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gal-dem take over V&A with London’s most inspiring women

Rounding out a huge year of success by pulling in its favourite non-white women to throw a party at the London institution, gal-dem founder Liv Little tells us what to expect tomorrow

Anyone who has had a year like gal-dem deserves to round it off with something epic. Not only have we watched as its website has gone from strength-to-strength but its team rang in its first birthday with the release of an inaugural print issue – that is, admittedly, more like a book. So it makes sense to do something like take over one of London’s most major art institutions – which is exactly what the website/magazine are doing this Friday at the V&A from 6.30pm.

Because the more the merrier, gal-dem has invited its favourite women of colour working in music, art, fashion, photography, film, and more, to join them. Expect to see the faces and hear the voices of people such as Lotte Anderson and Lynette Nylander (who will discuss confidence and the challenges of finding your voice), South London’s party crew BBZ, WAH Nails, Reel Good Film Club, fashion designer Ibiye Camp, as well as MCs and DJs; Souljah, Flohio, Melz, A.G., and DJ Darkstepper. Guided tours will also take place across the gallery in an exploration of objects and stories from the museum’s collection relating to black women’s history and women in the Middle East. Guests will also be encouraged to contribute to an online archive that traces the everyday lives of black people in Britain by bringing along personal photographs to be included.

To top it off, we’ve asked gal-dem to take over the Dazed Snapchat and below we catch up with gal-dem founder Liv Little to chat about the importance of black voices in white spaces.

“Women of colour are rarely given the chance to take up space in institutions like the V&A, so we took the task very seriously – we thought about representing a spread of interests and identities and the fact that we wanted to build upon our pre-existing relationships with people” – Liv Little

How did the take over come about? And what was the process of setting it up?

Liv Little: Someone from the V&A got in touched saying they loved the magazine and presented an opportunity for us to put on two events for them. Obviously, it's the V&A so we were overwhelmed by the opportunity to fill such a white space with so many of our favourite non-white women. They are definitely conscious of the fact that they need to do more to reach our audiences, so it's a great opportunity for them as well as us. We've had other people get in touch wanting to 'tap into' the people we are able to reach but the proposal from the V&A was really the first which seemed genuine and mutually beneficial. We have one dedicated person over there who we are working with, it's been a relatively smooth process so I'm super grateful! The process of setting it up was a lot of brainstorming and frantic emails whilst we were in Croatia setting up emails. Women of colour are rarely given the chance to take up space in institutions like the V&A, so we took the task very seriously – we thought about representing a spread of interests and identities and the fact that we wanted to build upon our pre-existing relationships with people like BBZ and new relationships with people like Kelechi, WAH nails, and Lotte Anderson.

What can we expect?

Liv Little: You can honestly expect so much. Everything from a WAH nails bar to a 90s bedroom curated by reel good film club and a live cooking show present d by Jasmine Brienburg. We wanted to be creative, political and innovative with the spaces we created and the people we've invited to curate.

Can you tell us about the film, Interlude?

Liv Little: The film is basically broken up sections of discussions of a few of the areas we have going on – food, woc nights, reading room and Reel Good Film Club. We have an inhouse videographer, Ifama, who produces all of our videos and Interlude series, she's incredible. Film is such a beautiful thing, it really presents us with the opportunity to engage people with important issues/discussions in an accessible way.

There’s a huge line-up of insanely talented London women involved in the night too – how did you go about curating them? What drew you to them?

Liv Little: Ahhh, I feel like we are constantly surrounded by boss women or discovering new ones, so I guess that's where we began. The opportunity to work V&A provided us with the chance to reach out to big names, which was exciting. But it's also really important for us to support our peers who will definitely be running things in a few years!

What do you think everyone involved bring to diversifying the London creative industries?

Liv Little: Oh my gosh, so much. We have BBZ creating monthly tun-ups which celebrate the creative work of women of colour and non-binary folk and then we have people like Sharmadean of WAH nails who has been awarded an MBE for her contribution to the beauty industry and has built an empire. We have campaigners like Meltem Avicil who have worked tirelessly for the voices of marginalised women to be heard in British politics and Zahra Swanzy who is a creator of all things and just generally fabulous. I could go on and on and on... everyone involved is bringing something completely unique. I'm blown away by all of them and it's such an honour to house so many of our faves under one, bloody huge roof!

“We were overwhelmed by the opportunity to fill such a white space with so many of our favourite non-white women” – Liv Little

What do you think the role is or should be when large institutions support and tap into smaller, independent publications and people?

Liv Little: I think it's their duty to work with young people and smaller publications – we exist within society and so should definitely take up space within them! I do often worry that these things can be totally fucking inauthentic and seen as the cool thing to do.. But so long as have our wits about us and are genuinely benefitting from partnerships hopefully we will progress and move from the peripheries to the centre of creative industries in Britain. Plus, for every exploitative person – I've encountered a significant amount of people within big organisations/influential individuals who seem to be committed to change. All we can do is keep pushing for things to get better – I feel like something really special is happening at the moment.

gal-dem is going from strength to strength. We’ve seen you launch issue one and now take over the V&A Late. What’s next? 

Liv Little: World domination. I joke.. but we are working on a business plan and looking at brands who we'd like to work with. We are all holding down full-time jobs and running what has now become quite a big thing! So at some point down the line (fingers crossed for the end of 2017) we'll be working out of proper offices and branching out into all sorts of things. We get so many requests from young women of colour who want to get some experience with us so that's one thing we'd love to pursue. I'd also love for us to move into producing longer documentaries and more events!

gal-dem will take over the V&A Late on Friday 28 October. Click here for full programme and more information. Also, follow Dazed on Snapchat to see everything that goes on