Our first season of Quay Words at the beautiful and historic Exeter Custom House closed on Saturday 3rd August with a small presses book fair and a chance to print your own book bag and bookmarks with Double Elephant print workshop.

Audiences and participants have revelled in six weeks of words, stories, books, poetry, printing and song on Exeter Quayside this summer. There will be more; look out for Louisa Adjoa Parker, our first ever Quay Words writer-in-residence, reading and in conversation as part of Exeter Heritage Open Days at the Custom House on Thursday 19th September at 6.30pm. Further information about this free event can be found here.

If you want to have a say in what comes next at Quay Words, we are looking for people to take part in some audience research funded by Arts Council England. You can register your interest in discussing what people want from a potential literature hub at Exeter Custom House by taking the short survey here. This will help us put together some focus groups to be led by the Audience Agency at the Custom House in the afternoon and early evening from 9th to 11th September.

This first programme was a concentrated showcase of the amazing breadth of literature as an art form. It provided pop up, capsule versions of what is on offer from the many partners that we collaborate with at Literature Works. We kept ticket prices as affordable as we could, with concessions always available and full bursaries on offer, too. We want to break down the barriers and open up the world of words and stories to all.

Just some of the highlights were the magnificent Roger Robinson performing his poems to dub beats right on the riverside under cover of the Transit Shed; Raymond Antrobus wowing us with readings from his award winning new collection, The Perseverance in a dramatic three-hander with BSL interpreters Caron Wolfenden and Tim Griffin; Fiona Benson and Jane Feaver finding common ground in very different but heartfelt explorations of motherhood. The list could go on. Patrick Gale had a full house spellbound on a balmy summer’s evening. Sam North left five individual writers each fizzing with ideas and renewed motivation after their hour-long one-to-one feedback sessions on their work.

A special thank you to Exeter Canal and Quay Trust and to all the writers, partners and audiences who took part in this first season. Thank you also to the team that runs the visitor centre at Exeter Custom House for accommodating Quay Words with such enthusiasm. Thank you Dee, Kate and the team at Crediton Community Bookshop for curating a beautiful, small but perfectly formed popup bookshop for the whole six weeks. It was wonderful to browse.

We’re looking forward to continuing our exploration at Exeter Custom House, bringing together the contemporary and the past in the enjoyment of literature. May this landmark, graceful building continue to fill with books and the music of words!

Helen Chaloner, Chief Executive, August 2019.
All photos: Juliette Mills.