Alison Bagnall was born in England, April 1948, the middle of three children. She began her career as a speech therapist in England, moving to Australia with her husband Malcolm in 1971. There she was appointed to the sole speech pathology position at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, working mainly in the areas of stroke and brain injury. After a period of living and working in the country, she returned to Adelaide and established a reputation for excellence in her own private practice and over her 18 years as Consultant Speech Pathologist to the Australian Craniofacial Unit, where she established, in 1983, the first video-fibreoptic laryngoscopy clinic in Australia. During this time she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study and present the craniofacial work. With the Australian Craniofacial Institute, she took a leading role in establishing and overseeing the development of a speech therapy service in a major hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Having spent years experimenting with what to do with people presenting with voice disorder, and finding the published information of the time unconvincing, she herself suffered a voice disorder following damage to the vocal folds from surgery. It was her work at the Craniofacial Unit that encouraged her to look into the voice mechanism and how the different parts interact to produce voice. Her work led her to Jo Estill of the New York Voice Foundation, who had collected objective data on the voice. Alison returned to New York many times to work and train with Jo. Jo Estill’s work and other influences led to Alison’s discovering that the voice could be looked at objectively; that the voice is not the product of random movements, but the parts can be rearranged to make them work in specific and differentiated ways, as when learning to play a musical instrument.
As time went on, Alison became interested in the mind-body connection. She trained in Feldenkrais, discovering how the body can be taught to move more efficiently and ergonomically. Taking the ethos of Feldenkrais, she adapted it to her work with the voice. Working with this, Jo Estill’s data, and also her training in psychotherapy, Alison put together a body of work that could be used by anybody to reorganise their voice back to health and then develop superior skill. In 1989, the name “Voicecraft®” was coined to cover this body of work, which has been presented in workshops throughout the world.
Alison was awarded a PhD in February 2008 for her research into Voicecraft®, which substantiated its effectiveness. This research was published in the Journal of Voice in May 2011.
Alison’s diagnosis of cancer in 2009, saw the beginning of a determined fight to survive. Her dogged resilience repeatedly confounded the doctors, and highlighted the fortitude and strength of mind so characteristic of her life and work. A long-time desire of hers was to see others trained as Voicecraft® Practitioners and to see her life’s work continue and expand, she worked fervently to the end to set the groundwork for this to happen.
Alison passed away, 18 June 2011 at the Mary Potter Hospice, Adelaide, South Australia. She leaves behind daughter Philippa, son-in-law John, grandson Isambard, brother Andrew and sister-in-law Barbara.
She also leaves an indisputable worldwide legacy to speech pathology in Voicecraft® International Pty Ltd which will continue through the Voicecraft® practice, workshops and practitioner’s training in the years to come. Vale Alison.
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