Jessica Gysel. She is a woman you should know. If you ask Jessica to describe herself in 5 words. This is what she says: Curious, inclusive, collaborative, critical and straightforward. These strengths Jessica combines in her projects: She is the founder of “Girls Heart Brussels”. It is a weekend-festival and travel-offer for women who want to discover Brussels. She is also the founder of the magazine “Girls Like Us” which started as a lesbian and queer fanzine. What has she been up to lately? She is involved in a project she has been working on for quite some time and it is now finally ready for the puplic eye. The reopening of a lesbian spot called Mothers and Daughters in Brussels. This is STRAIGHT FAQ with Jessica Gysel.
Are you gay or queer? Is the difference important to you?
We are lesbian and queer. Both with Girls Like Us and Girls Heart Brussels. Lesbian as a nod to the older generation, who fought so hard to get us where we are now. And queer because we are open to all genders and identities.
What does “Girls Heart Brussels” mean to you?
A great opportunity to put Brussels on the map as a LGBTQI-friendly city. And a city that is home to many fantastic women and female-run / queer collectives, especially in the cultural scene. Girls Heart Brussels was conceived as a platform to put all these women and initiatives in the spotlight, by creating a nice programmed weekend around it. The idea is to have interested women, both local and (international) to meet and inspire each other and discover Brussels from within.
Is it easy to do something related to the topics queerness and culture in Brussels/belgian?
There are so many nice initiatives, it is really a pleasure to select the most fitting ones for every edition. We work together with LGBTQU Film Festival Pink Screens for instance, or the queer artists collective Buenos Tiempos Int., or Beursschouwburg, who have a rather queer programmation or Warrior Poets, who specialize in slam and poetry. Just to name a few.
Favourite Places of Jessica Gysel in Brussels:
Where do you spend the nights? (bars, clubs, locations)
Clubs: Cat Club (they also have smaller events like Black Out that are great), Beursschouwburg
Soirées Chaudières at Barlok, this is a very nice queer party.
Why do you like it there?
Intimate atmosphere, partying with friends and likeminded people.
What is more beautiful day or nighttime in Brussels?
Unfortunately Brussels is mostly knows for its nightlife, but the daytime is really beautiful too!
Descripe your happiest moment during the night?
Honestly, when I can go home, to sleep, haha. I am personally not that much of a night person.
What is your happiest moment during the day?
At this moment, the sunrises and sunsets. I live in a top floor apartment, with an amazing view. It is so nice to see the days lengthening and to have an idea of Spring that is slowly approaching…
Do you have a certain mood that makes you want to stay in your apartment and not go out?
I love to be at home, does not really matter in which mood. I change music, interior, clothes, food etc. depending on my mood. Eating at different corners of the house, sitting and reading in different corners, like really ‘move’ around the house and explore it from different angles.
How much alcohol do you need to feel free when you are out partying?
Not that much, I am a bad drinker and get drunk very easily.
Watching or Dancing?
First watching, than dancing. Of course.
What is your most favourite combination to go out? Alone, with a couple of friends or do you prefer rather big groups?
Depending on my mood, I like all these combinations. I am not a huge fan of big groups though, and never really go to really big parties.
How relaxed can you be at your own parties and festivals?
Not very, haha. There is always something to stress about. But when everything goes smoothly and people seem to enjoy it, that is the most amazing feeling.
Do you ever say: “This was amazing.” ?
See previous question 😉
Do you have a feeling of home in Brussel and if so why?
At the moment I do. I moved back 4 years ago, I lived here in my early 20s, but lived in Amsterdam most of my professional life. It is nice to be back, and it is a city with so many possibilities still. Still very unfinished, lots of things to explore. This can be annoying at times as well, but there is a beauty to it too.
Where do you get the best chocolate in Brussels?
I am a big fan of Godiva, and I love the name, too. Not chocolate, but great biscuits are found at Maison Dandoy, a family run business who still bakes its cookies in their own workshop in Brussels. And this place Elisabeth, which offers the most delicious candies, all Belgian originals.
Where is the place to be for queer women?
At the moment, there is no permanent lesbian bar in Brussels. But I am happy to announce that “Mothers and Daughters“, a project we are involved in will open for two months in May and June 2019 again.
Can you name some good locations where you go out for food?
Les Filles, all female run
OR Coffee (Rue A. Orts)
A Moroccan pancake on Sunday on Marché du Midi, with obligatory mint tea.
Knees to Chin, for Dinner, they serve really nice rice rolls
Friture Rene, a bit outside of the centre, but amazing brasserie.
Fritland, close to Beurs, which has really the best fries in town.
If you recomment a walk through Brussels where would you go?
There are so many nice places. Here is a good route for a walk if you visit Brussels for the first time: Starting downtown, near Place Ste Catherine, slowly making your way uptown, via Gallerie St Hubert, Mont des Arts, to Palais de Justice (Place Poelaert, with great views over the downtown part of Brussels), then via Avenue Louise towards Ixelles and ending in the Bois de La Cambre and exploring the villas in neighbouring hoods such as Uccle and Watermael-Boisfort.
If you know the city, you should walk form Altitude 100 (the highest part of Brussels) down via Parc Duden and Parc de Forest, via bohemian St Gilles, through very busy and happening Anderlecht and Molenbeek towards Laeken and its beautifully renovated urban site Tour & Taxi.
By the way, there’s also a list of spots on the Girls Heart Brussels website you should not miss. There you can also find an interview with the lesbian activist Marian Lens (click here.)
Headerphoto by Katja Mater