Film with Portrush connection scoops award

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The brave actions of a Portrush man who campaigned for gay rights in the 1980s is the central story in a British movie which has just won best film at the British Independent Film Awards.

Written by Stephen Beresford, ‘Pride’ tells the story of how Mark Ashton’s efforts broke down barriers in mid-80s Britain.

The film tells the true story of a group of gays and lesbians in London who decided to raise money for striking miners, because of their mutual hatred of Margaret Thatcher.

Ashton, who died of Aids at the age of 27 in 1987, studied at the former Catering College in Portrush, before moving to London where he became a leading gay activist.

During the 1984/85 miners strike in Wales, Ashton and his friend Mike Jackson, set up ‘Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners’ (LGSM).

In doing so they raised over £20,000 for the min at ing families of the Dulais Valley in South Wales.

In the film Ben Schnetzer gives a gutsy performance as Ashton, and portrays how the local man faced suspicion from the macho Welsh miners as he tried to forge links with them.

The movie premièred the Cannes Film festival earlier this year.

It then went on general release back in September.

Since then it has wowed audiences.

Accepting the top award of the night at the British Independent Film Awards, Pride director Matthew Warchus was delighted.

He said: “We’re getting reports from up and down the country of audiences standing up and applauding.

“That doesn’t really happen in British cinemas.

“It’s just extraordinary.

“It’s a real tribute to the source material.”

Writer Stephen Beresford added that the film had one “simple, compelling message: unite”.

“When I was first told the story I was blown away by it - people ask ‘is that really true?

“It took 20 years to convince anyone that a film about vegan lesbian activists was a sure-fire hit.”