Anne Lister birthday celebration goes global

Anne Lister portrait

Fans of Anne Lister will have more opportunities than ever before to celebrate her  birthday, during a festival of events this April.

Sunday 3 April 2022 marks the 231st birthday of the iconic businesswoman, landowner, lesbian, scholar and traveller, whose story became world-famous through Sally Wainwright’s BBC/HBO series, Gentleman Jack.

The ground-breaking TV series inspired American fan Pat Esgate to visit Anne Lister’s hometown, Halifax, in 2019 and to organise the Anne Lister Birthday Weekend for 2020. Sadly, this had to be postponed twice due to the pandemic, but has now grown to the eagerly awaited Anne Lister Birthday Week, (external link)part of a wider Calderdale festival from Friday 1 to Sunday 10 April.

The festival will bring Anne Lister’s story to life through tours, talks, gatherings and the distinctiveness of Halifax’s stunning heritage sites, including Anne’s historic home, Shibden Hall, plus Halifax Minster, The Piece Hall, Dean Clough and many more.

Cllr Jenny Lynn, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, said:

“As LGBT History Month gets underway, we’re delighted to launch our programme of events for the much-anticipated Anne Lister Birthday Festival 2022. We’re proud to join a global partnership of fans and organisations in bringing Anne’s remarkable story to life and to a diverse audience.


“We know that celebrating Anne’s birthday together, locally and worldwide, will become just as much a part of Calderdale’s story and heritage as Anne and her legacy.”

Cllr Jane Scullion, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, added:

“Our local heritage and culture play a huge part in making our borough vibrant and distinctive, transforming people’s lives and recovering from the pandemic. The Anne Lister Birthday Festival will see people from across the UK and the world visiting Halifax, which will boost our economy and put the spotlight on Calderdale in the runup to our Year of Culture in 2024.”

On the day of Anne Lister’s birthday, Sunday 3 April, the Victoria Theatre in Halifax is hosting a special interview with Gentleman Jack writer and director, Sally Wainwright. With the second series of this hugely popular programme due to air in 2022, Sally will shed some light on what’s to come, her inspiration and her creative process. The interview will be followed by a performance from talented duo  O’Hooley & Tidow, who wrote the Gentleman Jack theme song.

During the festival, Shibden Hall will be open and visitors will be able to book tours of the Lister family home. On Saturday 2, Sunday 3 and Monday 4 April, a special Makers Market will see around 20 stalls at Shibden Hall, bringing unique, hand-crafted gifts, fine art, bespoke keepsakes, specialist local food and drink, clothing and souvenirs. Brighouse Theatre Productions will be performing.

Libraries across Calderdale will mark Anne’s birthday with displays, writing workshops, drawing corners, themed kids’ activity sheets and more.

Bankfield Museum’s new exhibition marking 600 years of Shibden Hall is open throughout 2022. As well as celebrating the Hall and its many residents, this gives Anne Lister fans the chance to see a personal letter from Anne and never-before-exhibited paintings of Charles and Mariana Lawton. Mariana was one of the great loves of Anne’s life.

More information and visiting / booking details for these events are available on the Visit Calderdale website, at link)

Details of events being held by other local organisations can also be found on the Visit Calderdale website, including:

  • The Piece Hall – a delightful talk about, and a beautiful display of original clothes and accessories from the Anne Lister era.
  • Halifax Minster – a talk by pioneering researchers, Helena Whitbread and Jill Liddington, who uncovered Anne’s story.
  • Square Chapel Arts Centre – a talk focusing on the life of Ann Walker, dispelling myths and bringing truth to the fore.
  • Hope Hall – Jill Liddington discusses the complex relationship between Anne Lister and Christopher Rawson in his own home.
  • Halifax Heritage tours – a range of walking and bus tours of Halifax.
  • West Yorkshire Archive Service – an up-close display of Anne’s original diaries and other archive material in the Calderdale Archives search room (Central Library, Halifax), plus the chance to talk to the archives team.

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