Video: York’s rainbow plaque to Anne Lister is back – with the word ‘Lesbian’ front and centre

The new plaque with its updated tribute. Photographs: YorkMix
28 Feb 2019 @ 9.38 pm
| History

York’s first LGBT plaque is back – and this time everyone seems delighted.

The plaque marks the remarkable moment when Anne Lister ‘married’ her partner Ann Walker in Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, in 1834.

It was the UK’s first blue plaque with a rainbow surround when it was first put up on a wall next to the church last summer.

But the wording caused controversy, as it didn’t describe Anne as a lesbian – but a ‘gender-nonconforming entrepreneur’.

This angered some in the LGBT community, and the row made national headlines.

Sponsor of the plaque, York Civic Trust, undertook a review of that wording.

The new version, unveiled today (28 February) describes Anne Lister, as a ‘Lesbian and Diarist’.

And according to a survey, 95% of the people interested in the issue are happy with the new wording.

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The assembly at the unveiling at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate
Four partners were involved in the initiative, with the Civic Trust joined by the York LGBT Forum, York LGBT History Month, and the Churches Conservation Trust.

At today’s ceremony Civic Trust chief executive David Fraser welcomed everybody with the words: “We must do this more often!”

He said the controversy had a very positive side – “We’ve actually become global news” – adding:

  • This is the second time we’ve been here, and the reasons are all very well known.

    And I can’t help but look back on the last few months as being a really successful story.

    Because what we’ve done is come together, thought about it a bit more and corrected what we originally did.

Sue Lister of the York LGBT Trust – who said she was no relation that she knew of – said today was a celebration of someone many called the ‘first modern lesbian’.

Sue said to Anne Lister: “Thank you for being here – you are remembered, and you are in our hearts.

“Good on you girl!”

Renewed rainbow

The original 2018 plaque with its controversial wording and inside-out rainbow
Talking to YorkMix afterwards Dr Fraser revealed that the rainbow on the original plaque was also wrong – with the red colour on the inside rather than the outside.

That too has been put right on the new one. The first plaque was now on his desk – “we can’t risk it going on eBay!” – and would be put in the York Civic Trust archive.

The pioneering memorial is part of York’s great reforming traditions. Dr Fraser said a plaque is being unveiled in London to Oscar Wilde next week, and the organisers say “the rainbow plaque – invented in York”.

Sue Lister of York LGBT Forum, and Helena Whitbread, editor of the Anne Lister diaries

Meanwhile Sue Lister reavealed that sculptor Ama Menec wants to install a lifesize statue of Anne Lister in the courtyard of Kings Manor in York – where she went to school.

A BBC drama about Anne called Gentleman Jack was filmed in York last year.