New Year, New Editors!

Editor-in-chief Fred Spence welcomes our new editors and says farewell to our outgoing team

2021 was a year of big changes for The Polyphony — four of our long-time team members moved on to exciting new projects and four new editors joined us.

We say goodbye to Fiona Johnstone, one of our founding editors and previous editor-in-chief, as well as our reviews editors Harriet Cooper and Tehseen Noorani. Fiona continues working at Durham University  as a visual medical humanities Postdoctoral Research Associate and is convening the Confabulations series. Harriet is now Lecturer in Medical Education at the University of East Anglia and Tehseen has joined the University of East London as Senior Lecturer in Clinical and Community Psychology.

Many will know and appreciate Sarah McLusky, the Manager of Durham’s Institute for Medical Humanities. Sarah has been a huge part of The Polyphony, working with Angela Woods and all our editors since our beginnings in 2018 to devise and develop the site. Sarah leaves us to freelance as a research communication specialist.

Fiona, Harriet, Tehseen and Sarah will all be much missed and we wish you the very best. Thank you for all of your work and vision over the last few years. Don’t forget to come back and write for us!


We’re also very happy to introduce four new Associate Editors, Aly Fixter, Andy Fletcher, Anna Kemball and Nicole Xuan Chen, who join myself (Fred Spence), Chase Ledin, Anna Jamieson and Jen Allan. Aly will be working in general editing, Anna Kemball will focus on reviews, and Andy will work on both. Nicole is developing a collaborative project between The Polyphony and the Bio-Health Narrative Research Centre, Southern Medical University, China, in the hope of creating intercultural dialogue and introducing leading-edge medical humanities concepts and theories to China.

Aly Fixter’s background is in journalism and communications, where they focused for many years on health and sexuality-related topics. They recently completed an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University, with a creative dissertation on institutional disbelief in contested chronic illness. Aly’s research interests include: sick and neurodivergent writing practice and poetics; epistemic injustice in healthcare; and creative practice as emancipatory research. They welcome pitches on all aspects of the field, and are particularly seeking writers for a ‘MedHums 101’ series introducing the critical medical humanities – its history, influences, key concepts and debates. They are also very interested in pitches about practice research, and from creative practitioners and activists who may not be closely connected to academia. Aly is on the management committee for Chronic Illness Inclusion, a Disabled People’s Organisation leading social change for people with energy-limiting chronic illness, energy impairment and chronic pain, and between 2018 and 2021 edited Spooniehacker, an online magazine by and for sick, disabled and neurodivergent people. 

Anna Kemball is a PhD candidate in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, where she has also taught English Literature. Her thesis, funded by the AHRC, brings the critical medical humanities and Indigenous studies into closer relation. Her research demonstrates a commitment to global methodological developments within the critical medical humanities, combined with an awareness of the challenges posed by cross-cultural scholarship. Outside of Anna’s own research interests, she would be happy to work with reviewers on any topic within the medical humanities. She would particularly welcome non-conventional reviews, including those which foreground a reviewer’s relationship to scholarship that they have found formative or meaningful.

After studying music at Newcastle University, Andy Fletcher went on to do a PhD, ‘a realist evaluation of participatory music interventions for wellbeing’, cementing his interest in arts and health – and mental health in particular. This led to a postdoctoral role at Durham University on the ERC-funded ‘Knowledge for Use’ project, which blended health-related case studies with philosophical research. Collaborating with world-class experts across disciplines was something of a ‘baptism of fire’ but it unearthed deeper interests in objectivity, evidence and epistemic justice. From January 2022, Andy will take up an ethnographer role on ‘Healthy Working Lives’ at King’s College London. Here, he will work again with an interdisciplinary team to develop novel embedded methods for understanding the experiences of older care workers. He is especially keen to explore cultural and creative approaches to generating new forms of knowledge, and in developing ways to amalgamate diverse knowledge types to inform policy and practice. More importantly, Andy plays the bass guitar quite badly and has a tabby cat called Winston, who sings.

Nicole Xuan Chen is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her project centres on a sudden cluster of biofictions published within a decade or so from the end of last century that feature Virginia Woolf as the main protagonist-subject. Under the broad framework of experimental life-writing, she studies them thematically via such lenses as illness narrative, image-text intersectionality, and the modernist culture of conversation. She is on the reader panel for James Tait Black Prize Biography Section and is the editor and chief Chinese translator of the anthology Literary Medicine: Brain Diseases and Doctors in Novels, Theatre, and Film. She is a research member at the Bio-Health Narrative Research Centre at the Southern Medical University (SMU, PRC), and engages with the design of volunteer training programme for the Bio-Health Story Sharing Centre at SMU. Before her PhD programme, she taught both Literary Translation to English Language undergraduates as well as English Language to medical students at SMU.

We’re always keen to hear your ideas about posts, takeovers and reviews so please do get in touch with one of our editors or use our contact form. Our Guidelines for Authors page has all the information you need to know about what makes a good post. We particularly encourage non-academic contributors as well as contributors from outside of the UK or working on non-UK contexts.

Welcome Aly, Andy, Anna and Nicole and thanks as always to all of our readers and contributors so far!

One thought on “New Year, New Editors!

  1. Congrats on having Aly Fixter. They were my editor at Spoonie Hacker and I had a good experience writing for them.

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