Roni Guetta, Project Manager of Queer Heritage South, on identity, memory and herstory
BY RONI GUETTA
On 8 April 2021, following two years of hard work, our team launched the Queer Heritage South Digital Museum. It’s a new, community generated, digital archive of all things related to queer life in Brighton, Hove and beyond.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” are the words of Rabbi Hillel the elder, a Jewish scholar and sage. They periodically come to the surface of my subconscious as I work on this project and I repeat them in my head like a chant; the kind of acquired knowledge I didn’t even know I had.
If we don’t tell our stories, who will do it for us? The answer is probably nobody, and Rabbi Hillel’s question has fuelled my personal understanding of the mission shared by Queer In Brighton’s work from the very beginning.
Where do untold stories go? Can we dig them up like expert archeologists when we finally realise history needs to be more than one tale? Or are they, by that point, buried forever?
I am a first-generation Italian Jew, my father migrated from Libya, my mother’s family from Czechoslovakia. My Jewish family’s story does not live in any of the museums in my city of Rome. After all, I am not a descendant of Cesar or Nero and am not beholden to the pope. I am a great kaleidoscope of stories and histories that are rarely ever told. And now, as a queer woman, I look back at my heritage and my queer ancestors are also quite hard to come by.
I moved to Brighton from Rome 12 years ago when I was in my early 20s. It wasn’t a particularly formulated plan; I think it was mostly because of the attraction of its queer life, though when I arrived, I struggled to find the community I had craved so much. A few nights out in venues which felt too young for me or were aimed at boys meant that I knew what I needed to do.
In search of place to belong to, I started my own club night: Traumfrau, a queer event for women and their friends. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Can you see a theme emerging?
Traumfrau grew into an important meeting place for Brighton & Hove’s queer community for over nine years, until gentrification and the decline in LGBTIQ+ club venues in Brighton & Hove made it too challenging to continue running monthly.
Important queer things happen in nightclubs: meeting a lover, finding a friend, seeing a show, or just connecting to one’s inner joy through dancing. These are all things that get often overlooked in museum collections and traditional archives, which is why our new community digital archive is so refreshing and tell the stories that matter to us.
I took delight in adding the Traumfrau posters from this period to the Queer Heritage South Digital Museum. I hope these posters bring up good memories as well as allowing people now and in the future to find themselves. And I’d love for DIVA readers to dig deep into their drawers of memories and memorabilia and find that one thing they would want to preserve for future generations.
Our archive covers Brighton and the South, so if you have flyers, pictures from Pride marches, and anything that in future might bring a smile or a tear to a curious queer looking for their ancestors snap a picture of it and send it to us! It’s as simple as that.
Find out how to get involved and browse the archive at queerheritagesouth.co.uk
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