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‘I know my own heart…’ falling for Halifax during Anne Lister Birthday Week

While regular Glasgow Gallerina readers know that my heart belongs to one literary lass above all others - when Remember the Rowan is published in September 2024, you’re sure to fall in love with Kathleen Raine too! - the herstories of similarly wonderful women who walked before us have always fascinated me. It was therefore an utter delight to make my first (and certainly not last) trip to Halifax this week to join the Anne Lister Birthday Festival, celebrating the 233rd birthday of the lesbian landowning legend now known around the globe as ‘Gentleman Jack’!

I loved every second of my time at ALBW2024 - from basking in the spring sunshine illuminating the town’s gorgeous Georgian centrepiece The Piece Hall and admiring ‘Contemplation’, Diane Lawrenson’s exquisite sculpture of Anne Lister (currently bedecked with birthday flowers) to visiting the calm, contemplative Halifax Minster and, of course, the rightly renowned Shibden Hall via an exhilarating uphill hike very much in the spirit of its most famous mistress!

Head to Glasgow Gallerina Instagram for further highlights, including our period-dress parade through the pedestrianised streets of Halifax - pocketwatch and waistcoat were present, but next time I’ll pack my top hat! ‘I am not made like any other I have seen,’ wrote Anne in 1823, and I wish she could have been there to see the amazing women from around the world who gathered in Halifax in her honour and often in her image. With my own writing (top) hat on, another treat was a night out at Square Chapel, hearing from the woman whom I and countless other admirers consider Britain’s greatest screenwriter, multi-award-winning Sally Wainwright, on the enduring international impact of ‘Gentleman Jack’.

As a birthday week newbie, the kind and knowledgeable team of volunteers who kept everything on track simply couldn’t have been more welcoming and I was deeply moved by the strong sense of community, past and present, that infused all of our activities. Courage calls to courage everywhere, and it fills me with hope to see how one woman’s indefatigable determination to follow her heart and live life on her own terms two centuries ago can continue to inspire us today. ‘Fairer sex’, we never fail when we trust in our own worth, brains and bravery - I’ll see you next year if not before, fellow Annes and Anns!


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