Pride, directed by the Tony Award winning theatre director Matthew Warchus (Matilda: The Musical, God of Carnage), has a large ensemble cast led by Bill Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) with the other roles played by a host of well-known British actors including Dominic West (300, The Wire), Paddy Considine (Dead Man's Shoes) and Joseph Gilgun (This Is England) as well as relatively new faces such as Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief, Posh), George MacKay (How I Live Now, Sunshine On Leith) and Faye Marsay (The White Queen, Fresh Meat).
Inspired by a remarkable true story, the screenplay was written by Stephen Beresford. His debut stage play, The Last of the Haussmans, which starred Julie Walters, was a critical and commercial hit at the National Theatre in 2012.
The film is produced by David Livingstone for Calamity Films and executive produced by Pathe's Cameron McCracken, BBC Films' Christine Langan and Ingenious’ James Clayton.
The film was financed by Pathe, BBC Films, the BFI and is a Calamity Films production. Pride was filmed over 8 weeks in London and in Wales.
Producer David Livingstone met Stephen Beresford in 2012 and in that first meeting agreed to commission a script for PRIDE. “We discussed various projects in that meeting,” says Livingstone, “but nothing seemed quite right. Then I asked him if there was any story that he was dying to write and he instantly told me this incredible story about a group of gay and lesbian activists and their relationship with striking miners in Wales. I was completely electrified. When you find a great story, you get a chemical reaction inside and when that happens you know you have something special. In that moment we set sail on the project’.
Stephen Beresford adds, "I had spoken to a few people about it who didn't really get it, but as soon as material gets into the right hands it catches fire and off it goes. David got it straight away as did Cameron McCracken, Pathe Productions' Managing Director, and they ran with it." McCracken says, “It is remarkable that this film even exists. A mainstream dramatic comedy about gay rights and trade unionism? A preposterous idea. Yet the film stands as proof that a brilliant screenplay in the hands of passionate filmmakers can squash all rational doubt. Yes, the film is full of froth and fun - but it is also an important film. The BBC, the BFI and Ingenious recognised that from the get-go and the level of their support has been much appreciated”.
The idea for the film was developed over a long period, as Beresford explains. "Most people don't really believe this story when they first hear it and I was the same,” he says, “but a tiny part of me thought if that's true it's an incredible story. I really thought it was a myth, but was intrigued. I looked it up and found a tiny reference to it. Years and years later I happened upon a book with a passage about Mark Ashton, which confirmed it was true. I knew then that I had to write it. I then discovered that the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) had made their own video which I tracked down and that was the beginning, but it was a long time gestating."
In 1984 the UK's National Union of Mineworkers began a nationwide strike in protest at planned coalmine closures around the country. The Thatcher government responded with measures that were not only tough, but frequently brutal. Among the many groups who supported the striking miners was a group of gay and lesbian activists in London who, following the Gay Pride march in the same year, decided to raise money for the strike fund on the grounds that they had the same adversaries: the Thatcher government, the police and the tabloids. Calling themselves Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and, unable to get their early donations accepted by the miners' union, they set off in an old minibus to a remote village in Wales to hand over the money in person. So began an extraordinary tale of friendship and solidarity, following the events of a fraught 12 months during which LGSM became one of the biggest fundraisers in the whole of the UK.
Based on these true events, Pride is a film about two worlds colliding and then entwining, a rousing celebration of the alliance between two disparate groups of people who came together over their shared history of oppression, shattering prejudices and forging unlikely friendships along the way.
The story is about what happens when communities stand in unity against a common enemy. David Livingstone explains the film’s broad appeal: “whilst Pride is both funny and moving it is also true. So to see characters start on opposing sides but then come together in such a significant way is extremely powerful. It’s both very moving and life affirming when you realise that this actually happened and that most of these characters are real.”
Beresford did a huge amount of research to find the story, tracking down the original members of the LGSM. He explains: "there was a lot of detective work early on as there was almost no information available. The video showed the LGSM being very young and inexperienced and as they made it themselves didn't involve the basic rules of reportage so none of the people in it were named. There was only a "thanks to" at the end, so I looked up all unusual names and tracked them down through Facebook. They all said you have to speak to Mike Jackson as he was the secretary and kept all the archives. He had all the minutes from the meetings and all the press cuttings so finding that was like the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb."
Once he had all the available original source materials, Beresford had to decide how much of the screenplay would be fictionalized and how much would be true.
"There was a certain amount of invention and shaping the material,” he explains. “After I'd met everyone from LGSM that I could and had been to Wales and spoken to the community there, I told them all there were things I would have to fictionalize, but they all understood why that artistic license had to exist. However, once I started writing I found I wanted to anchor the whole screenplay in the truth and I didn't want to stray. It's more than 80 percent true."
Although this was only one small story within the context of the strike, Beresford believes it had a great and long-lasting political impact. "It's an enormously important story and I believe that LGSM unwittingly broke down barriers which led to gay and lesbian rights being enshrined in the LGBT community, Labour Party manifesto and the Trades Union Congress. The Welsh community felt strongly that no one had ever acknowledged what those young people did and everyone was very keen to talk about it and have their achievement finally recognized."
When Livingstone began pitching the film to financiers Pathe came on board almost immediately. It helped to find the perfect Director for the material, Tony award winning Theatre Director Matthew Warchus. “We needed someone with an innate understanding of the material and a passion for telling this story. The moment Matthew read the material he was involved. More importantly, the moment Matthew was involved we started to attract an incredible cast.”
Beresford knew that Warchus was the right director from the start. "I knew Matthew's work but not him, so when his name was first mentioned I thought yes, of course. It was something about the scale of the film; we needed someone who knew how to make it work and as soon as he came on board I felt safe because his taste is spot on. He understood the script and that we wanted to do something powerful, moving and dramatic, but shot through with jokes as the humour was so important. He also has an incredible ability directing actors."
“This was a script I just couldn't say no to,” says Warchus. “It made me laugh out loud, it surprised and delighted me at every turn, and it ultimately moved me to tears. It's a truly affirming and inspiring story, funny, honest and moving, and by the end of it you want to punch the air and cheer!”
Warchus also couldn’t help but feel a very personal connection to the story and its subject matter. The director, who turned 18 during the strike, spent his formative years living in a small hamlet in Yorkshire overshadowed by Europe’s largest coal-fired power station. “These ultra-modern mines were never threatened with closure at the time”, he recalls, “but I remember picket lines outside the power station gates as I travelled to sixth-form college. This historic conflict was yet another landmark of gloom in my formative years: a grim and anxious time of air-raid siren tests for nuclear attacks, IRA bombings, and then of course Aids.”
The screenplay also reminded Warchus of the enormous shift in the cultural landscape of the UK that has taken place in the intervening 30 years. “Fighting for the right to work underground in appalling conditions seems hard to understand today, but in 1984 the mining communities knew it was all they had, for their generation and ones to come,” he explains. “‘I'm fighting for my son's right to work’ was a sign frequently seen on picket lines. The miners' strike, we now know, wasn't ever just about economics. It was a key battle in a broader war of ideologies: the common good versus self-interest, society versus the individual, and socialism versus capitalism.
“A few years after the strike, Margaret Thatcher said there was no such thing as society, there are individual men and women and there are families,” continues Warchus. “Pride’s main characters fervently believe in the opposite, in the power of unity. That this somehow seems so refreshing today is proof of how far we have drifted. Did Thatcher succeed in changing how we think? She certainly changed our lexicon. I can clearly recall the day I morphed from being a train "passenger" to a "customer". I remember thinking it was a slightly amusing attempt at a jargon shift that would never catch on. But when BT shares came up for grabs and council houses went on sale, the mass slide into capitalism was under way. Are we now a horde of individuals driven by self-interest, striving for life's lottery win, the big break. "It could be you!" Not you and your mates, just you.”
But what makes the story so compelling for Warchus is that it avoids party politics or preachy agendas. “Both groups in the film - the LGSM and the Welsh miners - are certainly politically minded, but it's their humanity that's so compelling. Pride engages the audience in much bigger concepts of generosity and compassion. As I sat down to edit the film, it dawned on me that the film, in humorously depicting the developing relationship between apparent opposites who somehow overcome the obstacles between them, turns out to be a classic romantic comedy. But the relationship isn't between individuals, but between two groups, or communities. And they are driven not by romantic love, but by compassion. I think it reminds us of the idea of society - that there is, of course, such a thing after all.”
With a cast of some 75 speaking parts, you might think one of the filmmakers’ biggest challenges was assembling a cohesive group of actors. But the ensemble came together surprisingly quickly. "We were very lucky how people responded to the material and a lot of people said they would do anything in it which was a great confidence boost," explains Stephen Beresford.
David Livingstone adds: ‘It’s a dream cast from top down. A true ensemble. It was important for the sense of community that these two groups have a sense of having spent a lot of time in each other’s company and through a combination of this incredible cast and extensive rehearsals the whole group felt like a team very quickly. We were very lucky. We also had an incredible Casting Director in Fiona Weir”.
As there were so many characters Beresford felt it was very important that the audience understood who the character was as soon as they appeared on screen. "When you have this broad a canvas with all these characters it's essential as soon as you meet them on screen to know who they are straight away otherwise you're lost. That informed the casting, we were looking for actors to embody the character straight away."
The filmmakers were also inspired by the dynamics created on the set by the mix of new and experienced actors. "Having a level of very experienced and slightly starrier actors mixed in with far less experienced actors created an environment of invention and was really positive," says Beresford.
Warchus adds: “As well as a culture clash between the two communities there is also a collision of ages. The Welsh characters played by Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Paddy Consodine are to varying degrees the more mature characters in the story and these kids turn up and of course that’s exactly what you’ve got while shooting the story. These young, spikey, energetic actors come up against these supreme craftsmen and women with a lot of experience. When we started rehearsing we had a very level playing field and very quickly we had an acting ensemble; the older performers found it energizing to be with the younger actors and conversely the younger actors were all challenged to live up to Bill and Imelda and the other more experienced actors. It encouraged high standards across the board.”
Warchus found his theatre background was useful in directing such a large cast of characters. “It’s a story crowded with characters, which is unusual for a film. There isn’t a single hero to follow and it doesn’t have a conventional structure of plot and sub-plot, but as one of the themes of the film is about groups it would have been betraying an important part of the story to focus on a main character. Before we started filming I told the actors they would only get one or two takes as we had to move quickly and get through a lot of material in a short time, so they had to be word perfect and ready. The dialogue moved very fast and they had to be ready for that with a bit of looseness and improvisation. To direct in that way is probably a theatre skill. The script is very well balanced in solving how to get all the characters into the scenes and we filmed most scenes with everyone in the scene at once, that approach was close to performing on stage and it also helped that so many of the actors had done theatre.”
The ensemble cast includes newcomers Ben Schnetzer as Mark Ashton, the charismatic leader of the LGSM, and George Mackay as Joe, a young man taking his first steps out of the closet. David Livingstone explains the choice of these two young actors: “Ben wasn’t an obvious choice as the character is Irish and Ben is American, but when we saw his audition tape, we all simply thought he had captured the absolute essence of the real Mark Ashton. A lot of the original LGSM members thought he brought Mark to life with an uncanny accuracy. They were blown away by him.”
Livingstone added “George MacKay was a perfect choice as Joe; he brought an innocence and vulnerability to the role that was quite extraordinary. He has an enormous but understated talent.”
For his part, Ben Schnetzer couldn’t resist the story and the chance to play the character. "This is an amazing true story and I couldn't feel more lucky than to be part of the experience,” says Schnetzer. “It was humbling to play Mark Ashton. He was a political activist and a humanist and there is incredible conviction in his vision. But when you’re telling a political story, humour is crucial otherwise it can be in danger of becoming a bit preachy and the audience can feel like they've got an agenda coming full steam at them. In Pride, the humour fits into the film seamlessly."
Beresford adds: "Mark was a very difficult part to cast and we thought we should probably find an Irish actor to be authentic, but we were astonished by Ben's audition tape and his accent was pretty much flawless. I've never really experienced that; so many actors taking to their roles so readily. Ben did it as did Faye Marsay, who plays Steph. George (MacKay) is also naturally very talented."
On playing Joe, a vulnerable young man who has yet to embrace his sexuality, MacKay said, "I had to learn about what a big deal it is to be gay”. “It's a big deal, whatever your sexual preference, to find out who you are let alone to add in something that could put you in personal danger as well as expose you to mental abuse. So I had to get my head around how high the stakes were."
Bill Nighy stars as the mild-mannered club secretary, Cliff. “What can you say about Bill?” says David Livingstone. “He is successful and brilliant in every medium; film, theatre and television. He is an incredible actor, talented and incredibly generous. We were so lucky that he responded in the way he did. It’s also a very different film role for him. Bill felt an enormous responsibility playing Cliff and does so brilliantly”.
Nighy was thrilled to be involved in the film, partly because of the quality of the screenplay and partly because it shone a spotlight on a largely forgotten but emotionally resonant story. "This story was complete news to me,” he explains. “I was very aware of the miner's strike and I was very grateful that there was a film that told a little bit of the truth about that time. There had been a lot of confusion about those events, one might say. But I wasn’t aware of this particular story and I was amazed and moved and touched by it.
“It's one of the best scripts I've read in my life,” he continues. “I was beyond keen to be a part of it. I will hazard a guess that this is the most important film of the year, in terms of history. When I was a young man you could get seven years in jail for any public demonstration of affection if you were gay; someone only needed to say they had seen you. They could lie and they would be believed; it's not greatly to our credit as a society. The fact that these two stories - the miners’ strike and the history of British gay culture - dovetail together is exquisite. You can't mess around with this stuff, not least because it's been distorted and perverted and messed around with at the time and ever since. This has been one of the best jobs I've ever had."
One of Britain’s best character actresses, Imelda Staunton, plays committee stalwart Hefina. "Hefina passed away on the first day of our filming and I felt she was saying ‘OK, I've done my bit, now you carry on.’ I wasn't saddened by it as, my goodness she did her part. But of course because the characters are real you feel a huge responsibility,” says Staunton. “Stephen’s screenplay was a beautifully written story, with a lot of laughing and crying, and it took me back to those times that were so frustrating. It looks at the subject with humour, heart, great poignancy and reality. This manages to make it a story based on mostly real characters that is a very watchable account of a very bad time in a lot of people's lives. But if you can introduce humour into things you can also take them very seriously and this film does that. Quite a few issues are addressed in this film, but you wouldn't know it, which is what I love about it. You're laughing and laughing and then you suddenly think, ‘I can't believe people really thought like that.’ It pulls you in with humour and then the humour pulls you up short. There’s nothing better. And it changed the Welsh village forever. It enriched their lives."
Andrew Scott plays Gethin, the owner of Gay's The Word bookshop who has not set foot in his native Wales or spoken to his mother in 16 years. He's the only character whose personal backstory straddles both story lines.
For Scott, who shot to fame as Moriarty in the BBC‘s Sherlock Holmes series, it was the inner conflict of the character that appealed. "Gethin’s main struggle is that he's very politically involved but he has a lack of peace in his life because he doesn't have the support of his family. The script is about what the gays and miners have in common - and what we all have in common. My plot line is about his national identity and the relationship with his family.
But the serious theme coursing through his character’s narrative doesn’t mean it’s devoid of laughs, and it is this that makes the film even more engaging, according to Scott. “It's a myth that, in order to tell a story about people's struggles, has to be very serious,” he says. “This is a very, very funny script and it strikes a balance between the audience roaring with laughter and being deeply moved. It really is a terrific story.
“There's also a deep pleasure in knowing that this story actually happened and without a huge amount of fanfare and it happened to people who were minorities”. He concludes, “there's something very pleasing that 30 years after something happened those small heroic acts don't go unnoticed."
Joe Gilgun plays Mike Jackson, the co-founder of LGSM, and he found the experience inspirational: “I know it’s corny and people say it a lot, but the script was a roller coaster of emotions - you laugh, you cry - it’s beautifully written and I’m very, very proud to be a part of this particular story. The real Mike Jackson told me that as a generation we’re now made to feel that action is hopeless - we just whinge about things to one another and get into a queue. Very unlike their generation where they got up and did something about it. The political climate was different and the man I’m playing is a hero to me. It’s rare that you get to meet the man you’re playing and you don’t want to let him down.”
Dominic West plays Gethin's actor boyfriend Jonathan, a tailor known for his style and flamboyance. Like the others in the cast, for West it was the screenplay that drew him into the project. “Stephen’s script was a page-turner,” says the actor. “And there are very few that are that well written, have such a tight structure and have that much heart. I read it three or four times and I cried at the end every time, it's so beautifully written.”
One of West’s key moments is the dance his character performs at the Welsh miners’ hall to the Shirley & Company hit song Shame, Shame, Shame. “I’m a good but undisciplined dancer. The choreographer took about two hours to learn the dance whereas it’s taken me about sixteen hours. When I finally performed it I thought it had lasted about twenty minutes, but it was only two. It could have been jarring, but it fits perfectly into the film and advances the themes too.”
Warchus explains the importance of the dance. “It’s a pivotal moment because up until that moment there’s been a certain amount of resistance to the LGSM and some of the group suggest keeping their heads down and just trying to fit in, but that’s not Jonathan’s style, he’s very confrontational and his attitude is ‘I am who I am’ and they better accept it, so he deliberately finds this song to dance to and goes all out. We didn’t want it to be too choreographed, but Dominic would probably laugh at that as he spent quite a long time learning the steps.”
This musical interlude is complemented by the rousing and moving rendition of Blood and Roses by the Welsh community in a later scene. Warchus explains how it was important to avoid sentiment. “The dance is what the LGSM bring from their community in London and it’s almost as if the Welsh group give something back several months later in the same location. The song was fascinating to tackle, as it’s a prime example of putting across emotion without being sentimental. Bronwyn, who starts the song, grew up in one of the villages where the film is set so the fact that she is a local girl helps calibrate what happens next and the authenticity of the song. In shooting it there was a lot of awareness of what we didn’t want it to be, but without making it smaller than we wanted it to be or spilling over into cliché. It was a real balancing act.”
Paddy Considine plays Dai Donovan, the gentle and dignified miner who makes the crucial decision to accept the LGSM's support. "I met Dai just before I started filming,” recalls the actor, “He was a socialist and he identified that the lesbian and gay community, another minority, were also fighting to be heard. Their coming together was quite radical at the time. The LGSM raised the most money of all the support groups and they were consistent with the payments.
“I was very keen to work with Stephen and Matthew, but this is a great story that is not well known. It was also nice to play a guy with different struggles from the ones I've played before.”
The concept of tough, no-nonsense working class miners teaming up with a pack of flamboyant, out-spoken gay and lesbian activists may not seem too far-fetched in 2014 but it was revolutionary in 1984. And it‘s a reminder of how great the chasm was between the largely rural and suburban working class and the metropolitan gay and lesbian community.
Stephen Beresford fills in some of the political, cultural and social issues the film tackles. "The sight of miners arriving in buses at Gay Pride in London was a huge landmark in social history at the time in June 1985. The incredible gulf between those two communities is hard for us to fathom. What is interesting is that all the LGSM had left working class communities and thought that they could never go back once they’d come out, as they wouldn't be accepted. When Dai Donovan first meets the LGSM he says you are the first gay people I've ever met and Mark Ashton's answer was "as far as you know". Dai told me that that's absolutely true and for him it was a eureka moment and had a huge influence on how he interacted with LGSM.
“There are all sorts of things that we now take for granted and we forget what it was like,” he continues. “That was very challenging and I had to make very clear that the 1984 Gay Pride was a political event, not Mardi Gras, and a man in a dress was a political act. The Pits and Perverts gig was one of the first big events where gay and straights came together. We also wanted to illustrate the spectre of Aids as a developing crisis. An HIV diagnosis was devastation and attitudes to Aids were very, very different then. None of the barriers had been broken down.”
With any film based on a true story, it is always a boon for cast and crew to have the input of the real people who were involved. Pride enjoyed the enthusiastic collaboration of some of the surviving members of the LGSM. Mike Jackson, Sian James, Reggie Blennerhassett, Ray Aller, Jonathan Blake and Gethin Roberts visited the set many times and were only too happy to help the actors playing them. They even took part in the recreation of the Gay Pride marches in the film.
The miners who were portrayed in the film also had a positive response to the events they participated in being turned into a film as Dai Donovan (played by Paddy Considine) explains: “as a participant to the events of the miner's strike of 1984/5 I will always remain proud of the stand the miners and their families made in defence of their industry and communities. However, the strike could not have been sustained without the support of thousands of people across the UK who came together to give support to the miners and their families. All were committed, all were generous. However, I know that the most significant in terms of its generosity of spirit was 'Lesbian and Gays support the Miners'. Those involved in this group set aside their own oppression to support the mining communities who were experiencing for the first time what it was like to be vilified and attacked in Thatcher's Britain. Those in LGSM could have stood on the sidelines and done nothing. The miners will always be grateful that they chose to act, that they chose to offer friendship and fraternity.
“There must be thousands of memorable experiences waiting to be told about the people involved in the miners’ strike. In bringing Pride to the screen in this way, those who took part in these events owe a debt of gratitude to the producers. The film captures the 'urgency' of the time as well as the impact on individual lives. Also, we have been luckier than most. We were fortunate to have experienced the events ourselves and we have been fortunate that those events have been recorded for others to see, to enjoy and to remember. Only rarely do the experiences of ordinary people involved in a strike get made into a feature film. We can only say to everyone involved in making Pride, thank you for telling 'our story' with integrity, humour and pride!"
Pride was filmed on location in South Wales and in and around London. Interior scenes set in Wales were filmed outside London, but the cast and crew spent a week filming exterior scenes in Wales, taking over a whole village.
Warchus explains how the crew ended up filming in the original village. “We went to the real locations on our first recce and couldn’t find anywhere else as good. It’s an old Roman road and very visually strong, it’s almost like a set built in the middle of nowhere, almost like a town in a western. Seeing the original photos of the real LGSM on the walls of the welfare hall was a moving experience and it was important to be in the real place soaking it up. It really emphasized the sense of responsibility that we had to be honest and honour what had happened in these real life events. It was a powerful place to be and the ghosts of the past were present. The pitheads have been completely obliterated, the slag heaps have gone, but that sense of history and how things have been radically changed informed the film. Members of the village came up to us and said ‘we remember the gays’ and they had pride in being part of such an important part of history.”
“The village in Wales accepted us with a certain level of trepidation,” says Beresford. “It’s not that easy going into a small village where everyone knew everyone else and asking people to only use their back doors for a week as we were filming in the main street, but as they got to know the story more and how it was representing their community they got more involved and the week ended with families standing out in the cold enjoying watching the filming. They made us very welcome and at the end of the week we were sorry to leave.”
Production designer Simon Bowles was charged with recreating the period bringing a suitably realistic design to the locations and sets.
David Livingstone comments, "It's easy to fall into a parody of the 1980’s, but we’ve gone to great lengths to make it to feel authentic and as accurate as possible.”
Tat Radcliffe, the director of photography was chosen for his ability to capture the authenticity of the design and the performances. Warchus explains this choice. “The principle of trying to make the film feel as honest and true as possible is in the performances, the style of directing and in the look of the film. Tat has the hand-held loose energy style that brings together documentary tropes with fiction, but he also seems to have a probing eye and he’s a very astute and sensitive person. He’s a very intuitive and responsive cinematographer who makes sure he captures the actors performances in the most natural and unforced way.”
Much of the inspiration for the design of Pride comes from production designer Simon Bowles' own background in the anti-nuclear movement, and his experience taking part in numerous demonstrations at that time.
"Surprisingly there's not that much reference material around the miners strike and no real official collection of material for this period,” Says Bowles. “There are some photos in newspapers, but probably only about 20 which get repeated. So we pounced on what was available and when we first recced in Wales I asked a lot of locals for their personal photo’s from the 80's!”
The principal sets were the Gay's the Word bookshop, The Welsh Working Men's Club, the Pits and Perverts Ball at the Forum and the two Gay Pride marches the first in June 1984 and then in 1985 (when the miners joined the march).
The design team recreated a street of shops and shop fronts in Kilburn, to represent the street in Bloomsbury where Gay's the Word bookshop was, in which the LGSM made their base.
"It's my idea of what a London street looked like in the 80's,” says Bowles. “A mini-version in one little street. There’s a vegetarian restaurant, a tailors, a cobblers and a modern 80's cool clothing shop; it's a mix of shops bringing a mini-cosmos to life with period cars and open shop doorways."
Inspiration for the overall look of the film and specifically for the design of Gay’s the Word was found in the original bookshop. "There was a holy grail of three photo albums taken by the LGSM which blew our minds a little bit,” explains Bowles. “We had them fairly late in the design process, but were relieved to find quite a lot married up with what we'd already done. We also discovered boxes and boxes of ephemera from the 80's in Gay's the Word Bookshop in Bloomsbury - books, magazines and posters. I took lots of elements from that into the bookshop set. It's different structurally, but the content is very similar."
One of the challenges was the quantity of sets to be created and the contrast between the Welsh element and the London side. Bowles explains how this was achieved quite simply with the use of colour. "London is a riot of colour and a riot of characters are brought to life in these settings. The colours we used in all the Welsh settings are far more muted. The street in London was full of vibrancy with as many elements as possible to contrast with Wales even down to the bright friendly shaped cars, the cars in Wales are very muted silvers and greys.”
The contrast is nowhere more obvious than in the recreation of the banners carried by the gays and miners during the marches. Bowles explains, "The miners lodge banners are appliqued and sewn together with brass and wood and are things of beauty and beautifully cared for and the gay pride banners are created with passion and excitement, hand-painted, layering on net curtain and only really meant to last for the day."
A lot of the film takes place in the miner’s welfare hall, which was recreated in a school sports hall outside London. "The dressing is very specific, we made all the banquette seating and built a big bar and used miners artwork,” explains Bowles. “Narrow tables and lovely old wooden chairs were hired from a hall in Wales, all which are common in the welfare halls there, but impossible to find elsewhere."
The graphics team worked on posters, stickers badges and banners for which there was a lot of reference material. “They are not direct copies but people can recognize them from the period,” says Bowles. “The posters in the Welsh NUM are printed on newsprint paper and protest posters have very limited colours, but the gay group’s are litho-printed in primary colours and are all very bold, for example the CND symbols and rainbows which is just one more contrast to add to the visual feast and vibrancy of the film."
The LGSM arranged collections through pub, club and street collections but the biggest event was the “Pits and Perverts” ball at Camden's Electric Ballroom in December 1984. Bronski Beat headed the bill. The filmmakers recreated the event at the Kentish Town Forum. This was a highlight for Bowles.
“We recreated the real event, but enhanced it and made it even bigger and bolder. It was great fun to do and it was the culmination of the film for me. This project has been particularly important personally as I have been heavily involved in campaigning and protesting. It's been wonderful to recreate this period of protest and holding your own. It's been very powerful for the older members of the cast and crew to remember this period and for the younger ones to learn about it. It's been very emotional recreating some of these moments."
As George MacKay affirms, he and the younger actors making the film learned about the power of protest: "I hope that audiences will see a study of people and what brings them together and that it also shows that taking action is a positive thing to do rather than just standing on the side-lines."
LGSM was courageous, inspirational and unprecedented and it wasn't about leaders or heroes. Beresford says in summary, "I hope this restores the balance of history as this is a civil rights story and it's a story that deserves to be known, both sides deserve to have it told. One of the important messages of the film is that if you expect the best out of people you are often rewarded."
Bill Nighy concurs, "Audiences will have their sense of humanity refreshed and they will feel considerably better when they leave the cinema than when they went in because they will be witness to a story of enormous courage wit and unlikeliness and they will meet some people you don't often meet in the cinema."