A FILM about the origins of Gay Pride, in the 1950s North, is being filmed in Bradford.

Once a Year on Blackpool Sands is the real-life story of two Yorkshire miners who are gay but, with homosexuality still illegal in the 50s, are forced to keep it secret. During their annual Wakes Week break in Blackpool they meet a group of people with alternative lifestyles, who help them stand up for their sexuality.

The film re-creates a march for equality from Blackpool’s North to South piers, said to be the origins of Gay Pride.

The comedy drama, which has several Bradford actors in the cast, is shooting scenes at Idle Working Men’s Club next month. A 1950s bus will take cast members from Idle to Baildon Moor, in scenes showing miners and their wives setting off for their Wakes Week trip. The cast includes Steven Arnold, who played Ashley Peacock in Coronation Street.

Adapted from a play performed off Broadway by writer/director Karlton Parris, the film will premiere in Hebden Bridge and Los Angeles this autumn. “It’s a heartwarming, fascinating story that we want to tell to the world,” said Gill Szulc, who plays a miner’s wife. Gill is one of 11 members of a Saltaire acting class who landed roles after auditioning in Manchester. “It’s about the love, identity and courage of the LGBTQ community in 1950s northern England,” she said. “The miners, Tommy and Eddy, stay at a quirky B&B in Blackpool, where they meet Mr Elbridge, who is transgender, ex-show girl Red Ethel, eccentric B&B owner Gladys and her flirty daughter, Maureen.

“It’s based on a true story. Karlton went to Greece on holiday in 1984 and met the real Tommy and Eddy, who told him about the miners’ weekends in Blackpool. Tommy and Eddie have since died, sadly, and this is their story. It takes a rollercoaster journey through the North to the beaches of Greece, as we follow each characters’ fight for equality and freedom in an age when being gay, or ‘different’ was a crime. The characters find courage in each others’ bravery and initiate the first walks towards Gay Pride in the UK, walking the length of Blackpool pier, defying prejudice and abuse. They got a lot of ridicule and abuse for doing that walk. Without the courage and bravery of individuals like them, throughout history, we would not be where we are today.”

Production company Baby Dog Films has launched a crowdfunding appeal to support the small budget film. With donations starting at £1, there’s an opportunity to have a credit on the film and an invitation to the premiere. Fundraising events include a variety show at Yeadon Town Hall on Saturday, April 27 and, on May 11 and 12 at Bradford Playhouse, a series of monologues, From Yorkshire to LA, based on letters by gay men that Karlton received after writing the play. 

On Sunday, April 28 the Blackpool pier walk will be replicated in Leeds, as ‘Walk with Phyllis’, to raise funds. “Other walks are planned for Manchester, London and New York,” said Gill. “The film is gaining interest from LGBTQ communities in Manchester and New York. It’s a thrilling time for film in the North as it becomes more inclusive and recognised for producing some of the best films in recent years.”

* For more about the crowdfunding visit indiegogo.com/projects/once-a-year-on-blackpool-sands-a-true-lgbt-film

For more about the film visit babydogfilms.co.uk