“This is a fundamental part of our history, of LGBT rights and of working people’s rights. We are not two separate communities; we are the same.”—Mike Jackson, co-founder of LGSM.
What do miners in South Wales and London’s queer community in the 1980s have in common?
More than you’d think.
In March 1984, Margaret Thatcher began shutting down coal mines across the UK, severely affecting the small towns, like ours, for whom it was their whole industry, and not providing them with any support through their loss of income. Miners across the nation (140,000 at one point) went on strike for what ended up being a year, relying only on the kindness of the community for financial support.
Support and community were found in an unexpected place; two young gay men, Mark Ashton and Mike Jackson, started collecting donations for the striking miners in London at gay pubs and clubs and with collection buckets outside the bookshop Gay’s the Word. They soon formed the group Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), who met and raised funds in various areas before building a solidarity link with the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valleys Miners Support Groups.
LGSM put all preconceptions aside and drove to Onllwyn, South Wales, to meet the miners and present their donations. The miners had also put their preconceptions aside, and the two groups found common ground and friendship. They soon found that, from negative representation in the media to mistreatment by the police and government, they were united in their struggles. According to Mike Jackson; “They started wearing gay badges on their lapels. They wanted money because they were on strike; we wanted recognition and acceptance—not that we went with any preconditions, we did not expect anything back.”
And although LGSM didn’t expect anything back, the miners went above and beyond in their support, providing key support needed for parliamentary rulings, speaking up passionately against Section 28, and even marching with their own signs at Pride reading ‘Miners Support Gays and Lesbians’.
LGSM ended up raising the equivalent of around £73,000 for the striking miners, one of the biggest fundraising events being their benefit concert at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, named Pits and Perverts. Bronski Beat were the headline act and the event raised the equivalent of around £15,000.
The legacy of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners remains to this day; LGSM itself disbanded after the strikes ended in 1985, but they reformed as Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners Again (LGSMA) in 1992 when another massive round of pit closures were announced. After the release of the film Pride in 2014, which chronicles the story of LGSM and its members, they reformed once again, but made the decision to wind down for the final time in 2015 to focus on their legacy and on passing the torch to other queer activists such as Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, who fundraise and take direct action to support refugees and prevent deportation.
So, to all of those involved, thank you for all the work you’ve done to improve the lives and rights of miners and the LGBTQ+ community.
If you’d like to give any support, a fund has been created in the memory of Mark Ashton, who inspired and lead LGSM, to support the HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust.