Meet the creators of the beautiful, poignant, and tenacious queer and minority magazine: Raw Forms
Sam and Cal, the students behind the release of the queer and minority perspective magazine Raw Forms meet me in Foundation Coffee House in central Manchester. The café, where Cal works, has been host to the launch party for the first issue, and have helped the pair out a few times for a space to explore their new found venture.
It all began last summer. After having written for other magazines before, they both felt stifled by their editors, “we were sick of other people editing our work” Cal explains, “it got to the point where it wasn’t really our work anymore.” What they really wanted was a space of their own, to write what they wanted and to really have a voice. “We just thought, well, why don’t we do it? It was sort of on a whim.
“When I first moved to Manchester” Sam thinks, “well, it’s not like there wasn’t a critical queer community, but I found it completely inaccessible. There was just no wide variation of people that could all come together, to contribute to and to be critical in a way that other people can appreciate who are on the same wavelength.”
Setting up your own magazine is no simple task. Both Sam and Cal are in their third years of their respective university courses, Sam studies Economics at The University of Manchester, Cal studies International Fashion Promotion at Manchester Metropolitan University. Sam and Cal’s passion project began to take shape in July last year, and it took around six months to finish the first issue. Cal put this down to other commitments: “what with final year, and being so busy”. However, when you see what the guys have created through their hard work, dedication and a well needed bit of gusto, six months seems like a completely reasonable time-frame.
The magazine is a completely grassroots project. Cal does the photography, Sam and Cal both write and edit, and the contributors they have on board are mostly talented, creative and smart friends in their circles, who they knew would have something important to say.
“We have incredible friends, everyone who has contributed is so close to us but everything is publishable. We were really lucky I think because we could draw on them so much at the start.”
Keen not to replicate their previous editor’s over-editing, Sam adds: “Cal’s a photographer and I’m a musician. We were kind of like, okay, what can we do to have an excuse to explore more of these things” and by exploring their own creativity, this helps them explore others along the way. “Part of that has definitely been adopting an editing process that’s more working with people to help them create their own content rather than saying “do it this way”.
The first issue of Raw Forms they’ve titled ‘Spaces’. According to Cal, “we want our contributors to talk about whatever they want to talk about”, and the interpretation of the word ‘spaces’ was open. Whatever that word resonated in the creators, be that ideas of “mental space, physical space and digital spaces”, was free for them to explore. “It’s kind of like an anthology” Sam explains.
The pair rave about the cover girl for the first issue: Banji Chona. “Her piece is about her dysphoria with living here and being African” Cal recalls. “Just the way she wrote it was so beautiful.”
“She’s an incredible human” Sam adds.
The first issue also includes a piece by Jamaal Monarch, a queer man in hip-hop. “Without even writing anything that’s so interesting. He spoke about how certain music in hip-hop helped him come out” Sam reflects: “that’s not something you ever hear.”
Sam is adamant that, for now, the future of Raw Forms will stay in the city it was made for. “I would feel really sad if we were to make this in Manchester and then move straight away. To just move it to London is an insult to Manchester. If we were to effectively exploit Manchester’s queers scene and then just to be like “okay, we’ve got a brand now let’s move to London and make loads of money”, no, neither of us have thought of doing that”.
And anyway, Manchester has so much to give. With a bubbling work and social life of self-made opportunities by so many students, I asked Raw Forms if they had thought about who they’d love to work with if they got the chance.
“Love For The Streets is one” Sam nods. “The homelessness charity. It’s brilliant what they’ve done. But other than a few small NGOs not really. Working with the people we knew has been so much more fun than looking for big partnerships”.
“We don’t want to sell out” Cal adds.
“It’s time to not be vapid anymore and to put purpose into what you are doing. If everyone did it, the world would be an infinitely better place” Sam states, rather poetically. I can’t help but agree.
Purchase ‘Spaces’, the first issue of Raw Forms here.