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Dining With Pride – A Trainee’s Perspective

Hi, I am Eve, a Skills for the Future trainee at the Museum of East Anglian Life. I had a part in putting together our temporary exhibition: Dining With Pride, as well as creating an event to run alongside it. 

Dining With Pride is a temporary exhibition that explores the lives of LGBTQ+ people with a connection to Suffolk. It tells stories that previously may have not been told due to people’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community and it hopes to show the diversity of Suffolk’s past. As well as highlighting past stories, the exhibition also celebrates current and active members of the LGBTQ+ community, uncovering recent testimonies. It is hoped that by doing this we can see how attitudes towards the community have changed, while also helping to consider all that still needs to be done.

It has been exciting to see everything that has happened through Dining With Pride; as it is still up and running, I want to highlight people’s contributions and further show how you can come and interact with LGBTQ+ stories.

The Stars are Brighter Here and Pride Pizza Party

Snapshots from a performance of The Stars are Brighter Here.

As part of celebrating pride month and the opening of our Dining With Pride exhibition, the museum was delighted to host a series of performances, The Stars are Brighter Here. The play, written by Timothy Allsop, is based on oral testimony. It focuses on the lives of LGBTQ+ people in history, many of which have connections to Suffolk. A few of the characters featured in the play are spoken about within Dining With Pride, so it was the perfect way to work alongside the exhibition and bring those people’s stories to life. These stories are still currently on display, so why not come and learn about the interesting lives they lead? 

As well as powerful stories being told, the performance was educational in so many ways. It was a really important step towards creating awareness of what LGBTQ+ people faced, and what they still face to this day. I was lucky enough to see this performance twice, one of the times at a Pride Pizza Party event. 

Information booklet handed out to guests at the Pride Pizza Party event.

Pride Pizza Party was an event that I was privileged to be able to put together, focusing on representing young members of the LGBTQ+ community. People were welcomed to visit the museum and see the exhibition; have a private performance of The Stars are Brighter Here; a chance to discuss the play with the actors and production team; and enjoy sharing stories with pizza to end the day. I chose not to capture any photos of the day to maintain visitor’s anonymity, but I am so pleased with how much everyone got out of it and the positive feedback received. It was a great way to engage members of the LGBTQ+ community with an exhibition that we hope represented them.

Message board

Message board in the Dining With Pride exhibition room.

Although these events are no longer running, there are still some great ways of getting involved with the exhibition. We wanted to give people the opportunity to share their own stories, thoughts and feelings. Visitors to Dining With Pride are invited to do this through the use of a message board and the response has been overwhelming! I built this board with another collections trainee, Moné, and it has turned out to create a really great space for people to give their personal insight. It has been wonderful to see just how much the board has been used and I think it is such an important thing to hear from further sources and gain wider perspectives. It also highlights just how much of a community is out there.

From considering serious changes needed, to exciting drawings full of colour and love, here are a few of the notes that I think stand out most:

Notes that the public have added to the board.

Do you think any serious change is still needed? Do you have a message you want to say to the community? Why not stop by the exhibition and add your contributions to the board.

Reading Corner

The ‘Reading Corner’ in the Dining With Pride exhibition room.

Our ‘Reading Corner’ gives visitors another opportunity to engage with LGBTQ+ history and the community, whilst also being able to relax. There is a whole range of books, written by some fantastic LGBTQ+ authors; from past stories to present and children’s books to recipes; hopefully, these books, as well as the exhibition, can be a step towards opening up important conversations about LGBTQ+ rights.

As well as being included in the reading corner, some of these books are currently available in our shop. So, if you are interested to learn more but would rather read at home, why not pop in and have a look?

Come and see who has a place at the dinner table in Abbot’s Hall, and learn more about their lives, loves, challenges and achievements. Made possible thanks to Suffolk Archives and Pride in Suffolk’s Past. The Pride in Suffolk Past project explores hidden histories of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming people in Suffolk.

The exhibition runs from 17 July – 30 September 2021.

To find out more about Pride in Suffolks Past, pick up a copy of their book in the museum shop or head to: https://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/exhibitions/pride-in-suffolks-past-sharing-lgbtq-stories-past-and-present/ 

  • Eve Mordue, Skills for the Future Trainee.

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