Features — 8th Mar 2017

Girl, Uninterrupted

Words by Alec Dudson
Photography by Caoimhe Hahn

From the beginning, one of my chief goals at intern has been to address the inequality of the creative industries. At times, it’s seemed a bit of a lonely battle with many bigger brands and companies unwilling to take decisive action and those of us on the fringes never managing effectively to co-ordinate our voices. However, in January I discovered a website that filled me with joy, it was G-IRL or Girls in Real Life.

The work of London-based Kadish Morris, its simple and well executed proposition gives voice to women working in the creative industries, proving to anyone who was beginning to think otherwise, that being creative isn’t a divine right of middle class, white males. Initially out of genuine fandom, I got in touch with Kadish to express my support, but it soon occurred to me that hers was a story perfectly pitched for our readership and so, I arranged to pay her a visit.

Kadish at her apartment in Deptford, South-East London

The main motivation for me was to find as many women of colour as possible doing creative stuff

Kadish graduated in Magazine Publishing and Creative Writing from London College of Communication in 2011 and has worked in a variety of writing-related roles since. She was originally a poet, but was drawn to study publishing in order to feel more in control of the end result of the process. After doing a handful of internships and a good deal of working for free, a stint of copywriting prompted her to change direction, returning instead to poetry. Running workshops, getting commissions and publishing her poetry in journals proved a much needed change of focus, but that re-connection with the arts inspired her to apply her journalistic approach in a new way. “This last six years has been me really working out what I wanted to do and resisting the urge to make a print magazine”, she tells me as we sit inside her bright and airy flat in Deptford.

Kadish’s bookshelves are packed with independent magazines and the Zadie Smith feature interview from The Gentlewoman no 14 sits beautifully displayed on top of a chest of drawers. While G-IRL visually takes cues from the indie scene, right now, the focus is solely to develop this as an online platform. The web is proving to be a rewarding place for Kadish, who taught herself to code and used those skills to build the site from scratch. Although it’s admittedly early days for the platform, with seven interviews published, it’s purpose is clear from the get go. “The main motivation for me was to find as many women of colour as possible doing creative stuff, because it’s quite rare to see them being celebrated online” she explains. “I just want to do that in a way isn’t negative, that makes a space for them to share their stories and to empower them and others like them”.

A beautifully displayed copy of The Gentlewoman shows off an interview with Zadie Smith

Maybe I wouldn’t be respected, maybe I wouldn’t be valued or maybe I wouldn’t be trusted in a way. I think that’s why I did this

With a conscious effort to feature women of colour, G-IRL’s raison d’etre comes from Kadish’s experience of having very few relatable role models outside of a handful of stereotypical industries. “It’s about putting yourself in places where you’re not expected. If people saw that I was a musician, that wouldn’t seem unusual at all, but to hear that I’m an editor comes as a surprise”. Typical of a print enthusiast and publishing graduate, Kadish regularly checks out the colophons of her favourite titles and is reassured when creators, designers, editors, authors and art directors are women. It’s bracing for me to hear that, but as a white, middle-class male, it should come as no surprise that many of the things I take for granted simply don’t ring true for women or people of colour in these and many other industries. We discuss the power of those feelings even in cases where they’re perceptions rather than stats, and the knock-on effect is undeniable. “For me, not seeing many black editors has been discouraging. Maybe I wouldn’t be respected, maybe I wouldn’t be valued or maybe I wouldn’t be trusted in a way. I think that’s why I did this”.

Whether for self-affirmation or, as in this case, a wider cause, sticking your head above the parapet and not allowing your perceived role in society to dictate your path, is a brave move. For Kadish, showing people that women are doing brilliant creative things can only be empowering. For her interview subjects, that feeling is often mutual. “Maybe they just appreciate the opportunity to speak at length about what they do” she jokes, while discussing the mostly positive responses she gets from those she asks to interview. The hope is that ‘celebrating’ these women can have a positive effect on their business or career. Gynelle Leon, owner of East London cacti and succulent store PRICK, took the opportunity in her interview to reveal some of the difficulties of starting up. She experienced a great deal of friction when first opening her business on Kingsland Road, from men who saw fit to break away from browsing the store to query and challenge her business model. Kadish hopes that further down the line, her in-depth interviews will urge other, larger sites to make more of an effort in adequately representing women of all backgrounds and ages, helping to turn the tide and eradicate the deep-set stereotypes that the professional world continues to reinforce rather than challenge. “I want to show that it’s not that difficult to find women from different backgrounds. If I can do it on an impossible budget from whatever wage I get, then established companies and media agencies can definitely do it”.

The tone of interviews on G-IRL is something that I was instantly drawn to, there’s a conversational, frank nature that makes them accessible. It’s welcome news to Kadish who assures me that they are “interviews with women, not interviews for women”. “I want to talk to women specifically as it’s an experience that resonates with me and I think I’m still learning how to not just make it about ‘you’re a woman, what’s that like?’”. The platform thus doesn’t shy away from topics like rejection, motherhood and sexism, “even if they’re a bit awkward” and as such, does justice to the ‘IRL’ part of its name.

A 1998 Royal Blood record takes pride of place in Kadish's living room, the band consisted of her Mother and Aunt.

That project is often referred to as a “learning curve” by Kadish and while that is true, it strikes me that she doesn’t quite do herself justice when regularly falling back on that rationale. The project has a unifying purpose and a clarity of vision that’s bold and refreshing. Visually, it’s well thought out and Kadish’s choice and art direction of photographers makes for quite beautiful, personal portraits of her subjects lives and careers. With so many men profiled online, it’s important for G-IRL to ensure that these women are visible, rather than remaining hidden behind their work, or quietly taking their place in the colophon.

Conscious of Kadish’s humility and the site only being a few months old, I resist the urge to get too carried away, but I tentatively ask what the future might hold. “At the beginning of the year, I kind of thought that my focus was to get good content and reach as many people as possible. I didn’t necessarily start it thinking that it would be something I get to do full time. Although I would like to”. The love for print is still there, despite Kadish admitting that working online has been a lot more fulfilling than she expected. A book compiling fifty interviews is something she’s pondered and I could certainly see it working. For now though, Kadish just wants to continue to hone her craft, find an increasingly diverse group of inspiring women to celebrate and to prove to young women everywhere that you can be what you want to be, no matter how male dominated the space in question appears to be.

Head to G-IRL for more stories of inspirational creative women, while you can find out more about Kadish over on her personal site. Text by Alec Dudson, photography by Caoimhe Hahn. Produced in collaboration with The—Dots.