Wednesday 12 July 6:30 - 7:30

We’re thrilled to welcome Natasha Carthew back to the Custom House after her time as writer-in-residence in 2020. Natasha will be reading from her new memoir, Undercurrent: A Cornish Memoir of Poverty, Nature and Resilience, followed by a Q&A chaired by Sophie Pierce.

You can also ‘save a seat’ to watch the live stream from home here.

‘At times roaring and visceral, in turn gentle and embracing, always driven by hope and determination.’ – Raynor Winn

Natasha Carthew was born into a world that sat alongside picture-postcard Cornwall, one where second homes took the sea view of council properties, summer months shifted the course of people’s lives, and wealth converged with poverty on sandy beaches.

In the rockpools and hedgerows of the natural world, Natasha found solace in the beauty of the landscape, and in the mobile library she found her means of escape. In Undercurrent she returns to the cliff paths of her childhood, determined to make sense of an upbringing shaped by political neglect and a life defined by the beauty of nature.

This is a journey through place, and a vivid story of hope, beauty and fierce resilience.

About the Author

Natasha Carthew is a working-class writer from Cornwall. She is published by Hodder, Bloomsbury, Quercus and the National Trust. Her new book Undercurrent: A Cornish Memoir of Poverty, Nature and Resilience, is out now with Coronet/Hodder.

She is known for writing on Socioeconomic issues and working-class representation in literature for several publications and programmes; including The Booker Prize Foundation, ITV, Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, The Royal Society of Authors Journal, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, The Bookseller, The Guardian, The Observer, Mslexia, The Dark Mountain Project, The Big Issue and The Economist. Natasha guest edited the working-class edition of The Bookseller (Nov 2022) and is recipient of The Bookseller Rising Star Award 2022.

Natasha is Founder and Artistic Director of The Working Class Writers Festival and The Nature Writing Prize for Working Class Writers in association with Octopus/Hachette.

She is represented by Juliet Pickering at Blake Friedman Literary Agency.

About Sophie Pierce

Sophie Pierce is a writer based on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. For many years Sophie was a radio and TV reporter for BBC South West, and also wrote features for national newspapers including the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.  Her main focus now is writing, where she is exploring ideas around our relationship with the natural world, and she has written several books about wild swimming with Matt Newbury.

In 2017, Sophie Pierce’s life changed forever when her 20-year-old son Felix died suddenly and unexpectedly. Thrown into a new world of loss, she had to find a way to keep on living. Her book, The Green Hill: Letters to a Son, was published in Spring 2023. In a series of letters to Felix – composed during walks and swims taken close to his grave on The Green Hill in Devon– Sophie learns how to live in the landscape of sudden loss, navigating the weather and tides of grief.

The book celebrates the natural landscape and the role it plays in our lives and relationships, as well as looking at how we consider our own mortality. The Green Hill, Felix’s burial place by the River Dart, comes to symbolise the issues that become important in the journey of grief: nature, beauty, a sense of place, the passing of the seasons, the earth and the fact that ultimately all we are is dust.

The Green Hill is an extraordinary book…I thought of the fairy tale in which a captured princess must weave clothes from stinging nettles: Sophie Pierce has wrought something beautiful and useful from the darkest pain.” – Cressida Connolly, novelist and critic

“Her writing is illuminated by a remarkable attention to the beauty and consolation of the natural world” – Sarah Perry, author (The Essex SerpentMelmoth)
“Unforgettable, necessary…full of love and learning” – Tanya Shadrick, author (The Cure for Sleep)

This event will be in-person at Exeter Custom House. We have increased capacity at Quay Words events, so you may be sitting next to someone who is not in your household. We are still taking precautions to ensure our audiences are protected from Covid 19. We will be keeping windows open to ensure good ventilation in the building so you may want to bring an extra layer. Please do not attend Quay Words events if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or are feeling unwell. This event is going to be filmed for live broadcast on Crowdcast. You may appear on screen. Please only book if you are happy with this.

You can find out more about the accessibility of the Custom House here. If you have any access needs you’d like to discuss with us before the event you can contact us on We can offer free carer tickets if you need help to support you to attend.