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Meet gal-dem

By Luke Keleher, 16 May 2017

gal-dem is a creative magazine and collective of over 70 women of colour, working across the arts, politics and music to provide support in their creative endeavours. Born out of a frustration with a lack of diversity at her university, Liv Little – gal-dem’s founder – set about reaching out to women of colour and producing thought-provoking and relevant content. We sat down with four of the team to find out more about what inspires them and the project they’ll be working on with ASOS Supports Talent.

Meet Liv, Charlie, Varaidzo and Niellah of gal-dem: a creative magazine and collective of over 70 women of colour, changing the world one word at a time | ASOS Supports Talent

What is your passion project?

Liv [above pic, middle]: It’s an audiovisual poetry exhibition exploring what home means to 10 women of colour from Britain today. We pulled in our favourite women-of-colour poets in the UK at the moment, and tried to get a good spread of people from different backgrounds with very different life experiences. We created a shortlist from that, because when we do events it’s really important that we bring lots of different people in together. 

How would you describe what you do?

Charlie [above pic, right]: We're a creative collective made up of women of colour. We started out as an exclusively online magazine, but it's branched out to include so much more than that. The copy that we produce for the website is still really important to us and it's what drew people in, but now it's much more than that.

When did you start gal-dem – and why?

Varaidzo [above pic, top]: It launched in September 2015, though all of us were on board before that. It was born through online connections and IRL connections, and friends of friends. Liv had come up with the idea that was gal-dem and pulled us all in.

And what was it that made you want to start it?

Liv: Frustration, sadness... I was at Bristol, and Bristol is really white. I didn't get to study the things that I wanted to study in the way I wanted to study them, or be surrounded by the kind of people that I felt I needed to be surrounded by. I've always been a proactive person, so I was thinking of what I could do to cover some of the topics I was interested in, but in a different way to how I was seeing that done in academia.


Varaidzo: What was great about gal-dem is that it probably wasn't a unique idea, which probably lots of people have had, but everyone that Liv managed to pull together was so on it that it flew from launch.

ASOS Supports Talent gal-dem

What does working with ASOS mean to your passion project?

Charlie: We were so happy that they got behind it.


Niellah [top pic, left]:... and giving us creative control is really important.


Liv: Yeah! For sure – feeling that you're not doing something for the brand, but that they're backing something that we wanted to do and that we've had the idea for for a little while now. We have a really good relationship with ASOS anyway, like, with the magazine team. They’re great people and that's quite a good judge of who we should be working with as we move forward with our more branded-type content.


Charlie: I remember I really clocked onto the campaign last year with Loyle Carner, cos that’s the first time I was exposed to him as a person. I remember thinking his project was genuinely really cool and I thought it was really awesome that ASOS was supporting it.


Varaidzo: That’s the thing that I've always found with ASOS – it’s really easy for brands to work with young creatives because they know that creatives have an audience, but any time I’ve seen ASOS produce work with people that I rate and respect, it's always been on the terms of those people. I don't think a lot of those other brands have really cottoned onto that.

ASOS Supports Talent gal-dem

What is your greatest achievement so far?

Charlie: The V&A was just pretty mad. We had an event where about 4-6,000 people turned up and it was just mad. We took over this really, really old white institution and filled it with people of colour and it was beautiful.


Liv: My little sister was there and I want her to see this stuff. I want her to feel like she can take up space and she can do this. It was emotionally overwhelming and a lot to take in.

What would be the ultimate dream?

Varaidzo: At the moment, everyone does their other jobs, everyone has their other hustles, so for me it would be to make this something that all of us can do full time and spend the rest of my working career being able to work with these people.


Charlie: How beautiful would that be?


Liv: My happiest hours are spent doing gal-dem, even though it's also kind of stressful and after work – and sometimes you want to cry.

ASOS Supports Talent gal-dem

What inspires you?

Liv: All the women I'm surrounded by on a daily basis. I can think of so many different things that each person has taught me. There are so many people that we've had the pleasure of working with and that we get to bring in and work with on stuff like this and make sure that they're well paid, even if we're not – they are, so it’s fine.

What advice would you give to young people who want to follow their passion?

Liv: It's about finding the right people to make what you need to happen, happen. If you approach people on a level and explain why it is that you like what they do and what it is that you want to do, nine times out of 10, even if people are busy, they will try and find the time to sit down and talk to you. I feel pretty supported by a lot of the women that are around me. I feel like I can ask people for advice and I can ask them for help and vice versa, personally and professionally.


Varaidzo: Also it's such a basic thing but I think it's worth reiterating – have manners! If you've really enjoyed working with someone then actually take the time out to thank them for their time or let them know that they've made an impression on you, or that you're appreciative of what they've done. When you're just trying to hustle, you can forget how much that can mean to someone.