Alice Albinia was our writer-in-residence at Exeter Custom House for Autumn 2022.

Alice embarked on her next new literary project during her time as resident, which draws on Exeter’s own heritage of trade, making use of the city’s archives to research her new work. She also shared her recent writing on Britain’s islands with us during a day of public events on Sunday 4th December, including a workshop on writing narrative non fiction, a reading from her recent works Cwen and The Britannias and Q&A, and a screening of a new art film Zenae, with artists Léonie Hampton and Rose Gibbs aka the Islands of Women Collective, with an appearance from the score composer Piers Lewin (Full of Noises) combining music, art, sounds and words about British islands recorded and composed in the Isles of Scilly.

Alice writes:
“I am so thrilled to be taking the first step into a new literary project about Exeter’s connection via nineteenth century trade to Peru in the very Custom House where some of those troubling and exciting stories began”

Alice Albinia is the award-winning author of twinned works of fiction and non-fiction. Her first two books explore overlapping cultural and geographical territory in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Tibet. Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River, published in 2008, won six prizes in Britain, Pakistan, France and Italy. Leela’s Book, published in 2011, was long-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award.

Her two new books are about Britain and its islands. The Britannias, a portrait of Britain which knocks the centre out, is forthcoming from Allen Lane/WW Norton in 2023. Her new novel, Cwen, set on an archipelago off the east coast of Britain which comes under female rule, out now with Serpent’s Tail, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction.

She worked as an editor and journalist in Delhi, teaches and lectures in universities and schools, and has travelled all around the edges of Britain, piecing together ancient, medieval and modern myths of islands ruled by women. Her website is

Upcoming events

Sunday 4th December
11am-1pm Narrative Non Fiction Workshop. Book here.

4.30-5.30pm Islands of Women Collective: In conversation with Alice Albinia. Book here.

6.30-7.30pm Zenae Film Screening : with Alice Albinia, Rose Gibbs and Leonie Hampton/Island of Women Collective and Piers Lewin/ Full of Noises. Book here.

All events are ‘Pay What You Can’. You can also purchase all-day ticket for the three events.