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Black Newspapers The voice-Val McCalla

The Voice Header
The Voice Header

From a small, east London council flat in 1982, Val McCalla started the weekly newspaper, the Voice, which went on become the mouthpiece of Britain’s black community and made him a multi-millionaire.

Launched at the Notting Hill Carnival that August, it grew into the most popular and important black newspaper in this country.

From initial sales of only 4,000, within eight years the Voice was selling more than 53,000 copies a week – and turning over a small fortune in job recruitment advertising.

Val McCalla
Val McCalla

Its birth was an inspired vision by McCalla. He saw that Britain’s national press gave scant coverage to black issues – and that when it did, it was usually negative.There were a couple of black-orientated publications which appealed to an older generation of Caribbean immigrants, whose notion of “home” lay thousands of miles away. But for a younger generation of British-born blacks, there was nothing.

McCalla identified the emerging culture of the black British identity and honed it into tabloid form.

Helped with start-up money from the Greater London Council, his paper quickly established itself as an important campaigner against all forms of racism. For local authorities, and voluntary sector organisations concerned about the lack of ethnic minorities in their ranks, it became a valuable recruitment tool. This led to pages of job advertising.

1980s copy of the Voice
1980s copy of the Voice

The job of campaigning black newspaper publisher was far removed from McCalla’s early ambitions. He studied accountancy at Kingston College in Jamaica, and arrived in England in May 1959, aged 15, with dreams of being a pilot.

He joined the R.A.F, but his plans were soon grounded by a perforated eardrum. He spent five years in the supplies section, where he picked up book-keeping skills.

After leaving the R.A.F in the mid-1960s, he worked in a variety of accounts and book-keeping positions, before volunteering to go part-time on a radical community newspaper, “East End News”, based near his flat in Bethnal Green.

The newspaper bug took a grip, and, within a few years, “The Voice” had risen from idea into reality.

Despite considerable financial success, McCalla lived a modest life and kept a low profile; there was no vast country mansion or Italian sports car. After being stopped by police several times in his Sussex neighborhood, he traded in his Mercedes for a Volvo and lamented that, despite his money, he was like many other black males in Britain, still a victim of prejudice.

Today his legacy stretches further than the pages of his newspaper. Many of the black journalists working in mainstream media today got their first break at the Voice. Among them are the television reporter Martin Bashir and the senior programme producer Sharon Ali. People met and got married through the personal pages of the Voice. People found employment via recruitment adverts. Institutionally racist organisations were put under pressure. Yet, more that anything else, black Britons were given a National voice for the very first time.

Val McCalla died on August 22, 2002 of liver failure.

3 thoughts on “Black Newspapers The voice-Val McCalla

  • 11th March 2010 at 12:41 am
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    Val McCalla deserved praise where praise was due.
    We must not forget the campaign fought in the 1980’s with The Voice newspaper to improve their reporting on lesbian and gay issues.
    There was a year long campaign with trade union (Nalgo /) Unison to get The Voice to adopt an equal opportunity policy led by black lesbians and gays.
    The Voice was receiving significant advertising revenue from local authorities which had developed and implemented positive equal opportunities and then The Voice would publish garbage about the lesbian and gay lifestyle.

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  • 25th February 2011 at 9:13 am
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    So glad I have found the above comment. I find the Voice newspaper an embarrassment. Not only is it badly wriiten the research informing some of the articles would not make past the editors at The Sun! . It shows a very narrow view of blackness I stopped reading it after seeing trevor phillips and Diane abbot as intellectuals. Smart intelligent people yes but they are not CLR James. To add to they assciated the phrase ‘ Survival of the fittest’ to Sigmund Freud!. Darwinism is pretty basic knowledge that is not only taught in primary schools but is seen as a ‘given’ truth in contempory culture. When the Voice starts to write at level as do it’s much hated ‘mainstream’ newspapers such as the Guardian and the Telegraph i will pay it some attention. Until then …..

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  • 10th March 2011 at 10:00 am
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    Fair comment, it’s never exactly been on of my favourite publications but it is the longest running black publication in the U.K and you can get some inkling of what’s going on in the community. New Nation was always more supportive of this website, even if the quality wasn’t any higher.

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