Anne Lister’s story inspires new performance works

College students learn about Anne Lister

The incredible legacy of Anne Lister has inspired a series of performances which are taking place as part of the Anne Lister Birthday Festival.

The famous landowner, entrepreneur, mountaineer, scholar, traveller, and lesbian, Anne Lister was born in Halifax on 3 April 1791. To celebrate the anniversary of her birth, Calderdale Council is supporting a packed programme of events from Monday 27 March until Monday 3 April.

Organisations across the borough are supporting the Anne Lister Birthday Festival, including students from Calderdale College, who have been researching the life of Anne Lister to use as inspiration for songs and performances for a series of events taking place throughout Halifax.

Performing Arts, Music and Computing students visited both Shibden Hall, Anne Lister’s ancient ancestral home, and the West Yorkshire Archives Service at Halifax Central Library, which is home to Anne Lister’s diaries. The students were able to see the diaries and other documents including her travel journals, and also speak to Archives and Shibden Hall staff. 

Following these visits, the students have composed music and prepared short plays which will be performed as part of the festival events.

On Friday 31 March, the students will perform their work at three venues across the town, Halifax Rail Station (9-10.30am), Woolshops Shopping Centre (11am-12.30pm), and Halifax Minster (1-2.30pm).

The Computing students have also been working on a website to support the festival. The website, Anne Lister Festival ( link) allows people to easily see what is happening during the festival and will help visitors find their way around the town. It also includes a fun game called Decryptor which uses Anne’s secret code to help players uncover hidden words.

It’s estimated that several hundred people from around the UK and Europe, and as far away as the USA and Australia, will visit Calderdale as part of the Anne Lister Birthday Festival. To welcome those visitors arriving by train in Halifax, College students have also updated the Welcome to Halifax mural at Halifax Rail Station. The impressive 16-metre-long piece of artwork showcases the creativity of the young people who created it.

Calderdale Council’s Senior Visitor Engagement Officer and Anne Lister Brand Co-ordinator, Rachel Lappin, said:

“It’s been a pleasure to work with the Calderdale College students to help them find out more about the life and legacy of Anne Lister through visits to Anne’s former home of Shibden Hall, and the West Yorkshire Archives.

“The students have come up with some fantastic pieces of work inspired by their visits and further research, and I’m delighted that they will have the opportunity to perform during the Anne Lister Birthday Festival at venues across Halifax. 

“The performances are a great addition to the already packed programme of events for the festival and I’m certain that those going along to the College events will be enthralled and thoroughly impressed by the students’ fantastic work. A huge thank you to everybody for their involvement in this fantastic ongoing collaboration!”

Simon Dunn, Curriculum Area Leader for Creative & Digital at Calderdale College, said:

“Working with Calderdale Council, West Yorkshire Archives Service, Halifax Minster, Northern and the Woolshops has allowed the students at Calderdale College the fantastic opportunity to work collaboratively with a wide variety of employers to generate unique and creative performances, which they will be showcasing on Friday 31 March across a variety of locations in Halifax.

“The terrific support of the local industries and employers ensures that the students get real world experiences and are given a platform to show their creativity to the community and visitors.”

Alongside Calderdale Council and Calderdale College, the project has been supported by Halifax Rail Station and Northern Rail, Woolshops Shopping Centre, Halifax Minster, the West Yorkshire Archives Service, and Halifax Playhouse, which has kindly loaned costumes for the events.

For more information on the Anne Lister Birthday Festival, including further details about the students’ performances, go to link)


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