An unlikely and widely unknown alliance between Welsh miners on strike and a group of London-based gay activists is being brought to life in a new stage play in the Alley Theatre, Strabane on Friday 11th October.
Pits and Perverts is an uplifting true story about the birth of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). The semi autobiographical play is penned by Derry man Micheál Kerrigan who, at the height of the strikes in the 1980s, was involved in the LGSM group which was set up to support the miners and their families in South Wales. The group became the largest fundraisers for miners in South Wales raising in excess of £22,000.
Directed and produced by Patricia Byrne for Sole Purpose Productions in association with The Rainbow Project, this touching and funny drama is based on real events that took place during Thatcher’s leadership. Although the events around the miner’s strikes are well documented, this part of history and the struggle by the miners and their families in South Wales is generally unknown.
Pits and Perverts is the first play by Derry-born Micheál Kerrigan, a long standing gay activist who was a member of the LGSM Group in the 1980s and has used his own experiences in writing the script. Micheál was also instrumental in organising the first ever Gay Pride March in Ireland in Dublin in 1973 and the first Gay Pride Festival in Derry in 1993.
Speaking about the staging of the play Micheál commented:
“This is an untold story. Everyone remembers the strikes but few people knew of the gay community’s support for the miners. The play also looks at the parallels of the Northern Ireland situation, the miners strike and the struggle for gay rights. The story is a powerful one which illustrates the path that led to LGBT rights being brought to the forefront of Trade Union equality legislation.”
Pits and Perverts centres on Sean, who leaves Derry in the 1980s at the height of the troubles. He heads to London where he comes out as a gay man. Sean joins the newly established support group and invites two miners from South Wales to stay with him and his partner. When realising that they are staying with a gay couple, the miners are torn between their own prejudices and their need for support. The events that unfold impact on all their lives and on the unions for years to come. The title comes from the Pits and Perverts Ball which was held in 1984 to raise funds for the miners. A national newspaper had described the connection between the miners and the gay community as an ‘unholy alliance of Pits and Perverts’. The group then took the name as an act of defiance.
The production’s five-strong cast includes four actors from Northern Ireland alongside Jason Davies, who is from South Wales and whose father was a miner during the time in which the play is set.
Producer and Director Patricia Byrne commented:
“The research phase of the production has been fascinating. We have been able to access archive video footage of the group and the miners, photos, minutes from meetings, and have spoken to some of the people who were involved to get their take on what happened. We have also received letters of support from Sian James MP for Swansea East, Dr Hywel Francis MP for Aberavon and have been working closely with Mike Jackson who set up the group with Mark Ashton (RIP) in 1984.”
Mike Jackson added:
“Pits and Perverts is wonderful, embracing so much important detail, so much historical truth, the pain and the joys. A masterpiece expression of all that LGSM was about.”
Sole Purpose Productions was founded in 1997 and exists to use the discourse of imagination to investigate and illuminate social and public issues. The Rainbow Project is a health organisation that works to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBT people in Northern Ireland.
Pits and Perverts was developed with assistance from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Joint Sectoral Dramaturgy Project, administered by Tinderbox Theatre Company. This production is supported by UK City of Culture, Culture for All, Community Foundation NI and the Derry Trades Union Council. Sole Purpose is core funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Fund.
Recommended age 16+, contains some strong language. Tickets are £10 and available from the Alley Theatre Box Office on 028 71 384444 or online www.alley-theatre.com