LGBT+ History Month @ the Miners’ Library

The film Pride (released in 2014 and the subject of one of our previous blogs) is a comedy-drama that recounts the links forged during the 1984/5 miners strike between mining communities in South Wales and the London-based support group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – or LGSM for short. With an impressive cast of both established actors and newer talent, the film features a mix of fictional and real-life characters. Jessica Gunning plays miner’s wife and future MP Sian James, Ben Schnetzer portrays LGBT activist and socialist Mark Ashton and Imelda Staunton is community stalwart Hefina Headon. Since arriving in stock early last year, our copy of Pride has been consistently borrowed but it is not the only item we hold in relation to the events of the film. The Miners’ Library has a wealth of books, oral histories, posters, flyers and banners connected to Pride and, as we are in the midst of LGBT+ History Month, this is the ideal opportunity to draw attention to a relationship that -until recently – had received relatively little historical attention.

In our Oral History Collection (the subject of our most recent blog), there is an interview with miner  Dai Donovan. Portrayed by Paddy Considine in the film, Dai describes the significance of his first meeting with  what would eventually become LGSM:

“I think that was a very fortuitous and important meeting for our group, certainly. And I think for them as well…”

Banners play a significant role in the narrative of Pride, functioning as symbols of working-class solidarity and the values of the strike. You may not be aware that a number of these banners were loaned from our collection for use in the film, specifically the final scenes. The Seven Sisters banner below can be see seen clearly during the march at the end:

seven sisters banner

 

We also hold literature produced by LGSM during the strike that explains their cause and encourages others to join. One flyer summarises their mission statement succinctly:

We want to demonstrate to the lesbian and gay community the vital importance of supporting the strike and the reasons why a victory for the miners will be our victory also.

Another of the pamphlets from this collection functions as an abridged history of the movement, with brief accounts of its origins, its off-shoots (Lesbians Against Pit Closures), and key events from its history like the Pits and Perverts concert. It features short narratives from specific individuals involved with the organisation: Steve Browning, Stephanie Chambers and Nigel Young. The Pits and Perverts concert was a fundraising effort by the LGSM held at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Taking their title from a derogatory tabloid headline, the show was headlined by Bronski Beat and was advertised by Kevin Franklin’s striking poster, of which we have a signed copy in our collection. (With the permission of the LGSM, we featured the poster in our Advent Calendar 2015 and it proved to be one of the most popular items).

We also hold two issues of the magazine Gay and Lesbian Socialist from Summer 1984 and Spring 1985, which offers fascinating insights into the LGBT political landscape of the 1980s . The 1984 issue is particularly useful for understanding the political context of LGSM; the hotbed of LGBT-led socialist organisations in London provided the conditions for such groups to thrive once the strike was truly in full swing. The 1985 issue features an article by Tom Swann which discusses the impact of LGSM thus far and the common bonds of oppression that link the LGBT and mining communities.

One of the most recent additions to our main collection is Mrs Hellfire: “You Said It!”, an account of the life of Hefina Headon written by her daughter. Imelda Staunton’s portrayal of Hefina in Pride was widely praised and this book functions as both a biography of Hefina’s life and a valuable insight into the repercussions of the strike on individuals and communities. We also hold Hywel Francis’s History on Our Side which chronicles the events of the strike.

LGSM reformed in 2014 and are currently dedicated to developing archival material on their website that documents their history and impact. They are also available on Facebook and twitter.

National Libraries Day 2016

 

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To celebrate National Libraries Day 2016 (#loveyourlibrary), the Miners’ Library is drawing attention to its Oral History Collection. This collection is often utilized by historians and researchers at the Library but may not be as familiar to some of our other students and borrowers. This is why, beginning on February 6th, we have prepared a selection of clips from the extensive collection so that anyone can get a flavour of the collection and the variety of stories told within it. This selection, along with some informative posters and photocopied transcripts, will be available in the reception area of the library for those interested in learning (and hearing) more.

The Miners’ Library began its Oral History Collection as a result of two Coalfield History Projects that ran from 1971-4 and 1979-82. The projects were tasked with collecting a broad range of sources that included oral testimony . Over 1175 hours of audio and video interviews were recorded as a result of these projects, which documented the lives of ordinary men and women. The interviews offer insights into the individuals struggles of these people, as well as affording glimpses into the larger social, cultural and political contexts in which they lived. Subsequent recordings have been added in the years since the original projects, adding to the breadth and scope of the collection.

The interviews vary in length. Some last for several hours while others are around forty-minutes.Reflecting the bi-lingual nature of the coalfield, approximately 10% of the interviews were conducted in Welsh. Many prominent figures in the south Wales coal industry have been interviewed, such as Dai Francis, Emlyn Williams, Phil Weekes and Will Paynter.

Please let us know if you would like further information on the South Wales Coalfield Collection.

Or go to: www.swansea.ac.uk/swcc