BBC One and HBO announce original new drama series Shibden Hall from award-winning writer Sally Wainwright

Anne Lister is a gift to a dramatist. She is one of the most exuberant, thrilling and brilliant women in British history, and I can’t wait to celebrate her. Sally Wainwright, creator, writer and director
Date: 05.03.2017     Last updated: 06.03.2017 at 12.01
BBC One and HBO have commissioned Shibden Hall, a brand new eight-part drama series created and written by Bafta-winning Sally Wainwright (To Walk Invisible, Last Tango In Halifax, Happy Valley). The series is a Lookout Point production for the BBC and co-produced with HBO.

Set in West Yorkshire in 1832, Shibden Hall is the epic story of the remarkable landowner, Anne Lister. Returning after years of exotic travel and social climbing, Anne determines to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, in Halifax.

To do this she must re-open her coal mines and marry well. But this isn’t just another Regency romance. Charismatic, single-minded, swashbuckling Anne Lister - who walked like a man, dressed head-to-foot in black, and charmed her way into high society - has no intention of marrying a man. True to her own nature, she plans to marry a woman. And not just any woman: the woman Anne Lister marries must be seriously wealthy.

Every part of Anne’s story is based in historical fact, recorded in the four million words of her diaries that contain the most intimate details of her life, once hidden in a secret code that is now broken.

Shibden Hall is a remarkable and unlikely love story, set in the complex, changing world of Halifax - the cradle of the industrial revolution - just as it’s all kicking off. The drama will explore Anne Lister’s relationships at home with her family, her servants, her tenants and her industrial rivals, who will use any dirty tricks they can to bring her down. At its heart is her relationship with her would-be wife, the wealthy heiress Ann Walker. It has all the warmth, wit, humour and complexity that audiences have come to associate with Sally Wainwright’s writing.

Creator, writer and director Sally Wainwright (pictured) says: “Anne Lister is a gift to a dramatist. She is one of the most exuberant, thrilling and brilliant women in British history, and I can’t wait to celebrate her. Landowner, industrialist, traveler, mountaineer, scholar, would-be brain surgeon and prolific diarist, Anne returns from years of travel to her ancestral home, determined to restore it to its former glory, and determined to marry Ann Walker.

"It’s a beautifully rich, complicated, surprising love story. To bring Anne Lister to life on screen is the fulfillment of an ambition I’ve had for 20 years. Shibden Hall is a place I have known and loved since I was a child. I’m also delighted to be working with Faith Penhale again and the wonderful team at Lookout Point after our collaboration on To Walk Invisible, and of course thrilled to be working with the BBC and HBO.”

Piers Wenger, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, says: “The originality and ambition of the writing in Shibden Hall is Sally Wainwright at her boldest and best. In dramatising the life and loves of Anne Lister, Sally might just have found her most complex and uncompromising female character yet and I’m so proud that they will be making their home BBC One.”

Faith Penhale, Lookout Point Executive Producer, says: “This is an extraordinary story about a remarkable woman. We’re in early 19th Century Yorkshire and here is an independent, land-owning industrialist recording in her diary her own civil partnership with a neighbouring heiress. I can’t wait for Sally to bring Anne Lister, with all her wit and warmth and unpredictability, to life for BBC One and HBO. And it’s a joy to be working together with Sally again after our wonderful collaboration on To Walk Invisible last year.”

Casey Bloys, President HBO Programming, says: "We are thrilled to partner with the extraordinarily talented Sally Wainwright on this epic story and delve into the exceptionally unique life of Anne Lister. We are also pleased to continue our long and successful relationship with the BBC and look forward to our partnership with Faith Penhale and the team at Lookout Point.”

Shibden Hall has been commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, and Piers Wenger, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning. The 8x60’ series will be directed by Sally Wainwright, produced by Lookout Point for BBC One, and co-produced with HBO. Executive Producers are Sally Wainwright, Faith Penhale for Lookout Point and Piers Wenger for BBC One. The series will start filming in Yorkshire next year.

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