Image637104777358888233Festival to celebrate ‘Gentleman Jack’

HER DIARIES shed a fascinating insight into life in the 19th century – as well as the sexual taboos of the Georgian era.

And a hugely popular drama about the Yorkshire landowner and diarist Anne Lister has seen Halifax witness a tourism boom from the lesbian and gay community.

The BBC One production, Gentleman Jack, written by Huddersfield-born Sally Wainwright and inspired by the nickname given to Lister by residents of her hometown of Halifax, saw an audience of 4.7m viewers tune in for the final episode in July.

And the surge in interest in the life of Lister, often referred to as the “first modern lesbian”, following the on-screen depiction by actress Suranne Jones, inset, has seen tourists travel from as far afield as Australia to Halifax.

Hotels have reported increases in tourists of up to 20 per cent, shops are selling Gentleman Jack artwork and bars are serving Anne Lister cocktails. Nearly 1,000 people – the majority of whom are gay women from the USA, the UK and Europe – have signed up for a festival in Halifax to coincide with the date of Lister’s birthday in April, according to Jennifer Grant, the founder of the holiday specialist Diva Destinations. “What we have is a remarkable true story that has captured people’s imaginations,” she said. “A lot of us can relate to what she went through and learning about her strength and resilience really has changed a lot of people’s lives.” Lister’s historic family home, Shibden Hall, has also had to extend its opening hours.

In August 2018, the 15th century building had 2,579 visitors, but in the same month this year, 14,419 tourists came, according to Calderdale Council, which runs the site.