Davina Quinlivan was the shared writer-in-residence for Quay Words and the Devon and Exeter Institution in March and April 2023, focusing on the theme of Threads.

Davina spent time at both venues, diving into Exeter’s rich textile history and present day connections, as well as delivering workshops and events for the public.

Beginning her residency, Davina wrote:
“It is a great honour to be a Writer in Residence at these two venues in Exeter, a place where I have lived and worked for several years. I want to celebrate the city and reveal it in a new light, using a wide range of creative practices and forms in order to rethink this landscape, as well as build on the narratives of the community, our voices and our shared histories, which are multiple and richly textured.”

Davina’s first session was a creative writing workshop which will led to the creation a long form piece of poetry, written in collaboration with members of the public. This piece, Threads. was published as part of a special issue of Little Toller’s blog, The Clearing.

Davina Quinlivan is a Lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing at The University of Exeter. Her memoir, Shalimar: A Story of Place and Migration, was recently published with Little Toller Books (2022) and her creative non-fiction essays and short stories have appeared in The Willowherb Review, Litro, Arty, The Clearing, Caught by The River, and in collaboration with The Countryside Alliance and The Museum of English Rural Life. Her work has featured as part of programmed, public events with The Wallace Collection, The Wellcome Trust, The Urban Tree Festival and The Serpentine Gallery. For several years, she has run the popular seminar series F: For Flânerie at The Freud Museum and is part of the founding teaching ensemble at The New School of the Anthropocene, alongside Marina Warner and Robert Macfarlane. Shalimar was selected by Spiracle Audiobooks as one of stories which would launch their new audiobook platform in 2022. Prior to moving to Exeter, she taught for 12 years as a Senior Lecturer in The School of Art, Kingston University. She is currently working on a follow-up to Shalimar entitled Waterlines, on rivers and migration, trauma and healing, and a novel set between Cornwall and the Black Sea.

During the residency, Davina wrote three poemsThe Wool Dyer’s Hands, False Rivers, and Water Dragon – and a long prose piece, The Map Makers’ Daughters. Taking inspiration from this work, letterpress printer Jeremy Speck produced a set of special prints which are on display at Exeter Custom House in early 2024.


Saturday 18th March, 11am-1pm – Threads: Creative Writing Workshop
Participants worked with Davina to create a collaborative long form poem.

Wednesday 5th April, 6.30pm-7.45pm – ‘The Secret Life of Objects’ Event
Unique literary salon event with Davina, Noreen Masud and William Henry Searle.

Saturday 8th April: 10.40am-12 noon, Devon and Exeter Institution – Finding Stories: The Museum of Me
A chance to learn more about exciting objects held in the Devon and Exeter Institution followed by a workshop that encouraged young writers to think about the role of objects in their own lives and the stories they might represent.

Wednesday 26th April: 5-6.30pm, Devon and Exeter Institution – Author reading: Waterlines: Real Places, Mythology and Poetry at the margins
Davina is read from Waterlines, the follow-up to her memoir Shalimar: A Story of Place and Migration (Little Toller Books, 2022).