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The Real Anne Lister


UK, 2010, 60 min
Genre/Subjects: Arts & Literature, Biography / History, Discrimination, Documentary, Drama, Gender, Lesbian
Language: in English with Russian subtitles

DIRECTOR: Matthew Hill

Who was the real Anne Lister? See one version of her story in Side by Side’s 2011 programme The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister. Then follow comedy writer Sue Perkins as she guides you through this dry-witted documentary, digging up even more of the real dirt on a British lesbian who was well ahead of her time.

Born to a landowning family in Halifax in 1791, Lister lived in the same era as the Bronte sisters, but her writings — and, boy, did she write — were a far cry from Wuthering Heights. In a series of elaborate and often encrypted diaries (“The Rosetta Stone of lesbian history,” says her biographer), Lister detailed every one of her sexual relationships.

It took over four million words to capture her dalliances, beginning at the ripe young age of thirteen with her roommate at an elite girls’ boarding school (from which she, naturally, was sent home in short order). Journeying across the Yorkshire countryside, Perkins attempts to trace the life and loves of Lister, from her experimental youth to her radical industrialist-landowner days with her live-in lover (okay, wife).

Thanks to the meticulous decoding efforts of Lister’s biographer, Helena Whitbread, and the insights of a handful of local historians and scholars, Perkins is able to paint an intriguing picture of a complex character, who is at once pioneering, self-serving, rebellious, manipulative and bold — but certainly never boring.



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