Shibden Hall is latest drama to put spotlight on ‘Callywood’

Anne Lister exhibition at Shibden Hall, Halifax. Angela Clare, collections manager outside Shibden Hall.
Anne Lister exhibition at Shibden Hall, Halifax. Angela Clare, collections manager outside Shibden Hall.

She flouted convention, meticulously documented her life, loves and travels and is widely celebrated as the first “modern lesbian”.

And now the life of Anne Lister and the stories which form the rich tapestry of Shibden Hall’s history will be immortalised on screen once more in an eight-part series written by Sally Wainwright.

Wainwright, who also wrote Calderdale-filmed series’ Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, said her new subject was “a gift to a dramatist” and “one of the most exuberant, thrilling and brilliant women in British history”.

Filmed by the BBC and co-produced by America’s HBO, maker of Game of Thrones, Shibden Hall will shine the spotlight on Calderdale as the tinseltown of the North.

For Angela Clare, collections and exhibitions manager at Calderdale Council, it’s a spotlight which should be wholeheartedly embraced.

“Sally is a great advocate of Yorkshire and she knows what a real boost this will be to Shibden, Halifax and Calderdale as a whole,” she said.

“We are really, really pleased for the region. The buzz is incredible. She [Anne Lister] is an interesting character, but I think it’s the hall as well and the fact that she is calling it Shibden Hall.

“It’s not just following Anne, it’s following all the different people who lived there.

“Although work has been done on Anne Lister, it’s almost like this is her moment to shine.”

For Angela, Sally Wainwright was an obvious choice to bring Anne Lister’s epic story to life.

“I feel really, really confident in Sally’s talents as a screenwriter,” she said.

“What she did with To Walk Invisible was just fantastic. When I saw that I was like ‘yeah, safe hands’.”

“It’s going to be amazing,” she added.

“For us as a museum service, our key thing is to share history and stories. so that’s doing it for us on a whole different level we could never aspire to do ourselves.

“And it will reach new people and draw them in. Because it’s called Shibden Hall and is about the whole hall and the estate, it’s not like it’s just one person that you could just read a biography about - you actually want to visit the place. We’ve got quite a lot of her collections - we’ve got her portraits, we’ve got her writing desk, her music books and so you can have a real connection with her.

“You could read the diaries at home, but actually I think people will want to come. You can come in her bedroom, you can see where she would have sat and ate her lunch, where she would have sat sewing and learning and that’s the connection that, as a museum service, we’re trying to get across to people through exhibitions, events and talks.

“I think people are going to come in numbers to see the hall and feel that connection with her and all the other characters.”

It’s hoped that the buzz around Shibden Hall will encourage people to see all Halifax has to offer - not least the multi-million pound transformation of The Piece Hall.

Angela added: “Shibden Hall isn’t the biggest hall in the world, it’s more of a morning or afternoon and then you would go to the Piece Hall, or if you have got kids you would go to Eureka, or you would call in to Square Chapel or the Victoria Theatre or the minster, or you would call in to Bankfield Museum.

“What we need to be doing, and what we’re trying to do, is market all of them together as Halifax as a cultural destination. For the region, it’s amazing.”