Anne Lister and her controversial tribute

The City of York has welcomed its first rainbow plaque (erected on 24 July)  in commemoration of Anne Lister. Listers diaries had been UN recognised back in 2011, for their outstanding contribution to British history. Over 200 years ago in the Holy Trinity Church, Anne Lister married her wife Anne Walker, centuries before same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK.  The commitment between the two women is perceived to be one of the first formal unions of the same sex in a UK church. A bright blue plaque with a rainbow edge celebrates Anne, dubbed the ‘first modern lesbian’. The plaque reads ‘Gender-nonconforming entrepreneur, celebrated marital commitment, without legal recognition, to Ann Walker in this church Easter 1834’.

But amongst this tribute is a certain amount of controversy. The wording on the plaque is currently being reviewed by the York Civic Trust after Julie Furlong pointed out that despite Lister being “gender-nonconforming” her sexuality is not mentioned on the plaque. Furlong also noted that the rainbow border of the plaque was upside-down.

Planning and financing the plaque has been organised under local bodies York LGBT History Month, York Civic Trust, Churches Conservation Trust & the York LGBT Forum. The discussion over York’s own rainbow plaque began in 2015 through York LGBT History Months’ ‘DIY Rainbow Plaque’ event, many disposable rainbow plaques were placed through the city. You can read the initiatives crowdfunding statement here.

On-set for ‘Gentleman Jack’, York Minster [Image: Joseph Silke]

Now a new BBC and HBO drama brings Anne Lister’s character back to the streets of York. Played by Suranne Jones, filming began in York’s idyllic Minster on the 23 July. The drama is titled  ‘Gentleman Jack’, a nickname given to Anne by close friends through her love of ‘tomboyish’ associated hobbies back in the 1800s such as mountaineering. Gentleman Jack will not only explore the life of a now commemorated Yorkshire lady but showcase the timelessness of York itself. Both the plaque and drama surrounding Anne Lister are prime examples of both acceptance and celebration of LGBT pride within York.

The new drama is set to be released by the end of this year.

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