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BBC Factual announces new BBC One documentary, Gentleman Jack Changed My Life

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 Sami at home wearing a top hat inspired by Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack

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“That’s when I realised, I was a lesbian” says Yvonne, one of six women with heartwarming stories of how watching TV drama series Gentleman Jack led them to reassess their sexuality and change their lives.

Narrated by Miriam Margolyes, this uplifting documentary for BBC One and BBC iPlayer, Gentleman Jack Changed My Life, follows British women of all ages who’ve taken inspiration from Anne Lister, the 19th century, real-life lesbian at the centre of the drama, with dramatic results. That includes coming out to themselves, to their children, their parents and grandparents.

Emma Loach, BBC Commissioning Editor, says: “It has been so exciting to hear the positive impact that the story of Anne Lister has had on so many people around the world. This life- affirming film celebrates finding the confidence to make changes in our lives, whatever our age."

Barbara Govan CEO of Screenhouse Productions, the factual indie behind the film, says: “We’re inspired by the courage of all the women in this film who’ve shared their stories of coming out, with honesty and humour. We thank their mums, sons, daughters, and grandparents for sharing their reactions, especially where it’s a work in progress. We’re proud to have had a 100 percent female, key Screenhouse production team.”

Anne’s courage to love a woman, and live openly with her, is inspiring women all over the world to embark on their own journeys of self-discovery. Fan groups and forums have sprung up to celebrate Yorkshire landowner Anne Lister and the drama series Gentleman Jack.

In her 60s, Yvonne only realised she was gay when she watched the TV show. She’s been a Mormon all her adult life but is now in conflict with her faith after discovering her true sexuality. According to Mormon doctrine, acting on her feelings is a sin. While she works out what to do about her faith, we follow Yvonne as she determines to come out to her grown up children.

In Manchester, Sami tried to come out to her mum 10 years ago but went straight back in the closet after a hostile response. The portrayal of Anne Lister in the drama gives Sami the confidence to try again and to heal the rift with her mum.

Pauline and Trixie are in their 80s. Despite enjoying a long-term relationship in their 20s, they parted 35 years ago, because they felt it was impossible for them to live openly as a lesbian couple. Having watched Gentleman Jack, Pauline was spurred into action to track Trixie down.

Chichi, 22, came out to her parents after watching the series. Now she’s getting ready to reveal to her grandparents that she is gay.

Active church-goers Isabel and Katie sing in their church choir every weekend for services and weddings. Seeing Anne Lister and her lover Ann Walker take communion in the drama, they are inspired to fight for the dream religious wedding the Church of England is still denying them.

These compelling stories are interwoven with behind-the-scenes footage of the second series of Gentlemen Jack. There are insights from the drama’s stars, Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle, and writer Sally Wainwright.

Gentleman Jack Changed My Life, a 1x60’ for BBC One and BBC iPlayer, is made by Leeds based Screenhouse Productions Ltd. It was commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, History and Religion. The Executive Producers are Barbara Govan, CEO, Screenhouse Productions Ltd and Emma Hindley and the Commissioning Editor is Emma Loach. Sara Hardy is the Director and Al Johnstone the Producer.



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