Why Freewoman of Calderdale Sally Wainwright is inspired by 'magical' Yorkshire

Yorkshire television writer Sally Wainwright spoke of how Calderdale became "magical" to her as she accepted the Freedom of the Borough.

The highest honour that Calderdale Council can award was given to the BAFTA-wiiner at a Halifax Town Hall ceremony last night in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to the area.

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The writer said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to become a Freewoman of the Borough, it’s a real privilege. The ceremony was a very special evening.

Screenwriter Sally Wainwright given the honour of a Freewoman of the Borough of Calderdale by Councillor Dot Fioster, the Mayor of Halifax and Roibin Tuddenham, chief executive, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the area at a special ceremony at Halifax Town Hall. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“I’m a huge supporter of Calderdale and I’m really excited about the place – it’s becoming more and more vibrant.

"When I discovered Anne Lister I completely fell in love with her distinctiveness, and Calderdale became magical to me. I love to write there. I’ve always felt really connected to Shibden Hall, Anne’s historic home. It’s a beautiful place.”

There were speeches from the Mayor of Calderdale, Coun Dot Foster, council leader Coun Tim Swift and the authority's chief executive, Robin Tuddenham.

Calderdale Choir also turned out for a special performance of O’Hooley & Tidow’s ‘Gentleman Jack’.

The ceremony at Halifax Town Hall. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Huddersfield-born Wainwright signed the Roll of Honorary Freedom and the Mayor presented her with the Freedom Scroll.

The Honorary Freedom plaque, newly inscribed with her name, was then unveiled.

Among other privileges, Freedom of the Borough has traditionally been associated with recipients being allowed to herd sheep through the streets – though the council is "not so sure" of the reason.

Sally Wainwright outside Shibden Hall. Picture: Calderdale Council.

"She so passionately champions Calderdale and has showcased its splendour around the world. All of her series filmed in the area have had outstanding impacts on tourism and the local economy.

“Gentleman Jack, which tells the remarkable story of Anne Lister, has boosted visitor numbers at Anne’s historic home, Shibden Hall, and the rest of the borough. The hugely popular BBC and HBO drama has brought millions of pounds into our economy, and has had phenomenal personal impacts – life-changing for many people – across the globe.”

Visitor numbers to Shibden have more than trebled since the estate featured in Gentleman Jack.

Attendance at nearby Bankfield Museum in Halifax, where costumes from the series were on display last year, almost trebled too.

Sally Wainwright joins the Freedom of Calderdale list. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Businesses, museums, hotels, events and attractions have reported an increase in income and there has been significant growth in the number of international visitors since the series first aired in spring 2019, according to the council.

The second series of Gentleman Jack is being made, and the fifth series of Last Tango in Halifax is now showing on BBC One.