LGSM Gay rights activist Mark Ashton who lost his life exactly 30 years ago today to HIV/AIDS

LGSM Gay rights activist Mark Ashton who lost his life exactly 30 years ago today to HIV/AIDS
11 Feb 2017
Paul Britt

As we reflect on the past actions of others in LGBT history month, it seems only fitting that as this is the 11th February 2017, we take time to recognise the death of gay rights activist Mark Ashton who sadly lost his life exactly 30 years ago today to HIV/AIDS.

In 1984, LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) was a group formed by Mark Ashton and his friend Michael Jackson, after the two men collected donations for the miners at the 1984 Lesbian and Gay Pride march in London. The London LGSM group met and fundraised in various locations, including the Gay's the Word bookshop, which served as the London group's headquarters. The London group was twinned with the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valleys Miners Support Groups in Wales.

In addition to raising approximately £20,000 for the families who were on strike, there were reciprocal visits. The largest single fundraising event that LGSM organised was the "Pits and Perverts" benefit concert, which was held in the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, London on 10 December 1984. The event was headlined by Bronski Beat and its lead singer, Jimmy Somerville. The title of the benefit is claimed by many to have originated as a headline in the British tabloid The Sun.

This alliance built between the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and British labour groups proved to be an important turning point in the progression of LGBT issues in the United Kingdom. Miners' labour groups began to support, endorse and participate in various gay pride events throughout the UK, most notably leading the parade at the Lesbian and Gay Pride march in London in 1985. That same year at the 1985 Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, a resolution committing the party to the support of LGBT rights was passed, due to a block vote of support from the National Union of Mineworkers. The miners' groups were also among the most outspoken allies of the LGBT community in the 1988 campaign against Section 28.

The London group's alliance with the Welsh mining village of Onllwyn is dramatised in the 2014 film titled Pride. There is currently a crowdfunding project to install a memorial plaque for Mark Ashton (founder of LGSM) above Gays The Word bookshop in London. You can find out more about this fund by clicking here.