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The Rise of the Girl Platform: gal-dem

gal-dem Girl Collective Cone magazine

Cone tunes into a one to two Skype session with two special ladies, to chat about their plans to diversify digital media, and open up a refreshing dialogue for young girls with their website gal-dem.

Gal-dem logo
Image credit: Leyla Reynolds. 

At first glance, both Liv Little (21) and Leyla Reynolds (20) exude an effortless energy definitive of Bristol’s creative scene. Blond cropped hair, dyed curls, nose-ring’s (and matching radiant grins). Both are in their final year of Study; Joint honours degrees in Politics and Sociology. Both have roots further south the British Isles (Liv grew up in South East London, and Leyla born and raised in Suffolk).  

Since gal-dems explosive launch, both have been alternating between Uni studies, and maintaining their beautifully crafted online platform. Hailing from humble roots of Bristol University, the gal-dem gang are on a mission to bring back Girl power in its most vibrant form. As a response move to the absence of cultural engagement for women of colour in media, Director and creator Liv, and her team of ladies have grafted an all-inclusive publication, written for, authored by and catering to “incredible, really interesting young women.”

Liv has high hopes in the magazine’s credibility; that is able to represent the many faces of young women of colour. LIV: I want them to be able to be like YES mate, I identify with this and I feel this and this is like true to me.” Not only does it seem to succeed in doing this, but gal-dem is re-defining a sort of modern day feminism that almost every woman can tap into. One that rings nostalgically of the defiance of Riot grrrl, but with the characteristic style and sass of Destiny’s child still intact.

“I just think it really is the cathartic process, being honest with what you’ve sort of come to terms with, and then putting that into words or into art of whatever”

“I just think it really is the cathartic process, being honest with what you’ve sort of come to terms with, and then putting that into words or into art or whatever.” answers Leyla, on what guides their process of creating. As gal-dem’s Resident illustrator, her graphic work’s populate the platform, and designed the gal-dem logo. See also the collection of charismatic avatars she’s designed for the core authors in the meet the gal-dem series. “She’s a sick illustrator and she does so much work for so many different people..”  replies Liv, keen to compliment her fellow comrade on her artistic prowess and flexibility.

Much of gal-dem’s content is driven by a need to channel past experiences into positive creative expression.  Keen to hear about the platforms conception, I ask the girls about the Journey into Gal-dem. LIV: “It was from all of the frustrations that a lot of us tend to feel being in a really white Uni, and everything’s white, and the curriculums white…” Despite Liv’s South London heritage, both girls faced growing up in ‘super white’ educational environments, were routinely reminded of their marginal existences. There were never any stand out instances or experiences, just the “micro-aggression stuff.” Liv was looking to provide a hub for cultural reconnect; something she, and girls like her could identify with: “I  just needed a thing’. I needed a group of girls…”

Clearly, gal-dem’s successes ride on having a tightly woven core group of well-connected ladies. Add to that a glug of  drive and ambition, and you’re almost there. Take gal-dem’s Music Editor Antonia Odunlami, a budding music head with already few underground artists under belt she’s press managed. LIV:She’s (Antonia) opened up quite a few artists to me, she so damn knowledgeable!” I ask if either girls have any music offering’s for CONE. LIV: “I’ve been enjoying listening to Joyce Wrice recently. “We’re meant  to be doing an interview with her end of the year. We’re putting out a list, of a few female artists that are not getting enough recognition, they should be..” (found here) There are so many people that are killing it, people that you’d vaguely know from London”.

“...They’re all incredible, whilst studying, whilst having a job and doing this, that and the other. I swear to god I’ve not met a more incredible inspirational group of women.”

The gal-dem platform is a buzzing directory for emerging creatives, as much as it is a socia space for women of ethnic backgrounds, and a platform for diverse narratives of girlhood. This which works gloriously in their favour. There’s even more beaming credentials to come, like that of  gal-dem’s Sub-Editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff , already freelancing for Guardian and Vice. Modestly entitled: the “Guardian trust Scholar!” (Liv’s words). In turn, Leyla vouches that the success of gal-dem are put down to Liv’s perseverance and hard graft. gal-dem would have taken off” wherever it was, due to its “crazy driven” director.

There’s a lot of team love here existing in the cohort of busy, ambitious women, and why shouldn’t there be“...They’re all incredible, whilst studying, whilst having a job and doing this, that and the other. I swear to god I’ve not met a more incredible inspirational group of women.”  A certain stand-alone talent has driven many of these ladies to their own glittering career accomplishments. These girls seem to be everywhere, and doing everything. It’s impressive.

As someone who ventures out to Bristol, as a (sort of) halfway retreat from the intensity of London. I was curious to hear Liv’s take on the two cities . When asked to compare the two Liv noted: “There’s a big creative scene here in Bristol, and everyone knows each other… But in London, there’s also a big network of people who do know each other and support each other as well.”

Aside from both having well-established creative networks, the relentless Capitalist culture, paired alongside the extortionate rates of living, are what has driven many young self-starters away from London. With many seeking to fit into a more relaxed, substantial existence found in the West country. Liv pinpoints gal-dem’s successes down to the workings of serendipity: “It really was the right moment and the right period. I met the perfect people and we’ve all come together really well’. I’ve felt super super supported by a lot of people”… “all these really interesting creative minds, are down to nurture us.” With love shown from spots like Watershed (Bristols Independent cinema), its associated magazine RIFE,  the all girl record label Saffron, and a hoard of collaborative partnerships in the makings. It looks like gal-dem has cemented themselves in the thriving Bristol landscape.

Conversation naturally shifts focus onto other projects to note. The gal-dem team seem to be on a constant grind, whether it be platform involved or externally.  Liv discusses her involvement with activist organisations: LIV:I’ve worked with quite a lot of female refugees who have spoken to me about their experiences of navigating the system, being held in detention centres. (It’s) just awful, traumatic, ineffective and inhumane…“ that’s the kind of thing I’m channelling most of my energy into now.”  Needless to say, (and perhaps as a result of studious educational career) creating a thriving platform with global reach, is not quite enough nourishment for this admirably capable, flexible lady. She is also devoting her time to altruistic causes, working alongside charities helping women in conflict and crisis. In response to Liv seeing herself fit for the role of the humanitarian activist: Humanitarian activist, yeah i like it!”  Fair play to her.

“…I’d like to be able to really try get some money and set ourselves up so we can become this self sustaining thing”  

So what to look out for in the New year? Conquering Bristol and setting up a gal-dem office somewhere: LIV: “…I’d like to be able to really try get some money and set ourselves up so we can become this self- sustaining thing”  They have a Crowdfunder page up and running, requesting support in the form of donations to keep gal-dem flag waving high, allowing them to continue “doing fab things.” And what about possibly moving into print? Liv anticipates “a 1 year publication. I’ve just thrown the idea out there and I think we’ll definitely do it…. “we’ll start planning for that, to have something come up in September…hopefully we’ll come up with something beautiful.”

But of course amidst the notable hard work, there needs to be an equal amounts of recharge, even for the most action-packed of individuals. LIV: “I also want to take some time out”,  and I get a sense that rest is well and truly due.

Words by Leah Abraham

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