Carrie Lyell heads to Shibden Hall to learn about Anne Lister and chat to the team behind the brand new BBC drama

IMAGE CREDIT: LOOKOUT POINT, PHOTOGRAPHER: JAY BROOKS

I’m on my way from Edinburgh to Halifax, staring out of the window at the rolling green hills of West Yorkshire.

Though we’re still a good half hour from our destination – the grade two listed Shibden Hall, and the setting for new BBC and HBO drama Gentleman Jack – I already feel like I’ve stepped into a Sally Wainwright series.

It’s a blustery September morning – blawin’ a hoolie, as we say in Scotland – but Storm Ali and the inevitable train delays couldn’t keep me from being here, from this picturesque valley, because I’ve been waiting a long time to meet Anne Lister, one of the most formidable women in history and someone described as “the first modern lesbian”.

And what a striking figure she is. Don’t worry – I’m not seeing ghosts – but actor Suranne Jones, who brings the famous diarist to life in this new eight-part drama, written and directed by Sally Wainwright of Last Tango In Halifax and Happy Valley fame.

Though it’s not the first time Anne Lister’s story has been told on the small screen, this series – which begins in 1832 – is far more ambitious than anything that’s come before. I meet these two northern powerhouses during a break in filming to find out more about Anne Lister, and how the series came to be.

@seej

Read the rest of this exclusive feature in the May 2019 issue of DIVA, available now via the links below.

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