Anne Lister Birthday Week is taking place 2-9 April 2022. In true Anne style, get it in your diary!
BY JANET LEA, AUTHOR OF THE GENTLEMAN JACK EFFECT: LESSONS IN BREAKING RULES AND LIVING OUT LOUD, IMAGE BY ANNE LISTER BIRTHDAY WEEK
In 2019, Sally Wainwright’s Anne Lister leapt off that Gentleman Jack stagecoach and into the startled view of lesbians everywhere. Who was this swaggering heroine who held women in thrall and men in submission? How had we missed this real-life role model, this writer of a massive diary, this mistress of an ancestral estate, this woman who decided—in 1834!— that she and her partner, Ann Walker, must marry to sanctify their relationship?
How and where could we learn more about this exemplary woman, who famously professed “to love and only love the fairer sex?” Look no further than Anne Lister Birthday Week (ALBW)!
Originally scheduled for April of 2020, ALBW is back on, bigger than ever, and set for 2-9 April 2022 in Halifax, the lovely West Yorkshire town Anne called home. After two years of lockdowns and covid-sparked isolation, women around the world are pulling out their dancing shoes and top hats and heading to the north of England for Anne Lister’s 231st birthday, and experience where she lived and loved.
“It’s time to get out from behind our screens and celebrate Gentleman Jack, Anne Lister and Ann Walker,” says Lead Organiser Pat Esgate. “Most of all, it’s time to celebrate ourselves, and our community!”
Community lies at the heart of ALBW. Since Pat sat in the Halifax Minster in the summer of 2019, surrounded by 400 Anne-adoring women all waiting to hear Anne’s historians give them the low-down on our dazzling ancestor, she’s been determined to repeat the event.
“To be surrounded by my community, in the place where Anne was baptized and buried?” Pat still gets tight-jawed talking about it. “It was amazing. Truly life-changing!”
Pat has her heart set on fostering friendships and personal transformations among the global Anne Lister sisterhood. She and her team have reinvented that original three-day affair, turning ALBW 2022 into an eight-day festival, packed with headline events, walks and talks, special tours, cozy chats, dance parties and nightly entertainment.
ALBW’s line-up of headliners reads like the Who’s Who of Anne Lister World, including Sally Wainwright, the creator of Gentleman Jack; highly acclaimed Lister experts Helena Whitbread and Jill Liddington; and O’Hooley & Tidow, the popular folk-singing duo responsible for the Gentleman Jack theme song. Along with the inaugural meeting of the new Anne Lister Society (bringing together academics and enthusiasts from three continents), an international collection of writers, artists, thinkers, and Lister enthusiasts will lead free daily workshops.
And then there’s the day trips, following Anne Lister’s footsteps in York, the Lake District, and Plas Nwydd (home of the Ladies of Llangollen), plus local tours that take in Shibden Hall (of course!), Lightcliffe Cemetery (pay your respects to Ann Walker) and a host of Lister-related locations straight from Anne’s diaries. When the sun goes down, evenings ramp up with dance parties, a costume birthday bash, the ALBW film festival, a hysterical who-done-it Shibden Hall mystery, and a host of other surprises.
ALBW2022 will be an experience not to be missed. “Nearly 500 women have already purchased their tickets,” Pat says. “I can’t wait to feel that energy in Halifax! And I can’t help but wonder what Anne would think: no need for code; all of us, just out and proud!”
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