Friday, February 06, 2015


Just got back from viewing of the film Pride at the unlikely venue of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, screened as part of their LGBT History Month programme. Of course, I am a good five months late seeing the film, but thought I would share my thoughts anyway.
Pride (UK 2014)

It's a tearjerker, historically inaccurate in places and underwrites the women characters, with barely a named lesbian in the mix. But, what really stuck with me was the use of the word "solidarity". I had thoughts on this word dropping out of the social vocabulary, as I was writing my dissertation recently, but left this idea out of the finished work. Certain words seem to belong to certain decades and "solidarity" seems to scream '80s-'90s to me. I well remember using it, feeling it, living it, but not recently.

Hmm, I ponder to myself. Was queer/AIDS activism the last gasp of the solidarity movement? In Pride the solidarity is meant to be between the LG (as it was in those days) community and the striking miners in South Wales in 1984. But, the community itself is not in agreement. The men talk over the women and mock their expressed desire for a women's group. And most gay men they meet in clubs are not at all interested in supporting a demographic they perceive as macho and homophobic. Solidarity is hard-won, if at all. Despite the film's feel-good ending, the miners lost and Section 28 was adopted within three years of the film's final scene.

One of the characters, Jonathan, is based on Jonathan Blake, who spoke after the screening. Now 65 and a long-term survivor of AIDS, he clearly has a history of activism, and many in the audience were keen to hear his thoughts on the changing face and focus of LGBT activism, with concerns raised about privatisation and commercialisation of events like Pride (the event, not the film), as well as HIV care. For my part, I was keen to hear more about the community the film depicts as being centred around the Gay's the Word bookshop. Sadly, this part was fictionalised: Blake says he lived in a squat in Brixton and most meetings were held in gay pubs, such as The Bell. I hold out hope that somewhere there is a solidarity movement brewing in a queer bookshop.

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