A day off work to write a blog post – Matilda Welin

August 29, 2016

We have had a volunteer scheme at my workplace where you could get one day off to do something for the wider society, and still get paid. I asked if I could write this blog post. It isn’t really about support to the wider society, though… It’s only about support to me. But I hope my employer will still think it’s OK.

I came to England nine years ago. It’s different here than at home. People are so polite! Weirdly polite, in fact. The workplace hierarchy is so strict! But films helped me. Working people’s films especially, because I recognised the world they showed.

I watched many British working films before I moved here, of course. The Navigators, Vera Drake, The Full Monty. But when I became a Londoner, they started to mean more to me. Now I was there, in the middle of the sets! I watched Suffragette about votes for women, Made in Dagenham about equal pay, and It’s a free world… about workers’ rights in a global economy. And I remembered marching under banners with my parents as a child. The films gave me a link to the UK. They gave me a context.

Most of all, I watched Pride. I saw it at the cinema, at home one day when I needed a pick-me-up, at work in a union screening. Pride is a feel-good film. It veers close to cliché sometimes, but I’ll forgive that, because it stands apart from other movies of its kind. Normally, feel-good films are about well-dressed people with permanently blow-dried hair. They may have crappy jobs, but only crappy ha-ha, not crappy horrible, or they get promoted really quickly and climb up the ladder, leaving the workers behind (and their job doesn’t really matter either way as they can still afford to live in fancy attic apartments). Pride is different. It’s a feel-good film about reality. And it is fab. There is the music: Bread and Roses, Solidarity Forever, eighties songs by Soft Cell, Phil Collins and Yazoo, For a Friend by The Communards. There is the fashion. There is the history. There is the gay movement – Gay’s the Word and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on the big screen! – and the union movement.

And there is the ending. In it, Welsh mining unionists come to London to walk in the Pride parade. It’s the same pride march that I have taken part in. The same streets I cycle on every day. The same banners I walked under back at home. Dai Donovan, one of the miners depicted in the movie, works for my union, BECTU, now. When BECTU arranged a screening of Pride, he was there so we could talk to him. Excitedly, I texted my family back in Sweden. Now I really was in the middle of the film set! More than any other movie, Pride has helped me feel like a part of something in my new country. It has helped me feel at home in London. It has helped me feel at home at work. I hope my employer will think that’s OK.