The year long miner’s strike in 1984 for many epitomises the spirit of trade unionism. Not only has it been etched into the hearts and minds of those that were around to experience it first hand, it also became immortalised in film when Pride was released back in 2014.
Pride tells the tale of an unlikely but powerful alliance between the striking miners and a group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Dai Donovan – one of the striking miners depicted in the film – answered questions from Napo members.
On the relevance of the miner’s strike today…
Dai described Thatcher’s Britain in 1984 as being “a cold place” and said: “It was a dismantling of the post-war consensus and an introduction of the market place
Trade unions were routinely under attack, and workers blamed for the failure of services rather than the government.
“Does this sound familiar to you? Think about the introduction of the market place and privatisation of your profession. Think about the attacks on junior doctors sticking up for our health service and their contracts. Think about the way people fleeing from war and
workers from Europe are portrayed. That’s the similarity, relevance and subtext in Pride,” said Dai.
On the unlikely alliance between Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and the south Wales miners…
Dai painted a picture of a time where lesbians and gays were vilified by the press and attacked in the streets. However, some of the miners suddenly had “the scales fall from their eyes” when the LGSM decided to stand and fight with
Expressing his eternal gratitude to the group he said: “It would have been so easy for them to have said to the mining community: “you know all these hassles you’re talking about, you know this fuss on the picket lines and the brutality you’re experiencing – join the club.”’
On whether there were homophobic attitudes that needed to be broken down to allow for greater unity…
“I am pleased to say that from the first moment we built a relationship with LGSM in London and they came to visit us in the locality, there was no immediate antagonism,” Dai told conference, explaining that there was usually a long list of families offering their homes for members of LGSM to stay overnight or for the weekend.
What was more remarkable, according to Dai, was a growing awareness in the community of the issues facing gay men and women, particularly around sexual health and HIV.
“I am sorry if that’s a disappointment, but I would rather tell you something more fundamental, and that fundamental thing is the willingness to accept strangers because potentially they could become some of your best friends,” said Dai.
On persevering with the strike when faced with prolonged hardship…
“The dynamic of the strike was so all encompassing that instead of feeling depressed by another attack by the government and the portrayal in public, people were sustained by it,” explained Dai.
“If you’re not passionate about your profession to defend it, who do you think will?” he asked members.
“I believe that most miners who took part in that strike wouldn’t change a single day because for them it was a battle. Even though they lost that battle, every day since then they have lived with the knowledge that most of Britainsupported their fight.”