The charming and heartwarming new film “Pride” tells the surprising true story of a group of gays and lesbians rallied to support British mineworkers in 1984 despite their help being not entirely welcome at first. But nestled within is the equally inspiring story of Jonathan Blake, one of the members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, and one of the first men in the U.K. diagnosed with HIV. Blake, who recently celebrated his 65th birthday, shared some of his story with Metro.
“I was diagnosed with HIV in October 1982, very early on. And in those days it was a death sentence, so I took it badly. Who wouldn’t, essentially? In that December, I tried to commit suicide, but being totally anal, I couldn’t bear the thought of somebody having to come and clear up the mess after me. And so I thought, all right if that’s the case then you’d better get on and live.”
Learning to live with his status:
“It was very difficult, because one’s confidence had gone. I had this killer virus coursing through my veins, I didn’t want to pass it to anyone, and I was feeling very, very isolated living out in the East End [of London]. But bit by bit, I screwed up my courage and started to try and go out,” Blake says. “I’ve always kept busy. That was the important thing. The more one did, you didn’t have to think about the virus, dying, dealing with stuff. Because it was a retched time. The gay community was being decimated by this virus. I’m 65, I’m still here. I should’ve been dead years ago. And there’s a strange sort of thing, which is survival guilt. You see people cut down, and there’s a part of you that thinks, Why them? Why not me? but you deal with it. I’ve bits and pieces of therapy that’s got me through. But for me the essential thing was to keep busy, keep moving and maybe it will just miss you. So I did!”
Pathé had basically taken over the Electric Ballroom for the premiere after-party. And on top of that, they had got Jimmy Somerville from Bronski Beat, who had sung at the original, to sing. He started singing, and you were zipped straight back to 1984. I mean, it was just extraordinary. We all thought that we would take this history to our graves, and that would be that.”
Seeing Dominic West play you — sort of:
“I’m very happy to be Dominic’s Jonathan. It’s very, very strange. But I never felt that I was being portrayed, but the intentions are there. Obviously it isn’t me, but there is that sort of sense. And I like him.”