Parish church packed for funeral of black newspaper's founder

FAMILY and friends paid tribute to the founder of Britain's leading black newspaper, Val McCalla, at his funeral in Seaford on Friday. Mr McCalla, who lived in the town, died from an oesophageal haemorrhage, aged 58.

FAMILY and friends paid tribute to the founder of Britain's leading black newspaper, Val McCalla, at his funeral in Seaford on Friday. Mr McCalla, who lived in the town, died from an oesophageal haemorrhage, aged 58.

St Leonard's Church was packed with hundreds of mourners including leading figures from politics, the media and business.

Born in Jamaica, Mr McCalla arrived in Britain in 1959, aged 15. He worked for the RAF as a book-keeper and trained as an accountant.

In the wake of inner-city race riots he launched The Voice newspaper in 1982, tackling issues such as racism and police brutality. He opened doors for black people when there were few opportunities for them as journalists.

From initial sales of 4,000, The Voice's circulation grew to 53,000 copies a week within eight years.

However, it courted controversy and faced accusations of sensationalism. When rioting broke out the day after it reported the death in custody of Wayne Douglas, a young black man, some people, including the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon, blamed the paper.

In later years Mr McCalla became less involved in the day-to-day running of the paper and spent much of his time at his Seaford home.

Despite being a millionaire he lived modestly and enjoyed boating and horse racing.

Shirley McGreal, chief executive of The Voice, said: 'Men like Val McCalla are a rare breed. It was an honour to have known him. The future now must be about celebrating his life and maintaining his vision.'

He leaves a widow, Linda, and their two daughters, Laura, 14 and Natalie, 11, and two sons, Michael and David, from his first marriage.