Collecting Queer History: places and memories

Ahead of LGBT+ History month, SUP team member Nicky Imrie looks at the importance of place and memory on identity.

Submitted by EmmaBrown on 15-01-2019 15:19:41

Signwriting in Vienna


Summer 2004. It’s blazing sunshine, 35 degrees centigrade, and for four days I’m up a ladder right next to a very busy dual carriageway, brush in hand, painting signs on the south elevation of the Türkis Rosa Lila Villa, one of Vienna’s LGBT+ community centres.


As a finale to my time volunteering in the women’s section of the centre, LilaTipp, the team invited me to paint new signs on the outside of the building. The would-be sign writer in me was very excited. I drew up some designs, they were discussed and tweaked, and finally signed off by everyone in the building. I spent my last couple of weeks in Vienna that year drawing in chalk and then painting thirty-two letters and two full stops. These few words were visible from passing cars and underground trains, and I know they make a difference: Information und Beratung (advice) and www . villa . at.


It's quite moving to know that fifteen years later one of my signs has been preserved even though the building has been repainted several times. Providing information and advice continues to be a crucial service at the Villa. My signwritten website URL over the front door has disappeared; it was no longer current.


It may not be in Scotland, but my experiences in Vienna mean everything to me and have shaped me as a person. At this place under the rainbow flag I learned so much about queer activism, history and politics, mental health and wellbeing, how to deal with homophobic abuse, as well as improving my German skills immeasurably and having a lot of fun.


Sharing important places helps us make sense of not only our own experiences and identities, but also those of others. Discovering our history and being a part of the future is crucial to the lives of many an LGBTQIA+ person, myself included.


This summer-time task is etched on my memory and stands as a sign - literally and figuratively - of the importance of visible beacons of belonging and support for LGBTQIA+ communities. To this day activism is vital in the effort for everyday acceptance, improved safety and further legal rights and recognition for LGBTQIA+ people.  



Pink-painted building with rainbow flag next to a road with carTürkis Rosa Lila Villa, Vienna, in early 2018 before renovations to improve accessibility. Photo courtesy of LilaTipp.


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