Love Revolution: 5 reasons why Calderdale is the best LBGT-friendly destination in the UK
If you’re thinking of the best places for LGBT-friendly travel in the UK, then London, Brighton and Manchester are likely to come to mind. And they’re fun, of course. But here are five reasons why Calderdale in Yorkshire is the destination of choice for an LGBT-friendly holiday with a difference:
A Pride like no other: Happy Valley Pride Festival (6-12 August 2018) in Hebden Bridge (the ‘lesbian capital of the UK’) offers something different to the X Factor-style razzmatazz of the big cities. This boutique week-long celebration has an eclectic programme with something for everyone: top class acts like Camille O'Sullivan, Ursula Martinez and Duckie (who sold out in record time!) will perform in intimate, atmospheric venues like the Hope Baptist Church; there’ll be dancing and dress-up at the screening of Hairspray in the local 1920s cinema; lesbian fiction will be at the fore at the Lesbian Writers Read salon; while the main event is on Saturday, when there’ll be a whole host of free, on-stage entertainment at the Big Day Out, as well as stalls, a free expo, talks, workshops, and shows throughout the town. The festival concludes on Sunday when all will be welcome at the family-friendly Pink Picnic – including four-legged family members at the adorable Pink Pooch Parade.
Home of the ‘first modern lesbian’: you’re going to be a hearing a lot about Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax in the year ahead. Her extraordinary story is being told in the upcoming HBO/BBC drama ‘Gentleman Jack’, written and directed by Sally Wainwright and starring Suranne Jones. Anne lived from 1791-1840, and was a landowner, traveller, entrepreneur, mountaineer, and lesbian. She kept detailed diaries – well over 4 million words – throughout her life, and wrote a sixth of it in a secret ‘crypthand’. The encoded sections document her passionate affairs with other women – but also her lonely despair at the challenge of finding a soulmate. She had a ‘marriage ceremony’ in a church in York in 1834 with a wealthy Halifax woman, Ann Walker, though the union wasn’t a particularly happy one. Anne Lister died from fever in 1840 when travelling in what is now Georgia, en route to Persia. Ann Walker accompanied the coffin back to Yorkshire on an arduous eight-month journey, and Anne was buried in Halifax Minster.
Novelist Sarah Waters has done a couple of lovely videos about Anne Lister for Historic England’s Pride of Place project - and Shibden Hall also featured in Britain's Great Gay Buildings. The Hall, which dates back to 1420, is open for visits until 2 September when it closes again for filming. Visit now and beat the crowds: the Jacobean manor hotel Holdsworth House is offering a fantastic overnight break package. Holdsworth House was also, incidentally, the setting for Caroline (played by Sarah Lancashire) and Kate’s romantic rendez-vous in the BBC TV show Last Tango in Halifax.
Experiences like no other: the stunning courtyard of the magnificent 18th Century Piece Hall in Halifax will play host to Drag Supergroup Denim on 21 December. Not only will a decadent Spiegeltent provide a fittingly glamorous setting to their show, but these are queens with a difference: working class Crystal, Muslim Glamrou, and mum Aphrodite are all about showing the value of being true to your identity. They’ll be doing a fun, empowering concert for kids on 22 December there too.
Todmorden is the place to be on the second Saturday of every month. In the daytime, older members of the LGBT community can go to the Over the Rainbow get-together in the Victorian library, and at night there’s the famous Todmorden Women's Disco at the Cricket Club - revellers travel from as far afield as Brighton and Portsmouth to experience this legendary party.
We’re radical…: we don’t forget that LGBT hate crime has risen nationally, according to Stonewall. But here in the Calder Valley we challenge that trend with defiance, with joy, and with love. The theme of Happy Valley Pride this year is ‘Revolution’. Activist Peter Tatchell is a patron. As usual, Hebden Bridge shop windows all across town will be filled with rainbows in a spectacular display of community solidarity. At a time when holding hands in public is sometimes still seen as a revolutionary act for LGBT people, everyone is being encouraged to take the hand of those they love during Pride, in a spirit of both resistance and celebration.
….but we’re nice: you won’t get refused admittance or side-eyed for not being buff enough or not wearing the right jeans. People are friendly – for example new Halifax LGBT bar The Village is a fun, welcoming and inclusive night out. In true Yorkshire style, we keep a keen eye on prices so you’ll be astonished at the value for money here compared to the big cities. Everything in the beautiful Calder Valley is within pretty easy reach, so there’s no stress about lengthy journeys home or expensive cabs on your visit. And finally, importantly, we love dogs - many of our hotels, pubs, and cafés are dog-friendly, so you can bring your puppy with you on your trip.
So come visit us in Calderdale, for a fabulous holiday with a difference. As Happy Valley Pride says: however you identify - Be Here. Be You. Be Proud.