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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

gal-dem: Their Legacy

By Jia Wen Ho, Shaniah Shields, Michelle Ye and Leanne Francis

A prominent space dedicated to people of colour, of marginalised genders, gal-dem has created countless writing opportunities and kickstarted careers for many people over the past eight years.

“I spent my teen years dreaming of writing for gal-dem. gal-dem always felt fresh and exciting, and it offered an alternative to the predominantly white UK media sector,” said Nadira Begum, one of its writers.

gal-dem started as a student project by Liv Little but grew into a self-sustaining online platform before it closed at the end of March 2023. It had six main columns, covering politics, music, culture, climate, individual stories and investigative journalistic pieces. Stories otherwise left untold found a place in gal-dem; there is one about young Black men jailed over text messages, and another about growing up as a Black girl in Pyongyang.

Not only did it give fresh perspectives, gal-dem gave many aspiring journalists from marginalised backgrounds a byline, and with it a chance to venture into something they were passionate about in a space dominated by white males.

gal-dem editors also approach each piece sensitively. “Last year I was given the opportunity to write about grief for their newsletter, and the editors approached my work with such kindness and warmth that I went from feeling scared about writing so openly to feeling like I was in safe hands.” Nadira.

An archive of gal-dem’s unique and thoughtful articles is still accessible on their website.

I Will Not Be Erased: Our Stories about Growing up as People of Colour by gal-dem – a review

I Will Not Be Erased is a collection of life-affirming essays from the award-winning magazine, gal-dem. The fourteen essays are written by a range of women and non-binary people of colour and are thought-provoking and inspirational. Each essay is inspired by raw material from the writers’ teenage years (messages, diaries and poems) and are written to their younger selves. This makes for moving, relatable and very honest essays which are filled with inspiring quotes: “Don’t let wanting to fit in stop you from doing something you love.”

Tackling important subjects including race, gender, sexuality, mental health, religion and activism, these stories are empowering and accessible. The gal-dem writers reflect on what it is like to grow up as a minority in a majority white, heteronormative society. Your voice matters and that is the key message behind this collection one that makes this essential reading for young people. This book teaches the acceptance of yourself and others: “I don’t want you to regret not getting to know yourself, for yourself, sooner.”

If you enjoyed I Will Not Be Erased, I would recommend: Taking Up Space by Chelsea Kwadkye and Ore Ogunbiyi, None of the Above by Travis Alabanza and The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla.

Why gal-dem closed

For all, the last few years have been altered by unprecedented change due to the pandemic. The consequences of which have made their mark on independent media platforms such as gal-dem. Following a round of redundancies and staff departures, the magazine released a goodbye letter in late March sharing their decision for closure: “continuing to operate as a business is unfortunately no longer feasible.” The letter describes the financial and structural challenges the magazine faced, citing brand budget reduction and difficulties in growth sustainability as the magazine evolved from brand partnerships to its newer membership model.

“There was always a delicate balance to strike in marrying our values, rooted in our beginnings as a volunteer-led organisation, with profitability that was needed to sustain and reinvest in the business, all while delivering ground-breaking creative work that served our community with an organisational structure that works.”

Interviews with readers conducted across media outlets communicate immense gratitude for gal-dem’s work and hope for the continued empowerment of marginalised voices. Others in the industry, such as Pat Younge, former BBC Creative Director, also remarked on how gal-dem “punched enormous holes in many glass ceilings and then helped others through to bigger and better things.”

The next generation: who will fill the gap left by gal-dem?

Photo by: Peckham Festival

It feels difficult to envision another publication filling the huge gap gal-dem have left in the world of independent media. Featuring over 350 contributors, gal-dem was a powerhouse for UK journalism, creating groundbreaking content and offering underrepresented writers the chance to share stories from their homeland and across the diaspora. From discussing dating struggles and representation in TV shows, to activism and intergenerational trauma, gal-dem were instrumental in destigmatising and breaking barriers around these important conversations.

Speaking to Madhu Manivannan, a former member of the team here at The Publishing Post who are dedicated to spotlighting the BIPOC community, and gal-dem contributor, she said: “In such a difficult time for media, it’s possible that there may never be an outlet that will fill in the gap left by gal-dem. However, for its short but significant run, I think gal-dem made young women and non-binary people of colour feel that their voice matters and that if there wasn’t a seat at the table, making a new table is preferable to toning themselves and their beliefs down. So, I think gal-dem’s legacy will fill the gap it leaves behind.”

We also spoke to Nadira Begum about gal-dem’s legacy, who said: “Right now, I think it’s quite difficult to predict how the gap left behind by gal-dem will be filled. It seems as though our current media climate is slowly crumbling, leaving most independent media behind, and making journalism more inaccessible than it’s ever been. It’s a harsh reality to face, but the optimist in me wants to believe that there is a platform out there willing to continue the mission of uplifting marginalised voices that gal-dem began. I think it’s up to us to continue championing each other and cultivating safe spaces for non-white women and non-binary people of colour to share their perspectives and harness their creativity.”

Following their closure, gal-dem shared seventeen independent UK-based media organisations to support, such as Aurelia, Black Ballad and labaatan. Some other independent publications to check out include Bad Form Review, and bigblackbooks, which was founded by former team member and Editorial Assistant at PRH, Jane Link.

gal-dem’s Legacy

Though there may never be another platform quite like gal-dem, it is vital that we champion and uplift other independent media who share gal-dem’s values of inclusivity and community.

We are endlessly grateful to gal-dem for their incredible work over the past eight years and wish all of their contributors the success they deserve. Whilst it is upsetting to watch another independent publication close down, gal-dem are leaving behind a legacy that reshaped the face of UK media. gal-dem’s closure is a reminder to support independent media, share our voices and create spaces for our stories to survive.


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