From The Archers to HBO: how Sally Wainwright conquered TV

She was fired by Emmerdale, injected some much-needed grit into Coronation Street and struck gold with Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley. Now Sally Wainwright is going international. By Rebecca Nicholson

One morning last summer, in the grounds of the West Yorkshire manor house Shibden Hall, Sally Wainwright, the writer and director behind many of the most popular and acclaimed British dramas of the past decade, was standing in a barn, wrapping up a scene among bales of hay. Word came that she was needed outside to discuss an issue regarding a horse. There was some debate as to whether the horse, Percy, should be harnessed to a carriage, which might, his handler warned, cause him to “freak out”.

It was the first month of filming on Wainwright’s new TV series, Gentleman Jack, which tells the story of the former occupant of Shibden Hall, Anne Lister, a 19th-century adventurer, landowner and industrialist, who is sometimes described as the “first modern lesbian” because of the freedom with which she pursued her love affairs with women.

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