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: The Happy Valley Pride Festival 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 brings you an eclectic programme with something for everyone: top class acts such as Duckie perform in intimate, atmospheric venues like the Hope Baptist Church; with a 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. Sadly, the Happy Valley Pride Festival won’t betaking place in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but keep an eye on our What’s On page for details of online events and other Happy Valley Pride loveliness.
Home of the ‘first modern lesbian’: The extraordinary story of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, is being told in the 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. Jacobean manor hotel Holdsworth House was 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 plays host to a great programme of evenst throughout the year with previous acts including Drag Supergroup Denim . A decadent Spiegeltent provides a fittingly glamorous setting for shows at Christmas such as the House of Burlesque.
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. Happy Valley Pride fills Hebden Bridge shop windows 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 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 and 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.