Dominic West and Bill Nighy help West Hampstead street go back to the 1980s for new BBC film

Thursday, 31st October 2013

Flashback to 1984 – Gay’s the Word fundraisers outside the shop. Actor Dominic West (pictured) stars in a new film about the support given to the miners

Published: 31 October, 2013
by ALICE HUTTON

A WEST Hampstead street was time-warped back to the 1980s for a new BBC film starring Dominic West and Bill Nighy set to celebrate the gay and lesbian campaign to support striking miners.

Camera crews moved into Kingsgate Road for the week as it was turned into a mock-up of Marchmont Street, the road in King’s Cross home to the famous Gay’s the Word bookshop.

The shop, still the only dedicated LGBT bookshop in the United Kingdom, will feature prominently in Pride.

To guarantee its authenticity, staff helped stock the set with the original-era books dug out of Gay’s The Word’s basement.

The film takes viewers back to the summer of 1984 – the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is on strike over government plans to shut the pits leaving thousands of families on the breadline.

At the Gay Pride march in London, a group of gay and lesbian activists decide to raise money to support them – only to find that the union is embarrassed by their support.  

Based on a true story, the BBC, Pathé, BFI and Calamity Films and Proud Films production set for release in autumn next year, will tell how they didn’t give up, how they forged an extraordinary friendship with a tiny Welsh village and what the miners did for them in return.

“It was a incredible story really,” Gay’s the Word manager Jim MacSweeney told the New Journal.

“They called themselves Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and they held their meetings here. The shop was socialist-founded in 1979 and hosted lots of different groups back then, as it does now, so it was a natural choice.

“They not only hosted their meetings here but they used to stand out front raising money for them. Having the shop was a good idea so they could step inside if the police got involved.”

Thirty years ago it wasn’t just the miners who were a persecuted minority.

Police, government and public attitudes to gay people was often violent and homophobic.

Along with street fundraising, a benefit was held at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town in December 1984 headlined by Bronski Beat, whose lead singer was Jimmy Somerville. The title of the event was Pits and Perverts – originally a headline used by the Sun newspaper.

The same year HM Customs raided Gay’s the Word and confiscated thousands of pounds worth of literature assuming it was pornography.

Mr MacSweeney added: “Way back in ’84 attitudes were so different to how they are now.

"It is an important story and I’m glad it’s being told.

"It is about solidarity with all sorts of different groups. They [the film producers] came in to talk to us about the shop and we gave them permission to use our logo and lent them the books. It is very exciting.”

He added: “When we went into the [set in Kingsgate Road] I thought well this is a lovely, warm safe space, which is what it was back then. It had an essence of what we were about.”

Pride, also starring Imelda Staunton and Paddy Considine, is due to be released in autumn next year, on the 30th anni­versary of the strike and 35th anni­versary of Gay’s the Word opening.

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