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Lizzie Emeh Obituary

November 23, 2021

My friend Lizzie Emeh, who has died aged 44 after a short illness, was a pioneering artist and songwriter who championed the rights of people with learning disabilities in the UK. In 2009 she made history with her debut album, Loud and Proud, becoming the first person with a learning disability to release an album of original songs in the UK.

Born and brought up in west London, Lizzie was of Irish and Nigerian heritage. Her parents, Kathleen (nee O’Neill) and Jonathan Emeh, were told she would never walk or talk due to severe medical complications. However, at four years old she proved the doctors wrong, and throughout her life she continued to defy the odds.

Music was a key part of Lizzie’s childhood, and she started singing aged 10. From the age of 11, Lizzie boarded at Parkwood Hall cooperative academy, a school for children with learning disabilities, in Swanley, Kent.Advertisement

Her career really started to develop in 1999 when she was discovered by Heart n Soul, a creative arts community based in south-east London. From 1999 to 2007 Lizzie toured with the Heart n Soul Experience across Europe, performed for three consecutive years at Glastonbury festival, and took Heart n Soul Unplugged to Asia.

In 2009, she released her debut album, Loud and Proud. It charted her key life experiences and she described it as “eclectic, wide-ranging and with lots of soul”. The album was a rallying call for people with learning disabilities. Lizzie won two national awards for her contribution to music, and she actively encouraged a number of learning-disabled artists to develop careers in the music industry.

Lizzie was a charismatic, engaging force of nature on a mission to effect change. She used her success to share her inspiring life story with thousands of people across the UK. She was also part of a groundbreaking research project at the Wellcome Collection in London, called Heart n Soul at the Hub, exploring learning disability, love and human value.

A major highlight was performing with Beverley Knight at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games in front of 80,000 people. Lizzie was a fearless performer, and audiences loved her authenticity, her direct lyrics and the soulful power of her voice. Over the past few years, she had collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra and released a further three EPs.

Lizzie met Eddie Goodman 18 years ago via a mutual friend at the LeeGrove Club, also known as the Tuesday Club, for people with learning disabilities, based in Grove Park, south-east London. They were friends for a long time, got together around 2010, and were married in 2016.

Lizzie is survived by Eddie, her sister, Monica, and her brothers, Chris and Eddie.

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