in the “This Is England” series.
Mike was born into a working-class family in Accrington in 1954. His father died when he was only eight, so his Mum had to bring up his older sister and Mike as a single parent with numerous unskilled jobs, but supported by the then relatively new welfare state. Mike left school at 16 with just four O levels. However, he already had a passion for horticulture and found a wonderful job in a garden in Worcestershire, leaving home to work there. He was nurtured by the gardeners there and they encouraged him to apply to study a Diploma in Horticulture however, towards the end of his second year, he decided that horticulture was not for him and so in 1976 he decided to leave collage and go to university instead where he completed his four-year honours degree in Sociology and American Studies.
Upon completing his studies Mike Jackson moved to London where he became the secretary of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) which was an alliance of lesbians and gay men who formed in support of the striking British miners during the year-long UK miners strike of 1984–1985.
During the strike, the Thatcher administration sequestered the funds of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), meaning that it was pointless for supporters of the strike to send donations to the national union. Instead, support groups throughout the UK were encouraged to “twin” directly with the various mining communities in England, Scotland and Wales. Among these organisations, the LGSM was formed by Mike Jackson and his friend Mark Ashton, after the two men who met whilst volunteering at the Gay Switchboard Helpline collected donations for the miners at the 1984 Lesbian and Gay Pride march in London.
The London LGSM group met and fundraised in numerous locations, including the Gay’s the Word bookshop, which served as the London group’s headquarters. The London group was twinned with the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valleys Miners Support Groups.
The LGSM raised approximately £20,000 for the families who were on strike. The largest single fundraising event that LGSM organised was the “Pits and Perverts” benefit concert, which was held in the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, London on 10 December 1984. The event was headlined by Bronski Beat and its lead singer, Jimmy Somerville. The title of the benefit is claimed by many to have originated as a headline in the British tabloid The Sun.
The alliances which the campaign forged between the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and British labour groups proved to be an important turning point in the progression of LGBT issues in the United Kingdom. Miners’ labour groups began to support, endorse and participate in various gay pride events throughout the UK, including leading London’s Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in 1985. Additionally, at the 1985 Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, a resolution committing the party to the support of LGBT rights passed, due to block voting support from the National Union of Mineworkers. The miners’ groups were also among the most outspoken allies of the LGBT community in the 1988 campaign against Section 28.
The London group’s alliance with the Welsh mining village of Onllwyn is dramatised in the 2014 film, Pride, which was directed by Matthew Warchus. Several of the surviving group members participated in the film’s promotion.
In 2015, following the film’s release, the surviving members of the organisation held a 30th anniversary reunion to raise funds for the Mark Ashton Fund, an HIV/AIDS charitable fund administered by the Terrence Higgins Trust. The group was chosen to lead the 2015 Birmingham Pride parade, in recognition of their historic status. They were also slated to lead the 2015 Pride in London parade, but withdrew in favour of marching further back in the parade after organisers refused to allow other affiliated groups, such as trade union contingents, to march immediately alongside the LGSM.
LGSM announced on 9 October 2015 that the group would “wind down as a current campaigning force”, saying that they did not want to become “a LGBT version of the British Legion”. However, they continue to work by educating others about the history of the LGBTQ+ Community in 1980’s Britain and raise money for other worthy causes.
We are pleased to say that Mike enjoyed his visit to Gravesham so much that he will be returning to march with us during Gravesham Pride 2020.