Hi Calum! So first things first - who do you support?
Hi Mantra, thanks for reaching out to me. I actually don’t disclose who I support so the magazine can’t be accused of bias. However, keen detectives or eagle eyed IG followers will be able to turn up an answer fairly easily.
Tell us about your writing background and your love of football?
I started populating a blog with my writing seven or eight years ago. I’d write social commentary pieces, observational bits, music reviews, and interviews as often as my work commitments would allow. Eventually I had a portfolio on my hands and was able to use it to get an internship on the editorial team of a creative agency. Since then I’ve mostly worked in research, cultural insights, and strategy. I do very little editorial writing, sadly. My love of football began at a point in childhood I can’t accurately locate anymore. But I’ve been mad about football since I was in nursery. For some reason they wouldn’t let us play with real footballs, or even tennis balls, so we ended up kicking a rock around.. seriously. My best friend was half Turkish and half Italian. Through him I learnt about Serie A and began to support Parma. I didn’t know the Premier League existed until I was nine or ten years old.
What was the driving catalyst behind creating CARICOM?
I had a load of ideas for features and essays that I knew wouldn’t “land” anywhere. Either that or the editors I pitched to would malform them. Honestly, at times it feels like if the piece around a black player doesn’t touch on racism or a narrative of struggle few outlets want to know, and even fewer know what to do with it.
On top of that, football journalism is aggressively white, it’s designed that way. And although I don’t really care to “challenge it” (I’m one man, after all) I know I’ll never fit in there and that it can't serve the readers who make up CARICOM's audience.
"CARICOM’s main purpose is to drill down into both the broader, and more specific, aspects of the black experience in relation to football, while summarily rejecting the notion that trauma is the only lens it can be examined through."
How did you develop Caricom over time? And what’s been the hardest thing to get right?
I’m not sure it has developed all that extensively. I’d probably need someone else to analyse whether if that’s true. However, I used the first issue to discuss inherent issues within football – such as stereotypical descriptions of black players, the double standard black players are held to, and how this reverberates in wider society – whereas CARICOM 02 steered clear of writing about “issues” and racism in any sense.
For reasons that are entirely understandable, when people first hear about CARICOM, they often assume it’s a magazine invested in challenging the racism black footballers continue to endure. While this is a noble and necessary cause, and we stand in total solidarity with those who are devoting their energies to it, it’s actually an inaccurate reading of what we’re all about. CARICOM’s main purpose is to drill down into both the broader, and more specific, aspects of the black experience in relation to football, while summarily rejecting the notion that trauma is the only lens it can be examined through. In essence, there’s more to black life than being abused, and that's what I want to urgently explore.
What's the most important story you believe Caricom has told?
Probably Musa Okwonga’s piece in CARICOM 2 “How Football Saved My Life, Twice.” It’s a powerful retelling of the impact playing for Stonewall FC helped him reconcile with his identity.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of running the magazine?
Watching contributors flourish, or receiving messages like this one.
"Honestly, at times it feels like if the piece around a
black player doesn’t touch on racism or a narrative of struggle
few outlets want to know, and even fewer know what to
do with it."
You currently run the magazine by yourself - do you find it easy to operate as a one-man band or do you wish to eventually develop a small team to help run it?
I would prefer to develop a team at this stage. While running it alone affords me full autonomy, it also means I bear all of the scrutiny and financial costs. That has had a profoundly detrimental impact on my mental health.
Can you give us any insights into your third issue, and when can we expect it?
Sorry to disappoint, but I can’t. I’m working on a book with Penguin at the moment so Issue 03 may land in late 2021 or 2022. At that point I don’t know if the audience will still be there!
Finally, as our name suggests, here at Mantra we’re curious about what keeps our favourite creatives driven and pushing forward. What’s your personal mantra, Calum?
I’m not sure I have one. I think I try (admittedly in spurts) to do something everyday that makes me a better version of the person I was the day before, no matter how small the act. Overall, I’m driven by a desire to accurately and wholly represent black who, despite the protestations and gas-lighting we have to endure from wider white society, remain horrendously marginalised and undermined. That’s powerful, that will fuel you forever.