Our ‘2020: Women to Watch in Bristol’ collaboration with Epigram’s The Croft aims to platform women doing incredible work, either in Bristol or as a result of their experiences here. Our contributors have written short profiles on each of the women, and we asked them all to answer one simple question: “how has Bristol shaped you or the work you do?” This section turns the spotlight to women in culture.
Liv Little is the founder of online and print magazine gal-dem, run by and for women of colour. Launched in September 2015, gal-dem is a magazine “committed to telling the stories of women and non-binary people of colour,” and is actively trying to redress the imbalance in mainstream media which is currently “94% white and 55% male.”
An alumna of the University of Bristol (she studied Politics and Sociology), gal-dem was formed as a result of Liv’s frustration with the lack of diversity at the university. Talking to Gurjit Degun in a recent interview, Liv remarks that gal-dem began as a method of connecting and interacting with other people of colour at the university, which is overwhelmingly populated by white and/or highly privileged students.
Alongside founding gal-dem, Liv has also given a number of talks and interviews – in particular a TEDxTalk (alongside fellow journalist and gal-dem print magazine editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff) on the ways that women of colour, in particular, can overwork themselves trying to get ahead in a creative industry that prioritizes and uplifts white (male and female) voices over others, and the way in which this affects them.
Liv has also been listed as one of the BBC’s 100 Inspirational and Influential Women of 2016, and she certainly deserves it!
Lou Brailey is the editor of Crack Magazine. Founded in 2009, Crack is an independent Bristol-based monthly publication that focuses on contemporary music and culture. The magazine is distributed across Europe and has featured artists such as FKA Twigs, Gorillaz and Lil Yachty.
Across her career, Lou has edited and written for many publications including Nylon Magazine, NME, and The Guardian, showing a passion for music and the arts throughout her career. Having launched their first New York issue last year, things seem to just keep getting better for Crack Magazine. As they continue to gain readers, Lou recognises the importance of inclusivity, writing in ‘The Oral History of Crack Magazine’ that “we’ve always been very careful to give our platform to voices and perspectives that other platforms maybe haven’t in the past, and it’s a point I’m quite proud of.”
Vanessa Maria Wilson is a DJ, music producer and presenter currently based in London. Bristol, however, has been incredibly important to Vanessa in her development as a creative individual.
How has Bristol shaped you or the work you do?
“Bristol has a special place in my heart. It’s the city that I studied in, it’s where I started my career and it’s where I’ve formed life-long bonds. I’ve cried, partied, broken down and matured in this home away from home.
This is a place which helped me to grow up and become an adult. I first ventured into the city as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 18-year-old ready to study experimental psychology and change the world. But it didn’t quite go to plan, it’s not been that rosy. I went through some of the roughest times of my life. My first and second years of University were hard – I had really bad anxiety and depression so it’s very much a city of sadness and success for me. Very bittersweet when I think of it!
Yet, in many ways, it’s the city that “made me”. It’s built my character, influenced the way I speak and changed my perspective on life. One of the biggest ways that Bristol has shaped my work is through the idea of community. Bristol is such a small city so pretty much everyone in the creative industry knows each other, or has at least heard of one another. Especially the creatives of colour, we are such a tight-knit group and everyone is pushing hard to make sure that representation and inclusive creative practises are at the forefront of the scene!
All things considered, building my foundations in Bristol has been very refreshing. The creative industry is very London-centric, so knowing what it’s like outside of the capital has given me a unique outlook on the creative field. More so, I’ve been able to start in a city full of people who actively open doors and want to help you. I love Bristol for showing me the importance of championing talent wherever you see it. Let’s not be gatekeepers, let’s open doors for people, and inspire the next generation of creatives following in our footsteps.’
Jessica Taylor is the co-owner of the independent bookstore Max Minerva’s Marvellous Books, located in Westbury Village in Bristol. She has a love of reading, a history of developing collections for the Singapore National Library and running an online bookstore in Australia. As a member of The Booksellers Association, Jessica has recently been invited to judge the 2020 Indie Book Awards and has often spoken on issues of representation within the bookselling demographic.
Jessica and her husband Sam run Max Minerva’s with a focus on increasing literacy amongst children. The bookstore sports a wide range of children’s books and hosts creative writing classes in order to cultivate interest in books for a wide range of ages. Jessica and Sam have been inspired by the children who attend these classes and visit the shop, but also have found inspiration in their parents who encourage their children to thrive in more than just academics and to discover the importance of creativity and storytelling.
Max Minerva’s has become a well-loved fixture in the local community and has helped to organise and host several events in the store and in the community libraries. Their community had lost their last independent general bookshop three years prior to Max Minerva’s opening, and it was because of the local demand for a bookshop to open in the neighbourhood that Jessica and Sam could open the shop where the old one once stood. The store does not forget the pensioners of Bristol. As Jessica notes, they are adamant about their book-buying passion and refuse to shop online, choosing instead to support a local independent. Max Minerva’s Books contributes to the local community in Bristol, and is also shaped by it. Bristolians know – as Jessica puts it – “that without independent shops our high streets are bland, boring, and worst of all, dead.”
Chanté Joseph describes herself as a Social Media Creative, Host, and ‘Writer-ish’, despite having written for a number of amazing platforms including gal-dem, Crack Magazine, and Wonderland Magazine. She graduated from the ‘rah-rah gap-yah’ (Chanté’s words) University of Bristol with a degree in Social Policy with Quantitative Research Methods, and got involved in a lot of society activities while at university including the Labour Society and Pole Fitness.
One of Chanté’s amazing achievements includes the creation of the Bristol BME Power List in 2018, which gave Bristol’s people of colous community a space to discuss race issues, network with people across a range of industries, and celebrate the successes of the people featured on the list. The Power List consisted of just 100 of Bristol’s most inspiring BME figures, and Chanté emphasised how vital it is to “recognise BME individuals who are sacrificing so much to improve the world around them at every level. This means the world to me.”
Chanté has won a number of awards for her incredible efforts in BME inclusion, political education and the enfranchisement of black women. She has been included in lists such as Powerlist Magazine’s Top 100 Black Undergraduate Students 2017; Rare Top 10 Black Students in the UK; Bristol’s 24 most influential people under 24; and she was shortlisted for the 2017 Most Inspiring Individual of the Year by the National Centre for Diversity. Now she can add ‘The Croft x TWSS 20 Women to Watch in Bristol’ to the list!
Profiles by: Elinor Rowe, Clara Heffernan, Maegan Farrow and Delara Youssefian
Artwork by Delara Youssefian
Read the rest of the series: