Tributes paid to ‘hero’ of Bristol’s LGBT community

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By Jonathan Holmes
BBC News

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image captionMs Wakefield was an early campaigner for LGBT rights in Bristol

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.css-14iz86j-BoldText{font-weight:bold;}Tributes have been paid to a “pillar” of the LGBT community in Bristol who has died at the age of 78.

Dale Wakefield founded the Bristol Gay Switchboard from the back room of her mum’s home in 1975, and was one of the founders of Bristol Pride in 1977.

“She was completely fearless, and saved lives because a lot of people who phoned were about to kill themselves,” said her friend Tim Manning.

Ms Wakefield’s funeral will take place on Monday.

The Bristol Gay Switchboard was one of the earliest LGBT phone support lines in the country, opening one year after the London Gay Switchboard began.

“People called us and asked if we were gay, and there was a stunned silence because they’d never spoken to another gay person before,” said Mr Manning.

“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.”

“There’s no doubt Dale was one of the quiet heroes of Bristol’s LGBT community,” he added.

The dining table she ran the switchboard from was exhibited in Bristol’s M-Shed museum in 2013 as part of an exhibition.

On Facebook, Bristol Pride said the LGBT community “owed her so much.”

Her grandson Marco said Ms Wakefield had been a lifelong campaigner.

“She was active in the miners’ strike and protesting against the second Gulf War, before supporting the Labour movement.

“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.”

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