‘Quiet hero of the LGBT+ community’ who saved countless young queer lives from her dining table remembered by loved ones
One of Bristol’s most prominent LGBT+ campaigners, Billie Dale Wakefield, has tragically passed away at the age of 78.
Described by local leaders and loved ones as a “hero”, Dale Wakefield founded the Bristol Gay Switchboard in 1975, and became one of the founders of Bristol Pride in 1977.
She passed away September 5 after a long illness and a fight with cancer, and will be remembered as a “fearless” woman who dedicated her life to the LGBT+ community.
“She believed to the end that if we all cooperate there is nothing we cannot do together,” her son Shaun told PinkNews.
Dale Wakefield helped her local community by giving support, shelter and care to some of its most marginalised and vulnerable members – LGBT+ people who were abandoned by their families or not yet out.
“Our family was not limited to our blood relatives, all were welcome, whole families sometimes lived with us. There were always visitors coming and going,” Shaun added.
“She always shared what little she had, she is a hard act to follow and the world has lost a special person.”
Billie Dale Wakefield ‘was completely fearless’.
Dale Wakefield founded the Bristol Gay Switchboard from the back room of her mother’s home, stationed at a dining table.
Her friend, Tim Manning, told the BBC: “She was completely fearless, and saved lives because a lot of people who phoned were about to kill themselves.
“They were terrified of coming out, and we had to be careful with what we said because the police were monitoring our line in case we gave people cruising advice.”
He added: “There’s no doubt Dale was one of the quiet heroes of Bristol’s LGBT community.”
She’s influenced us to believe that a fair and just society is one to try and achieve.
After three years the service moved to Bristol Gay Centre, with Dale remaining involved until the early 1980s.
The late activist also helped organise the Bristol Lesbian Line, though the idea was not hers, and worked with Women’s Aid to help women fleeing domestic violence.
Her grandson Marco said that her work extended beyond the LGBT+ community.
“She was active in the miners’ strike and protesting against the second Gulf War, before supporting the Labour movement,” he told the BBC.
“Our family are proud of the work she did during her lifetime and she’s influenced us to believe that a fair and just society is one to try and achieve.”
Dale Wakefield is survived by her children Shaun and Teraza and her four grandchildren. She was cremated Monday (September 21) at South Bristol Crematorium.