Best known as founder of the Voice newspaper, Val McCalla went from bookkeeper to millionaire in just a few years’
During the 1970s he earned a living as a bookkeeper for a variety of concerns before working for a newspaper in London’s East End, where he lived. This gave him the idea of setting up a newspaper aimed at the black community, which at the time mostly figured in the media as a source of negative news.
Although other black newspapers existed, these were often aimed at an older readership with one foot in the Caribbean or Africa. Val aimed to target a British-born readership.
The Voice was launched in 1982 on the back of a Barclays Bank loan. The timing could not have been better. A few months earlier, black youngsters in Britain’s main cities had taken to the streets in protest against police harassment and lack of opportunity.
The establishment saw the new weekly as a way of helping it to engage with a community it had all but ignored and backed the Voice with lucrative advertising.
Based in Brixton, the Voice became a runaway success. From initial sales of only 4,000, within eight years it was selling more than 53,000 copies a week. Its campaigning journalism and hard-hitting news stories became an important source of news for mainstream press journalists, who always made sure they had a copy on their news desks every publication day, Thursday.
The Voice also provided a launch pad for many black youngsters wanting to get into journalism. Val became a millionaire and left his Bethnal Green council flat to live in the country, travelling to the office in his Mercedes car, though he swopped it for a more modest Volvo after being stopped several times by the police.
Once described as a, “shy but driven man who shunned personal publicity”, Val quietly pressed ahead launching a number of other publications, including monthly women’s glossy, Pride, which is still in circulation.
Towards the end of the 1990s, the Voice lost its cutting edge and sales began to flag. It is currently published by GV Media Group Limited.