In the 2014 award-winning film Pride, Dai Donovan is the warm, good-humoured Welsh miner who meets Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) in London and then, back home in Wales, hosts members of the group on his living-room floor. He’s undoubtedly one of the heroes of the film.
But how close is Pride’s Dai to the real Dai? And how did his life change after the strike?
“I’d always suffered from a lack of confidence.
I wasn’t very good at school but it didn’t matter because I grew up in a family where I was loved. I was born into a mining family; I was a miner; coal was my life. Underground, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a high achiever academically.
I found my voice during the strike.
I met Dr Hywel Francis, who’d set up the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valleys Miners’ Support Group. I joined the group and realised that my thoughts about how to sustain the strike were shared by Hywel, who was a very clever bloke. By the end of the strike, I felt my life had as much meaning as anyone else’s. I was challenging the perceived wisdom that all miners were picket line hooligans, and that gave me confidence.
LGSM were suffering what we were just beginning to suffer.
It felt perfectly normal to go to London to meet them and it was immediately apparent that we were on the same wavelength. Mark Ashton was such a dynamic individual – but then, they all were. I felt lucky to be involved in bringing gay issues into the homes of non-gay people and into the workplace – and therefore onto the trade union agenda and the political agenda of this country. That’s what fundamentally changed.
The strike made me see I could do something different.
So when my colleagues went back to work, I went to university. I studied history at Oxford. My first essay came back with, “This is a dog’s dinner” across the top. I thought, there’s two ways you can go: you can give up, or you can say, what do I have to do to improve?
After graduating I had a job interview with ACTT,
the media and entertainment union (now BECTU – a sector of Prospect). I was very nervous on the bus to London. But when I walked up the steps of Piccadilly tube, I felt that new-found confidence again. I thought, “This is your job to lose. Go in there and show them what you are.” I’m still doing the job today.
I really love my job.
Taking a call from someone who’s worried about something at work and, at the end of the call, leaving them feeling relieved that someone is going to try to help them – well, that’s tremendous.
I was very moved when I went to see Pride with my sons and daughter.
I had only met Paddy Considine for an hour, yet my children said he had captured me – my integrity, my sincerity. I felt humbled by his portrayal but also a little embarrassed that I had been singled out.
The film makers were anxious about what we’d think.
But I thought Pride was great. It portrays the sincerity of everyone who was involved without being mushy. It gets across those important messages around solidarity. It gives people courage. I have nothing but pride in the film.”