Uni of York announces new college named in honour of LGBT diarist Anne Lister

The historical TV adaptation Gentleman Jack was based on Lister

The University of York has revealed that one of the two new colleges on Campus East is to be the named Lister College.

This is the first University of York college to be named in honour of a female and an LGBTQ community member. This announcement marks the first addition to the University of York’s college system since Constantine College in 2014. Little is currently known about Lister College itself, other than that it will be on Hes East and open in September 2021.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Charlie Jeffery said: “Colleges are an integral part of university life here at York and we look forward to welcoming students to the new facilities soon”.

Lister College’s namesake, Yorkshire born Anne Lister, has often been described as the “first modern lesbian”. Her prolific diaries have been referred to as a “comprehensive and painfully honest account of lesbian life and reflections on her nature”.

The most renowned aspect of these diaries are the details of Listers’  “taboo relationships” and are largely written in a code that combines algebra and ancient Greek to conceal her sexual and romantic relationships. Despite concealing certain details in her diary with code, she lived an open and proud lifestyle and as a result of her bravery and openness, she suffered much homophobic harassment.

The historical TV drama Gentleman Jack is based upon her collected diaries and sexual and romantic relationships; the show stars Suranne Jones as Lister, and some scenes from the series have been filmed in York.

The announcement of Lister College was praised by screenwriter and director of Gentleman Jack, Sally Wainwright, who stated: “I am beyond delighted with this wonderful news … This is a very appropriate honour for a remarkable Yorkshire woman. I hope Anne Lister’s intellectual courage will inspire all who come to study at York.”

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