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SBQ Elizabeth

March 22nd, 2024

Ms Elizabeth Drysdale

Introducing Ms Elizabeth Drysdale 

Elizabeth was created from the combined love of a lady from Glasgow in Scotland and a man from Kingston in Jamaica. She was born in Liverpool.  

Ms Elizabeth packed a lot in her teenage years, leaving school, embracing love, relocating to London, marriage, as well as working as a trainee office ‘girl’. You may say, with all that under her belt, she knew from a young age what she wanted. And on the job front, after two years in an office space, she knew it wasn’t for her. She also knew what would float her boat, literally, she dreamed of being in and surrounded by nature. Ms Elizabeth loved the outdoors with all the experiences and education it provided.  

While still in her teens, she fell upon community work. At weekends, she immersed herself in an outward-bound, centred organisation, getting a high from life as she learnt about nature, animals, and the environment. The outdoor world impacted her so deeply that she sacrificed her job to work as a volunteer with young people exploring outdoor pursuits. With deep sentiments, she recalls those pre-Health and Safety surveillance days when common sense and care for each other reigned.  

 Elizabeth enjoyed the mess and adventures of youth work, so with lots of practical experience under her belt, she went off to Sheffield University in pursuit of a 2 - year Youth and Community Work qualification. Now for Elizabeth, there was no separating youth work from social action. She saw first-hand the injustices faced by community members in the Toxteth area. The injustices resulted in community uprisings from the silenced, black, dual heritage and working-class young people. She shares:  

“Demo's keep you connected to people. I still go on marches whenever I can. It's who I am and how we show dissatisfaction. I understand young people engaging through the internet, but it doesn't connect solidarity in the same way as when we come together.” 

(Toxteth Uprisings of the early 1980s. Source Dave Smith’s archives by Tneisha)(Image: Toxteth Uprisings of the early 1980s. Source Dave Smith’s archives by Tneisha)

Elizabeth knows from experience that for change to happen, it requires ‘collective action’, and she also knows that within community groups, when individuals earn the trust of the community, they are often selected or encouraged to become a voice with and for the people. Being a member of a collective activism group has contributed to her: 

  • She was a local councillor for four years, with responsibilities ranging from overseeing bin men to hiring the chief executive. Though she found that her values did not align with those of many in her office, she managed to support fairer recruitment, resulting in more black staff employed by the council. 

  • Initiating a community Education development initiative allowed disadvantaged young people to get employment. Prior to this action, the council and other organisations engaged in social employment, employing people they already knew and, therefore, keeping the status quo—white. 

  • Founding the Liverpool black women’s group provided spaces for women to have their voices heard and their needs met. This work culminated in the opening of the Mary Seacole Centre.  

  • Highlighting issues that affect women and advocating for services which address and support women living with or ready to escape Domestic Violence.  

  • Being one of the founding members of the Black Elders’ Project. 

When Ms Elizabeth recalls the importance of collective action, there are many names she could call as she had many allies and comrades, but for now she would like to acknowledge another sister of the fight. Maria O’Reilly, who was a brilliant listener and had real knowledge and insights into structural racism. Like Ms Elizabeth, Maria was also a visionary.  

Visionaries are so used to looking forward, to making things happen, to turning hopes and dreams into realities. So, looking back is not something Ms Elizabeth often does. We asked her what it was like to look back. She told us:  

“It’s made me realise I've done many different things. I haven't even scratched the surface sharing the things I've been involved in.” 

She had no appetite for dwelling on what she had done or contributed to making happen; she shares also what she describes as the dreams which got away, sharing:    

“After the Liverpool uprisings, funds were being given to existing projects for them to become more inclusive."

Elizabeth still feels that working with construction developments and using properties more effectively is an idea that still has mileage. She reasons:  

“Working with developers to build more and better housing would create opportunities to skill share and for people to gain recognised trades to design and build lucrative properties which would benefit a wider group of people.” 

She understands some of the challenges of such a vision, which adds to the frustrations of young men at the time. She reflects,  

 “Once we shared our vision, it was as though somebody had realised that working-class black males, in particular, could become property and business owners. The fallout came when the community group became involved, then funding was withdrawn. That's the one that got away with regret for me. Yet, I haven’t stopped envisioning great business ideas, sometimes others don’t agree and may even laugh, but visioning is what I do, who I am.” 

Ms Elizabeth never underestimates the impact of the work of collectives on a single person. She delights to share Adam’s story with us.  

“Well, I was sitting on a bus when a man I later found out was named Adam came up and called me by my name. I didn't remember him. He recounted that a training course I had instigated had allowed him to train and get a job with the City Council so he could provide for his wife and his family. It was the Merseyside skills training course. That course went on to train many people. I tend to dismiss the many things I've been involved in, but it was greatly satisfying to know it changed someone’s life and prospects. Guess it's the things that seem small as community workers and leaders that get taken for granted.”    

And finally, Ms Elizabeth is on her way to threescore and ten years on this planet she loves so much. She has to rethink life a little following the recent loss of her great love, friend, and partner, Alan. So, what does she have planned for the big earth strong day? She says, she would like to go on a camping trip, which by the way must include cycling, she’d like to cycle the British Coastline on her Trek Mynx. If she can’t get enough adventurous people to do the outdoors with her, she may have to resort to glamping.  

And her mantra for life: 

No matter what, tomorrow will come if I’m lucky. And I will just get on with it.  

We salute Ms Elizabeth, the visionary and activist. 

This feature is part of the Seasoned UK Black Queens series celebrating Black women throughout March, a fantastic project led by Yvonne Christie. Read more here




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