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Birthday, Community, and Lesbians: maireddog: Mark Ashton died on this day, the 11th of February, in 1987. Mark was born on the 19th of May, 1960 in Oldham, but grew up in Portrush, Northern Ireland. He moved to London in 1978, where he worked in a bar in King’s Cross, in drag as a barmaid with a blonde beehive. In the 1980s, he volunteered for London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, campaigned for CND and joined the Communist Party, becoming the first gay secretary of the Young Communist League. Though Mark transformed the Party’s approach to LGBT rights, he and Mike Jackson, who he’d met through Switchboard, wanted to be active as openly gay people. They formed Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) when they collected donations for miners on strike at 1984 Gay Pride. In the evening of 1984 Pride, a miner spoke at a rally, and they were struck by the similarities between the two struggle, of LGBT rights and the Miners’ Strike. Having collected about £150, they advertised a meeting in Capital Gay. 11 people turned up and from the meeting they made a leaflet to launch LGSM - the leaflet was accepted except with an amendment to ‘one in ten miners is gay.’ As LGSM, they supported the miners as lesbian and gay people. At the second meeting, they decided to focus on one community, of the Dulais Valley, as one of the members, Hugh Williams, was from there. They then met David (Dai) Donovan, who also had thought through the similarities of their struggles and how LGSM could help. A month later, 27 lesbians and gay men, arrived at Onllwyn village in Dulais Valley. Other than some hostility (and confusion towards vegetarianism), they experienced warmth, friendship and solidarity. LGSM raised £20,000 for families of miners on strike, and based on The Sun writing that “a group of perverts” were “supporting the pits,” they organised the Pits and Perverts concert in December, 1984, headlined by Bronski Beat. The miners marched with LGSM at Gay Pride in 1985. Mark was admitted to hospital on 30th January, 1987, and died 12 days later from pneumonia, aged 26. At his memorial, there were banners from the Communist Party, Anti-Apartheid, anti-nuclear, Caribbean and community groups, as well as from LGSM. The Mark Ashton Trust was created to support individuals diagnosed with Aids; Mark is also remembered on the UK Aids Memorial Quilt and by Terrence Higgins Trust, with the Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund and a plaque at their London headquarters. In 2017, on what would have been his 57th birthday, he was honoured with a blue plaque above Gay’s The Word bookshop. [Images: 1. Mark Ashton at Gay Pride 1981. 2. Mark Ashton at Gay Pride 1985, wearing a LGSM t-shirt and holding a pink “Communist Party” banner with the words “pinko commie queers.” 3. Blue plaque reading: “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Mark Ashton 1960-1987. Political and Community Activist. LGSM met at Gay’s the Word bookship on this site 1984/5.”]