On Air Now

Love In The Morning

9:00am - Noon

Now Playing

York’s first Molly House? Barley Hall Coffee Shop renamed for Pride Month with a series of events

Wednesday, 24 May 2023 00:00

By Barbara Constable

Ann Lister outside Barley Hall

The café at York’s medieval townhouse, Barley Hall, is set to embrace the rainbow flag this June as it transforms from coffee shop to ‘Molly House’ and hosts a series of events celebrating LGBTQ+ history as part of Pride Month.

The café at York’s medieval townhouse, Barley Hall, is set to embrace the rainbow flag this June as it transforms from coffee shop to ‘Molly House’ and hosts a series of events celebrating LGBTQ+ history as part of Pride Month.

Located in a snickleway between Grape Lane and Stonegate, Barley Hall Coffee Shop’s location reflects York’s history as one of the key places outside London that saw the growth of coffee shops in the Georgian era, with the trade in beans giving rise to the street’s name, Coffee Yard. 

“Around the same time, with homosexuality banned, some coffee houses frequented by gay men where they could socialise with similarly minded gentlemen became known as ‘Molly Houses’.  For the month of June, we’ll be celebrating queer culture by renaming the coffee shop Barley Hall Molly House, updating our displays and hosting a series of events exploring LGBTQ+ history,” comments Barley Hall’s manager, Paul Ruxton.

The first event sees Anne Lister in the House on Sunday 4 June (the day after York Pride), with storytelling on the hour every hour from 11am to 3pm.  With her story brought to prominence in the BBC’s Gentleman Jack series, visitors will hear stories of her life in Yorkshire, including her romances with Mariana Belcombe and Ann Walker.  Actor India Mckenzie will play Anne Lister in the five performances.

Meanwhile, Shakespeare’s classic story of mistaken identity and cross-dressing, Twelfth Night, will be retold on Saturday 17 June.  Each performance takes just 15 minutes with a costumed storyteller making perhaps the most confusing of Shakespeare’s plays perfectly clear to even the youngest visitors! 

“This is a great play to explore for Pride Month, not only because of the lead character presenting alternatively as a woman and a man, but also because we can explore the roles of actors in Elizabethan England,” adds Abi Judge, events manager for York Archaeology.  “When Shakespeare’s plays were performed, all roles were performed by men – women were not permitted to act on stage – so the performative nature of gender can also be explored.”

The final event, on Tuesday 20 June, makes wonderful use of the first floor of the coffee shop, which has an enormous 80” screen – perfect for a fun evening of movies and cocktails, with a showing of the 1995 film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.  The film stars 90s heartthrobs Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo as drag queens temporarily stranded in small town America during a cross-country road trip.  The evening includes a cocktail, provided by Colton-based Fairfax Distillery, with tickets priced at £20. 

One of the quirky features about the coffee shop is it glass-topped tables that feature historic items and scannable QR codes that link to videos about different coffee house traditions.  Throughout June, these displays will be updated with content and films exploring LGBTQ+ history.

For more details on all the events, or to book tickets, please visit barleyhall.co.uk

More from Local News