In 1984 the UK’s National Union of Mineworkers began a nation-wide strike in protest at planned coal mine closures around the country. The Thatcher government responded with measures that were not only tough but frequently brutal and often illegal. The dispute polarised the opinion of the general public as well as the LGBT community.
Organised LGBT support for the miners began with a collection at the Gay Pride March in London in June 1984. Shortly thereafter, a meeting of gays and lesbians was organised at the University of London Union, with a speaker from the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers.This led to the formation of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM).
Membership was broad-reaching; some members came from specific political groups such as the Communist Party, the International Marxist Group (IMG), the Labour Party and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Others – myself included – were aligned to none of those but simply supported the miners cause (and, more generally, opposed the barbarism of the Thatcher regime).
Somewhat miraculously, given the history of Left political groups, this broad coalition worked together. No one sought to hog the limelight nor were events ‘claimed’ by one particular group or another.
In September 1984 a second LGSM group was established, this time in Lothian in Scotland. Then Lesbians Against Pit Closures was set up in London, partly as a reaction against the male-dominated LGSM. By January 1985 there were eleven LGSM groups around the country.
My own involvement began while I was still living in Nottingham, working as a volunteer typist in the local strike headquarters. (I’d heard that the strikers were looking for a typist. They’d asked the local Women’s Support Group, presumably on the assumption that this was a female role. They were a bit shocked when I turned up – so much so that there was some detailed interrogation to confirm that I was indeed there for the typist role. Even then it took a couple of days for them to get over their embarrassment and actually give me some typing work to do!)