Hundreds of tourists sign up for Anne Lister festival with lesbian group holiday agent Diva Destinations

Nearly 1,000 people – the majority of whom are gay women  from the US, UK and Europe – have already signed up for a festival in Halifax over Anne Lister’s birthday

Monday, 18th November 2019, 6:00 am

Halifax has seen an influx of LGBT holidaymakers thanks to the success of BBC One drama Gentleman Jack, tourism chiefs have said.

The national television showcase of Anne Lister – often called the ‘first modern lesbian’ – has sparked a tourism boom in Halifax, with some travelling from as far afield as Australia to see her former stomping ground.

Nearly 1,000 people have already signed up for a festival in Halifax over Anne Lister’s birthday, according to Jennifer Grant, founder of lesbian group holiday specialist Diva Destinations.

Tourists will be flocking to Halifax for Anne Lister's Birthday

The business runs Gentleman Jack group tours and is working with Gentleman Jack fan in the US to organise the April 2020 event.

“What we have is a remarkable true story that has captured people’s imaginations,” she said.

“For the lesbian community it is huge event. A lot of us can relate to what she went through and learning about her strength and resilience really has changed a lot of people’s lives.

“The impact it’s had on the tourism of Halifax is incredible – it’s hard to get a room there now!”

Anne Lister’s historic family home, Shibden Hall, still stands today and has had to extend its opening hours to meet a huge increase in demand.

Zohrah Zancudi, Calderdale Council’s Director of Public Services, said Gentleman Jack was having a “phenomenal” impact on the area, placing it “firmly on the global stage”.

She said: “We are seeing record visitor numbers at Shibden Hall, a surge in international visitors to Halifax and Calderdale, and a major boost to the economy.

"Local businesses, museums, hotels, events and attractions have all reported an increase in income.

“We always knew that Shibden and Anne Lister’s story were special, but thanks to the series, a much wider and more diverse range of people are now discovering Anne’s amazing legacy.

“We’re especially moved by the deep, personal impact that Gentleman Jack and Anne’s story are having on people all around the world, and proud that Calderdale is becoming more widely known as a key cultural, LGBTQ and heritage destination.”

Cultural Destinations, an Arts Council England-funded project, has also reported a big increase in lesbian tourists. Meanwhile, Bankfield Museum in Halifax has extended its Gentleman Jack exhibition because of the unprecedented number of visitors.

The ‘pink pound’ is said to be a boon to local economies.

Joseph Farrar, General Manager at Holdsworth House Hotel in Halifax, “The dramatisation of Gentleman Jack has not only put Anne Lister’s life story on the world stage, but also the stunning landscapes of Halifax, Shibden and Yorkshire.

“Since so many of the filming locations were authentic, hundreds if not thousands of tourists have flocked to the region. Holdsworth House has many similarities to Lister’s home, Shibden Hall, and we’ve seen an uplift in leisure breaks of over 20%. In our experience that has largely been driven by LGBT guests.”

Gentleman Jack follows the fierce-willed and highly intelligent Anne Lister as she as she vies to live an life full of excitement, improve her family’s fortunes and win the heart of Ann Walker.

In May the BBC announced it would be returning for a second series.

Rozina Breen, Head of BBC North, said: “It’s fantastic to see a BBC series making such a big impact in the region. Productions like Gentleman Jack employ a lot of local people during the filming phase and it gives our diverse communities a real sense of pride when one of our series leaves a strong legacy such as this.”

Gentleman Jack was written by Sally Wainwright. The West Yorkshire-born screenwriter also penned Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, both BBC dramas based in and around Calderdale.

Gentleman Jack is made for BBC One by independent production company Lookout Point Productions.