Posted 20th May 2022
Gentleman Jack Changed My Life, on BBC1 Tuesday 24 May 10:40pm, has been two years in the making, and tells the heartwarming stories of hundreds of women worldwide whose lives have been turned upside down since watching the Sally Wainwright drama Gentleman Jack on the BBC and HBO. We follow six British women as they discover their sexuality, come out as lesbian to their families (and themselves), and re-kindle long-lost love.
Our amazing team, led by executive producer Barabara Govan and director Sara Hardy, found and worked with women happy to share their incredible stories. Yvonne, then 63, watched the drama and realised: ‘I’m not straight’. We see how she tells her family, and struggles with the reaction of her church. Sami, with the fabulous top hat in our picture, came out a few years ago, but was set back by the reaction of her mum Hazel. Inspired by Gentleman Jack, Sami now wants to re-set the relationship with Hazel. The story of Pauline and Trixie deserves a drama of its own. They started a relationship over 35 years ago, but broke up, overwhelmed by the expectations of a less than accepting society. Then, inspired by Gentleman Jack, they got a second chance at love.
The drama, now in its second season, has been a huge hit, and centres around Anne Lister, a land-owner and business woman from Halifax who lived openly as a lesbian in the 1830s. Her story, and her powerful character as portrayed by Suranne Jones, has deeply affected women around the world. There are fan groups and forums online with thousands of members, and now the Anne Lister Birthday Week festival which draws hundreds to Halifax to celebrate.
Our story began when Barbara Govan, co-owner of Screenhouse, set up a Q+A session with Sally Wainwright, writer of Gentleman Jack. The session in Leeds went really well, but the surprise was the huge number of views around the world for the live stream. This was our first introduction to the Gentleman Jack fan groups and forums around the world, and Barbara contacted Pat Esgate, organiser in New York. It was clear that a costume drama about an 18th century business woman was impacting women around the world, and especially older women. This is now known as the ‘Gentleman Jack Effect’, also the name of a book by Janet Lea which tells the stories of many of the women.
Barbara wondered if the effect was just as powerful in the UK. When we appealed online for women who might want to share their stories, the result was overwhelming. Barbara convinced the BBC to commission the film, and it has been made with great flair and sensitivity by the team, led by director Sara Hardy.Back to Articles