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Digital Subscriptions > DIVA Magazine > May 2019 > GENTLE WOMEN

GENTLE WOMEN

CARRIE LYELL VISITS SHIBDEN HALL TO LEARN ABOUT ANNE LISTER AND MEET THE CAST AND CREW OF NEW BBC DRAMA, GENTLEMAN JACK
Suranne Jones (left) and Sophie Rundle as Anne Lister and Ann Walker
PHOTOS BBC/LOOKOUT POINT/MATT SQUIRE

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 “thefirst modern lesbian”.

And what a strikingfigure 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 thefirst 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 tofind out more about Anne Lister, and how the series came to be.

While Suranne – who won hearts and BAFTAs in the likes of Doctor Foster and Scott And Bailey – says she didn’t know much about Anne Lister before taking on the role, it’s been a longtime love affair for Yorkshire-born Sally, who is a bonaide expert on the famous businesswoman and can decipher the coded parts of Anne’s diary with ease. “What made me want to write about her primarily was her character,” Sally tells me. “What an amazing, extraordinary, huge personality she was, and the outrageous, brilliant and bold things she did.”

Of course, it would be impossible to dramatise allfive million words of Anne’s diaries. How has Sally distilled those into something accessible, and above all, entertaining? “We start in 1832. She’d inherited Shibden in 1826, and it’s a time in her life when she really came into her own, when she became who she wanted to be; the woman she was probably always destined to become.”

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About DIVA Magazine

Suranne Jones is serving 1800s dapper realness on the cover this month, and we can’t get enough! DIVA editor Carrie Lyell was lucky enough to meet the star of epic new BBC drama Gentleman Jack on set at Shibden Hall, and in this issue tells us what it was like to play famous diarist Anne Lister in Sally Wainwright’s new series, hitting our screens very soon. Want to know more about the world’s “first modern lesbian”? Make sure you pick up a copy! Also in this issue… Derry-born singer-songwriter SOAK takes us on a trip through Grim Town Heather Peace: Why the next tour might be her last Sofie Hagen: “I can have lesbian sex when I’m thin” American Gods star Devery Jacobs on queer Indigenous representation in Hollywood Féminin/Féminin: The lesbian web series we love Women on top (of each other): The ins, outs and in agains of sapphic desire Top of the pops: Celebrating Lesbian Day of Visibility with the DIVA Power List 2019 Plus travel, film and much much more!