Remembered for his gay rights activism and for his membership in the British Communist Party, he co-founded the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners movement and served as General Secretary of the Young Communist League. Tragically, he died at age twenty-six of an AIDS-related illness.
In the late 1970s, he attended Northern Ireland's Hotel and Catering College and went on to work in drag at a London pub. During this period, he also volunteered for an organization known as the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard.
He appeared in a 1983, Grierson Award-winning documentary film titled Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts.
He spent his earliest years in Oldham, Lancashire, England, and the remainder of his youth in Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
American actor Ben Schnetzer portrays Ashton in the 2014 film Pride.