Mark Ashton in 1986
|Died||11 February 1987 (aged 26)|
|Alma mater||Northern Ireland Hotel and Catering College|
|Occupation||Gay rights activist|
|Political party||Communist Party of Great Britain|
Mark Christian Ashton (gay rights activist and co-founder of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group. He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and general secretary of the Young Communist League.19 May 1960 – 11 February 1987) was an Irish
Ashton was born in Oldham, and moved to Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, where he grew up. He studied at the former Northern Ireland Hotel and Catering College in Portrush, before moving to London in 1978. Richard Coles wrote about this period: "Mark also worked for a while as a barman at the Conservative Club in King’s Cross, or, rather, as a barmaid, in drag, with a blonde beehive wig. I was never sure if the patrons worked out that he was really a man".
In 1982 he spent three months in Bangladesh visiting his parents, where his father was working for the textile machinery industry. The experience of his sojourn had a profound effect on him. Upon his return, he volunteered with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and joined the Young Communist League. In 1983 he featured in the Lesbian and Gay Youth Video Project film Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts, an early documentary that won the Grierson Award 1984 for Best Documentary.
He formed, with his friend Mike Jackson, the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group after the two men collected donations for the miners on strike at the 1984 Lesbian and Gay Pride march in London.
Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Ashton was admitted to Guy's Hospital on 30 January 1987 and died 12 days later of Pneumocystis pneumonia. His death prompted a significant response from the gay community, particularly in publication and attendance at his funeral at Lambeth Cemetery.
In his memory, the Mark Ashton Trust was created to raise money for individuals living with HIV, and as of 2007[update] it had raised £20,000. Since 2008, the Terrence Higgins Trust has included the Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund, which had collected more than £38,000 as of 2017[update]. Mark Ashton is also remembered on a panel on the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt and has been memorialised in May 2014 on a plaque at the entrance to the London headquarters of the Terrence Higgins Trust.
In 2017, on the anniversary of what would have been Ashton's 57th birthday, a blue plaque was unveiled in his honour above the Gay's The Word bookshop in Marchmont Street, London, the site where LGSM met and held meetings during the miners' strike.
The ballad "For a Friend" in the album Red from the British pop duo The Communards was written in his memory. Mark Hooper of The Rough Guide to Rock writes that this cut may be Somerville's "most impassioned moment". Ashton was a friend of both Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles. For a Friend reached number 28 on the British charts.
The LGSM's activities were dramatised in Pride, a film released in September 2014 featuring Ben Schnetzer as Ashton. Ashton's role in the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group was recalled in a series of interviews with some of its other members prior to the film's release. However, Ashton's membership of the Young Communist League was not mentioned in the film possibly to avoid alienating American audiences. Schnetzer, an American actor, was nominated for two British Independent Film Awards for his performance.
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- Framed Youth Revenge of the Teenage Perverts (1983) at the British Film Institute's Film and TV Database
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- Barraclough, Leo (7 December 2014). "Matthew Warchus' 'Pride' Wins Top Prize at British Independent Film Awards". Variety.
- Volfson, Olga (27 September 2018). "Mark Ashton, militant queer fondateur de Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, honoré par la ville de Paris". Komitid (in French).
- "2018 DAC 389. Attribution de la dénomination Jardin de l'Hôtel Lamoignon - Mark Ashton, au jardin de l'Hôtel Lamoignon (4e)" (in French).
- Birch, Chris (April 1994). "Mark Ashton - Panel No: 69". AIDSquilt.org.uk. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012.
- Birch, Chris (28 January 2007). "Mark Ashton". Gone Too Soon. All Points North.
- Birch, Chris (2010). My Life: The Caribbean, Communism, Budapest 1956, journalism, HIV/Aids, London Lighthouse, Diana’s funeral, Westminster Abbey, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and much more. St Christopher Press. ISBN 978-0-9545721-1-2.
- Birch, Chris (2014). "The Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund". Red Ribbon Fund Newsletter. Terrence Higgins Trust (5).
- Birch, Chris (28 January 2016). "Memories of a class fighter". Morning Star.
- Coles, Richard (2014). Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went From Pop to Pulpit. Hachette UK. ISBN 978-0-297-87031-9.
- Doward, Jamie (21 September 2014). "The real-life triumphs of the gay communist behind hit movie Pride". The Guardian.
- Fischer, Mark (25 September 2014). "Moving and inspiring. Matthew Warchus (director) Pride general release". Weekly Worker.
- Frost, Peter (11 September 2014). "'Pits and Perverts:' The Legacy of Communist Mark Ashton". Morning Star.
- Hall–Carpenter Archives (1989). "Mark Ashton: Five Friends Remember". Walking After Midnight: Gay Men's Life Stories. Routledge. pp. 205–223. ISBN 978-0-415-02957-5. OL 15164674W.
- Hooper, Mark (2003). Buckley, Peter (ed.). The Rough Guide to Rock (3rd ed.). Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-84353-105-0. OL 9016361W.
- Kellaway, Kate (31 August 2014). "When miners and gay activists united: the real story of the film Pride". The Guardian.
- Kelliher, Diarmaid (2014). "Solidarity and Sexuality: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners 1984–5". History Workshop Journal. Oxford Journals. 77 (1): 240–262. doi:10.1093/hwj/dbt012.
- Kutner, Jon (28 October 2012). "For A Friend (Communards)".
- Leeworthy, Daryl (2018). "Ashton, Mark Christian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.111326.
- Massillon, Julien (18 February 2015). "L'émotion de Jimmy Somerville: «Le héros de "Pride" était mon meilleur ami»". Yagg (in French).
- Murray, Raymond (1998). Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video. Titan Books. ISBN 978-1-84023-033-8. OL 647635W.
- Robinson, Lucy (2007). Gay men and the left in post-war Britain: how the personal got political. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7434-9. OL 21837097M.
- Taylor, David G; Keay, Jon (June 2006). "Mark Ashton remembered". Positive Nation. Archived from the original on 11 January 2009.
- Wallace, Bruce (20 March 1987). "Obituary – Mark Ashton". The Leninist.
- Warwick, Neil; Kutner, Jon; Brown, Tony (2004). The Complete Book of the British charts: Singles & Albums. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84449-058-5. OL 8955386M.
- Wilson, Colin (21 September 2014). "Dear Love of Comrades: The politics of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners". rs21.
- "'Mark was a very popular guy - he knew everyone', says close friend". Coleraine Times. 10 September 2014.
|Party political offices|
| General Secretary of the Young Communist League