Gal-dem Broke New Ground for Writers of Colour, When Will Welsh Publications Follow Suit?

19 October 2023 | Inclusive Journalism Cymru

In April 2023, gal-dem magazine made an announcement confirming that they were closing. The statement attributed the closure to a few factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation. The sense of grief was immediate, with many taking to social media or outlets to articulate the loss that the publishing sector would now experience. 

I first heard about gal-dem in 2015 while I was an undergraduate student at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. It was unheard of for a magazine to focus specifically on women of colour and non-binary people. I had grown up in south Grangetown in Cardiff, an area that was built by the Cardiff Bay Redevelopment Corporation. It was historically part of Tiger Bay, which is home to the oldest continuous Black community in Britain. I grew up in the neighbourhood that had the highest proportion of non-white people anywhere in Wales: it was the 1990s, So Solid Crew was king, coal was old, and our mothers forbade us to play at the River Taff. We spoke Somali, Bengali and Panjabi at home, but we all learned Welsh at school. As a teenager I read Hazel Carby, and I acutely felt the lack of minority ethnic Welsh writers.  

The Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic population in Wales nearly tripled by the time I was 20, and I felt frustrated not to see this reflected in Welsh cultural, political, or public life. It was only two years ago that the first non-white woman was elected to the Senedd. In comparison, Diane Abott was the first non-white woman elected to Parliament in 1987.

The contrast between the cultural and political whiteness of Wales and the warm welcome I found when submitting my work to gal-dem was palpable. Working with them provided me with professional avenues, mentors, and opportunities as a woman of colour writer that I wouldn’t encounter in other places: especially in Wales. Being published in gal-dem made a difference when approaching white Welsh commissioning editors – an uncomfortable dynamic as a Welsh woman of colour needing to have a stamp of approval from across the border, but a stamp of approval nonetheless. 

Kimberly Mcintosh in the Bookseller writes that “It’s not an overstatement to say gal-dem is the primary reason I have a début essay collection”. I published articles with gal-dem on topics such as the death of Zahid Mubarek, police brutality, undercover policing, and the 1919 race riots. The piece on Marco Jacobs, an undercover police officer who spied on the No Borders Cardiff group was eventually published in hard-back.  

"The Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic population in Wales nearly tripled by the time I was 20, and I felt frustrated not to see this reflected in Welsh cultural, political, or public life."

Yasmin Begum


Trigger moments in Wales have changed how we discuss race and ethnicity – especially in publishing. At the book launch for “What is anti-racism?” with Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Arun Kundnani describes the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement in the USA as an insurrection. Likewise, the cases of Mouayed Bashir, Mohamud Mohammad Hassan, Christopher Kapessa, Siyanda Mngaza and the legacies of campaigns such as Justice for the Cardiff 3 have had a drip-effect on discussions within the Welsh public sphere. A number of initiatives have emerged in Wales since 2020, such as the “Writers of Colour” programme at Literature Wales, BAME-specific calls for funding, and new funding aimed at boosting the capacity of people of colour. While Mcintosh writes about her début essay collection, Wales is yet to  substantially boost the number of printed authors who are from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds – with one document from Books Council Wales noting they had failed to systematically collect information on the distribution of grants based on ethnicity until 2020. We do not see the same gaps in data collection from Books Council Wales on the distribution of grants to Welsh language speakers: what does this mean for the visibility of Welsh language writers from minority ethnic backgrounds? 

What stands out to me is that gal-dem was led by people of colour to engage people of colour for people of colour. They published my pieces on deaths in state custody, Welsh Black History and the prison industrial complex, at a time when Welsh outlets would not discuss these topics. Gal-dem wasn’t an “ethnically diverse” or “culturally diverse” scheme, yet all of the management were people of colour.  This wasn’t a way to engage “new audiences”, for example, nor did it use terminology to suggest that Welsh people of colour were “diverse”. This didn’t tick boxes for funders who were using diversity schemes as a way to make us just crabs in a bucket. Gal-dem allowed me an opportunity to read work by my people of colour peers, such as the award winning Danielle Fahiya and the superb Yas Necati,  going beyond “diversity” in conversations about power relating to ethnicity, culture and race and reaching a cohesive and unifying outlook.

In June 2022, gal-dem published an article by Angela Hui called “My childhood growing up in a Chinese takeaway”. Angela Hui was notably published by an imprint called Trapeze at Orion House, a publishing house based in London. My family ran Indian takeaways, and to see a Welsh Asian takeaway memoir from South Wales published in gal-dem was inspirational to me. She didn’t have a PhD (nor, as mentioned, was this part of a scheme on “diversity”) – but the platform she was given allowed her to share a very similar lived experience to my own and that of my family.

There are no magazines or publishing houses led by people of colour that receive core funding from the Welsh government. There has never been a Black-led magazine or publisher in Wales that has received funding. Wales is 30 years behind the curve on conversations on race and ethnicity in publishing. On reflection and through writing this piece, I have realised that perhaps gal-dem was more influential on my work than I had originally thought, and managed to offer many others a supportive, non-tokenistic space to tell their stories.

You can follow Yasmin on Twitter / X.