Kim Squirrell was our Quay Words writer-in-residence at Exeter Custom House for the month of July, focusing on the theme of Maritime.

As part of her residency, she has created a poetry & paper art trail around the Quayside and Canal Basin, which celebrates the ships and boats that have sailed into and out of Exeter, and the people of the quay and canal who work to support and maintain our maritime heritage. Download the trail map here before your next visit, and discover poems and paper art installations that reflect this heritage and the lives of people past and present.

An ex-boat dweller and resident of the ship canal, Kim will be diving into the historical stories of Quay as a sea-faring place, it’s vessels, the goods they brought and the working people connected with these stories. This work will feed into her novel, as well as a new paper-art and poetry installation that will be floating into the Custom House during July.

Kim writes:
“Exeter ship canal was my home at a significant part of my life: motherhood, love, art and poetry came together there. Returning to explore and celebrate the rich maritime history of the quay will be a joy.”

Kim Squirrell is a multidisciplinary writer and artist. Raised in Birmingham, but born to live in the Westcountry, her Irish-Caribbean heritage has led her to explore colonialism and the lives of working people, finding commonality and connections through the work of hands. Her ongoing exploration of word, image and form strives to bring art and writing together, and has taken her into environmental theatre, experiential learning projects incorporating making and storytelling, and collaborative performances with musicians and dancers. In 2019 she was awarded an MA in Creative Writing with distinction at the University of Exeter.

Her poetry and short stories have appeared in anthologies including: More Fiya (Canongate 2023,) Café Stories and Resist (Comma Press 2018/19,) Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe 2012) and literary magazines including: Riptide, Stand and the Poetry Review. Her novel-in-progress won the 2022 Sky Arts RSL Fiction Award and the 2021 Bridport Prize Dorset Award. 2021 also saw her shortlisted for the inaugural James Berry Poetry Prize established by Newcastle University’s Centre for Literary Arts (NCLA) and the renowned poetry publishing house Bloodaxe Books.


Thursday 13th July, 6pm-8pm – ‘Beyond Description’ Poetry Workshop
Explore Exeter’s 17th Century Custom House and experiment with ekphrastic writing. Find out more here.

Wednesday 26th July, 11am-4pm – Tanka Poems and Paper Boats
A family tanka and paper-folding workshop with Kim Squirrell, inspired by her residency installation. Find out more here.