The Editorial Collective

Executive Editor: Phil Virden

Way back in Beatletime, PHIL VIRDEN had five years of fun before graduating from Oxford and Leicester Universities. For ten years he was a Lecturer in Sociology at York University. In the end he got sick of the ivory tower and it got sick of him. He was illegally sacked and blacklisted in 1980 – the beginning of Thatchertime – and although he never hit it rich he has since been quite happy pursuing a series of different occupations. In the mid-1980s, along with Lin Bigwood and Prof Alex Jenner, he founded Asylum magazine. He was Executive Editor during the magazine’s first six years – that is, also its main secretary, typist, designer and lay-out artist. He contributes the occasional article, and in 2008 again took on the job of Executive Editor.


Managing Editor: Helen Spandler

Helen Spandler has been part of the ASYLUM collective for many years. She first stumbled across the magazine while wandering round radical bookstores in London in the late 1980’s. ASYLUM kindly published her rambling undergraduate essay on the German Socialist Patients’ Collective. When she went to Sheffield University in the early 1990’s she met Alec Jenner, Phil Virden and others and got involved in the ASYLUM collective. Members of her close family have used the mental health system, although she wouldn’t call herself a ‘carer’ but more an ally and critical friend of the service user/survivor movement. Helen worked for a number of years in a ‘user involvement’ capacity and now works at the University of Central Lancashire as a researcher and teacher – where she takes every opportunity to promote ASYLUM.


Creative Writing Editor: William Park

William Park PHOTO1
William  was born in 1962 in West London, currently lives in North-West England.  His interests include Buddhist (and now other) spiritual philosophies, World Cinema, poetry, and music (jazz and jazz musicians, + Aim ((Andy Turner)), Tricky) and jogging, all with the intention of enhancing creativity/creative insights, physical and mental wellbeing, promoting these in the community through community developments and adult education tutoring.  He has been part of the Asylum Collective since Spring 2012 and is now Creative Writing Editor.


General Members of the Asylum Collective

Jill Anderson

jill photo2

Jill coordinates the Mental Health in Higher Education project (mhhe) and facilitates the national Developers of User and Carer Involvement in Education network (DUCIE).  She studied English Literature at Bristol, then qualified as a social worker in Sheffield where she came across Alec Jenner.  Jill worked in Nottingham in the 1990s during which time she was on the management committee of the Nottingham Advocacy Group.  She has a particular interest in mental health education, having taught on social work programmes at the Universities of Nottingham, Cumbria and Lancaster.  Jill lives in Lancaster and is a member of Critical and Creative Approaches to Mental Health Practice.  @mhhehub

Lin Bigwood

Jim Campbell

China Mills

China Mills has been an ally of the user/survivor movement for a number of years, and first came across a copy of Asylum when she was attempting the daunting task of tidying up in the Manchester Hearing Voices Network office. China’s main interests lay with critically exploring the Movement for Global Mental Health, particularly the globalisation of bio-psychiatry, and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. She recently spent some time in India working with some emerging user/survivor groups there, and exploring some of the many alternatives to psychiatry. China has also worked and done research with children and young people who hear voices. She is deeply committed to finding alterative and democratic ways of working with and living alongside people who experience distress.

Ian Parker


Ian Parker is Professor of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and helps run the Discourse Unit ( www.discourseunit.com) which is an interdisciplinary networking resource for radical academics, and which hosts Annual Review of Critical Psychology (an open-access peer-reviewed online journal). He was involved in radical psychology groups, including Psychology, Politics, Resistance (whose newsletters on the Discourse Unit site). He is interested in therapy (and is trained as a psychoanalyst), but is more interested in social change (is a Marxist).

Dina Poursanidou
Dina Poursanidou has an honorary research appointment at the Centre for Women’s Mental Health in the University of Manchester and also uses mental health services. She has been a university-based contract researcher since 2000. Dina had her first major mental health crisis in 1991 when she was studying for a Master’s degree. Following this crisis, Dina embarked on a long journey of self-discovery and healing which comprised having intensive psychotherapy and completing a PhD on the experience of depression in young people as its vital components. Dina’s second major mental health crisis occurred between July 2008 and June 2010, resulting in a 3-month long detention under a Mental Health Act Section in an acute psychiatric ward, as well as in a 2-year period of unemployment. Following this crisis, Dina worked on a mental health advocacy research project as a service user researcher. Dina is experiencing profound ambivalence towards her mental health service use and her mental illness (for want of a better term) experiences with their catastrophic consequences for every aspect of her life. If madness is a dangerous gift that users of psychiatric services need to embrace, as Mad Pride advocates, then Dina is yet to embrace her own madness.

Sonia Soans

Sonia Soans is currently pursuing her PhD in Manchester. Her field of study is gendered representations of addiction. She studied and worked in India. She has worked in both clinical practice and teaching in India which she felt  relied heavily on American models of mental health. Her work in Manchester has led her to some interesting conclusions about mental health and activism.


Design: Old Dog Graphics


Administration & Distribution: PCCS Books

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