Quay Words is an ongoing live literature programme at the historic Exeter Custom House on Exeter Quayside.

It showcases literature as a diverse and flexible art form, with something for everyone and is a core project of Exeter as a UNESCO City of Literature.  Quay Words provides direct access to new voices and exciting, diverse writing from around the country and the world; Quay Words offers performance, community and opportunities to take part; it is structured around themed seasons and writer residencies.  It celebrates creative expression through words in all its many forms, from fiction, to page poetry, storytelling to spoken word and life writing.

Working with a strong coalition of Exeter partners, we based our plans for Quay Words on what audiences and participants told us during consultations and our pilot phase. 

Literature Works programmes and delivers Quay Words on behalf of Exeter Canal and Quay Trust, with support from Arts Council England.

About Exeter Custom House

The Custom House was built in 1680 at the height of Exeter’s woollen cloth industry. Today it is a fascinating visitor centre and the meeting point for Exeter Red Coat Guided Tours.

Exeter has had a quay since Roman times. During the 13th and 14th centuries, rival merchants built weirs across the river near Topsham to prevent cargoes reaching Exeter. Between 1564 and 1566 John Trew built the first stretch of the Exeter Canal to enable delivery of cargo closer to the city. The increase in trade led to the construction of the Custom House in 1680. Renowned for its sweeping staircase and ornate plaster ceilings, this beautiful building now houses a fascinating visitor centre.

The Custom House Visitor Centre provides tourist information, quayside treasure hunts, an accommodation booking service and a gift shop selling local pottery, replica maps and a wide range of local interest books. Quayside based Red Coat Guided Tours also depart from outside the Centre.