Mark Ashton

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Mark Ashton
Mark Ashton 1986.png
Mark Ashton in 1986
Born(1960-05-19)19 May 1960
Oldham, Lancashire, England
Died11 February 1987(1987-02-11) (aged 26)
Southwark, London, England
Alma materNorthern Ireland Hotel and Catering College
OccupationGay rights activist
Political partyCommunist Party of Great Britain

Mark Christian Ashton ((1960-05-19)19 May 1960 – (1987-02-11)11 February 1987) was a British 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[1] and general secretary of the Young Communist League.[2]


Ashton was born in Oldham, and moved to Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, where he grew up.[3][4] 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".[5]

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.[6] Upon his return, he volunteered with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament[4] and joined the Young Communist League.[1] In 1983 he featured in the Lesbian and Gay Youth Video Project film Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts,[7] an early documentary that won the Grierson Award 1984 for Best Documentary.[8]

He formed, with his friend Mike Jackson, the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM)[3] support group after the two men collected donations for the miners on strike at the 1984 Lesbian and Gay Pride march in London.[9]

After LGSM, he became involved in the Red Wedge collective[5] and became the General Secretary of the Young Communist League from 1985 to 1986.[2]

Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Ashton was admitted to Guy's Hospital on 30 January 1987 and died 12 days later of Pneumocystis pneumonia.[10] His death prompted a significant response from the gay community, particularly in publication and attendance at his funeral at Lambeth Cemetery.[11][12]


In his memory, the Mark Ashton Trust was created to raise money for individuals living with HIV, and as of 2007 it had raised £20,000.[10][12] Since 2008, the Terrence Higgins Trust has included the Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund, which had collected more than £38,000 as of 2017.[13] Mark Ashton is also remembered on a panel on the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt[14][6] and has been memorialised in May 2014 on a plaque at the entrance to the London headquarters of the Terrence Higgins Trust.[15]

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.[16][17]

The ballad "For a Friend" in the album Red from the British pop duo The Communards was written in his memory.[18] Mark Hooper of The Rough Guide to Rock writes that this cut may be Somerville's "most impassioned moment".[18] Ashton was a friend of both Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles.[19] For a Friend reached number 28 on the British charts.[20]

The Constantine Giannaris film Jean Genet Is Dead (1989)[21] is dedicated to his memory.[22]

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.[9] However, Ashton's membership in the Young Communist League was not explicitly mentioned in the film, possibly to avoid alienating American audiences.[3] Schnetzer, an American actor, was nominated for two British Independent Film Awards for his performance.[23]

On 25 September 2018, the Council of Paris awarded the garden adjoining the Hôtel d'Angoulême Lamoignon the new name of Jardin de l'Hôtel-Lamoignon - Mark-Ashton [fr] (Hôtel-Lamoignon - Mark Ashton Garden), in his memory.[24][25]


  1. ^ a b Kelliher 2014.
  2. ^ a b Frost 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Doward 2014.
  4. ^ a b Birch 2007.
  5. ^ a b Coles 2014.
  6. ^ a b Birch 1994.
  7. ^ Framed Youth: Revenge of the Teenage Perverts on IMDb
  8. ^ Framed Youth Revenge of the Teenage Perverts (1983) at the British Film Institute's Film and TV Database
  9. ^ a b Kellaway 2014.
  10. ^ a b Robinson 2007, p. 170.
  11. ^ Frost 2014.
  12. ^ a b Taylor & Keay 2006.
  13. ^ Birch, Chris. "The Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund".
  14. ^ "HIV Quilt Comes Out in May". George House Trust. 21 February 2007. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008.
  15. ^ Birch 2014.
  16. ^ "Mark Ashton memorial plaque". Crowdfunder. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  17. ^ "See LGBT activist Mark Ashton's plaque". Gasholder. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  18. ^ a b Hooper 2003, p. 221–222.
  19. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Review: Red". Allmusic.
  20. ^ Warwick, Kutner & Brown 2004, p. 256.
  21. ^ Jean Genet Is Dead on IMDb
  22. ^ Murray 1998, p. 56.
  23. ^ Barraclough, Leo (7 December 2014). "Matthew Warchus' 'Pride' Wins Top Prize at British Independent Film Awards". Variety.
  24. ^ 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).
  25. ^ "2018 DAC 389. Attribution de la dénomination Jardin de l'Hôtel Lamoignon - Mark Ashton, au jardin de l'Hôtel Lamoignon (4e)" (in French).


Party political offices
Preceded by
Douglas Chalmers
General Secretary of the Young Communist League
Succeeded by
Post vacant