By Amy Tighe and Ella Davies
gal-dem is a new-media publication, founded in 2015 by Liv Little during her final year of university "as a direct response to a feeling of severe isolation and hopelessness that often comes with being the only person of colour in a room." It's an independent online and print magazine produced by women and non-binary people of colour, committed to telling the stories of people of colour of marginalised genders.
The magazine’s first print issue, the gal-hood issue, sold out its first print run. The second issue, the home issue, subsequently sold out as well. 2019 also saw the publication of an anthology, I Will Not Be Erased: Our Stories About Growing Up as People of Colour, from some of the women and non-binary people of colour who write for the magazine. It marked an exciting development for the press and signalled more success to come.
The gal-dem editorial collective was invited to curate an event presenting work by young female contemporary artists of colour at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2016, as part of the museum’s Friday Lates series. Alongside this, they arranged a variety of activities and workshops. The Guardian described the showcase as “nothing short of breathtaking.” The gal-dem team has also previously guest-edited The Guardian’s Weekend magazine.
Split into six sections – Culture, First Person, Life, Music, Politics and Investigations – the site also runs regular columns answering all questions on QTIBPOC issues, Afro hair care, travelling, and dating, as well as having podcast guests like Michaela Coel and Emma Dabiri.
Shanice Dover took some time to chat to us about her role as Head of Social and Communications at gal-dem, where she has been working since it began in 2015.
"I saw the ad when it was going to launch, and what its ambitions were – I really wanted to be involved! I had studied journalism and gotten quite frustrated with the industry, the ways it worked, the ways it approached news, especially how certain peoples' stories weren't being published or said in the ways they should be. So I was really excited to see that something would be launched that was more in line with the things that I wanted to see in the industry.
I wrote my dissertation on the ways that alternative media had transformed the way that we consume news, especially when it comes to marginalised communities. For example, looking at the murder of Trayvon Martin and how it was social spaces that escalated that conversation and brought it to a wider space. It all seemed to align very well, the fact that we were starting to see social change brought about and discussed super widely on social media, then seeing this publication that would be operating on social media as mainly an online publication at the time.”
What kind of tasks do you do now in your job?
“It's a lot of working closely with the editorial team and also the commercial team. Most of our editorial content is online, so with the editors, it's thinking about how we can use our social platforms to translate some of the article topics that we're talking about, or how we can use specific features on those channels; it's storytelling in a slightly different way, to bring people in, to raise awareness of some the things that we're speaking about and to bring them back to the site to learn more or engage in that way. With the commercial side of the business, it's more thinking about how brand work can also live on our social platforms.”
What kind of advice would you give to your readers who want to work in publishing?
“What I often see on social media and I think what's discussed quite a lot, is that there is a lot of opportunity for knowledge sharing, even if you're someone who has very little experience or feel like you're not quite sure where to look, or where to ask, or who to ask. I feel like there's a lot of collaboration in the industry; that was definitely the case for us in 2015. It was people just sharing that this is something we care about. And that's what we want to do: be able to connect with illustrators and different writers or people who just want to support. As a team, we've tried to also create spaces for aspiring journalists, such as online writing workshops that we have run in the past or collaborating with other collectives who share our values.”
What have you read recently that's really stuck with you (can be anything - a book, an ad, a tweet)?
“There is a poet called Vanessa Kissule, she attended the first garden party, and would write little poems about people in the crowd, then put them on a board and you could go up and see them afterwards. She sat in the corner with her little typewriter, then put them up on a board. There is a tweet she wrote recently; it gives very beautiful and helpful advice on writing, thinking and editing.”