Image: Shope Delano, Background image: Unsplash
The outgoing editor-in-chief of gal-dem, a magazine working to amplify the voices of women and non-binary people of colour, has been shortlisted for the 2021 XCity Award.
Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, a 2016 graduate from City’s MA Newspaper course, has been recognised for her efforts, with gal-dem to centre the experiences of marginalised communities through issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement last summer and the ongoing global pandemic.
Ms Brinkhurst-Cuff has been part of gal-dem since 2015, when it was headed by University of Bristol student Liv Little and was little more than a group of like-minded women on Facebook.
“I was there from the beginning,” she said. “Nobody had any journalistic experience so I felt that I could offer that, which was nice. I was very invested in becoming a journalist.”
“I have a really solid support group and extended network that I made through City, so I’m really grateful for that”
The XCity Award is an annual award that looks to celebrate alumnus from City’s journalism department who have gone on to do amazing things – first prize is £500.
Following her undergraduate degree at Goldsmiths, Ms Brinkhurst-Cuff studied for her NCTJ at Lambeth College before attending City, University of London to complete an MA in Newspaper Journalism, for which she was awarded the prestigious Scott Trust Bursary operated by The Guardian.
She said: “The biggest thing for me at City is all the people that I met. I have a really solid support group and extended network that I made through City, so I’m really grateful for that. And my coursemates have continued to be some of my closest friends.”
In the early years of gal-dem, Ms Brinkhurst-Cuff balanced her responsibilities of the magazine with her master’s. Shortly after graduating from her course at City, gal-dem really established themselves after organising a takeover at the Victoria and Albert Museum for their Friday Late event – an event which attracted over 6,000 people.
Ms Brinkhurst-Cuff, who was by that point opinion editor of gal-dem, was then awarded The Georgia Henry Women in Journalism Prize for Innovation at the 2016 Press Awards.
In the last five years following her graduation, gal-dem has grown at an exponential rate. They have 93,000 Twitter followers and nearly 170,000 Instagram followers. Their first print issue, “the gal-hood issue”, sold out of its print run of 1,000. Their second print issue, “the home issue”, has also sold out – it had a planned print run of 3,000.
“It’s been about me asking myself: Who can I bring in? What stories can we tell that will help marginalised communities?”
The gal-dem team have, in the past, also guest-edited an edition of The Guardian’s Weekend magazine. Through a mixture of angel funding, collaborations with organisations like Penguin Random House and partnerships with organisations like MMS London, gal-dem were able to officially establish themselves as a business by the first quarter of 2019. It was during this time that Ms Brinkhurst-Cuff was also appointed editor-in-chief.
Ms Brinkhurst-Cuff, along with the rest of the editorial team, were able to pay themselves salaries as well as being able to offer their writers paid rather than voluntary commissions for the first time.
Today, gal-dem continues to go from strength to strength. As well as offering paid internships for young women of colour, they have also worked to share their success by running a series of Kickstarter events which, according to their Facebook page, are “aimed at equipping people of colour from marginalised genders with the tools they need to turn ideas into reality”.
Outside of gal-dem, Ms Brinkhurst-Cuff has freelanced for various publications including The Guardian and Dazed magazine, for which she acted as weekend editor. She was also the editor of gal-dem’s 2019 anthology, I Will Not Be Erased, which was an array of contributions from people who had previously written for gal-dem.
“What I’m proudest of doing is helping to create space for other people,” Charlie said. “In almost every project that I’ve been a part of, it’s not just about me solely writing stuff and putting it out into the world. It’s been about me asking myself: Who can I bring in? What stories can we tell that will help marginalised communities?”
“My time at gal-dem has been lovely, it’s been beautiful. I’m very sad to be leaving, but I’m very excited for what’s to come as well”
Although Charlie is stepping down as editor-in-chief of gal-dem, she will continue to amplify marginalised voices as the editor of two key books that centre the Black British experience: An anthology entitled Black Joy and an exploration of the Windrush generation entitled Mother Country: Real Stories of the Windrush Children.
However, she will still continue to support the gal-dem team in an advisory capacity. She explained: “My time at gal-dem has been lovely, it’s been beautiful. I’m very sad to be leaving, but I’m very excited for what’s to come as well.”
Read about the other shortlisted candidates for the XCity Award here.