We’re pleased to announce Sarah Acton as our next Quay Words writer-in-residence for our summer ‘Vessels’ season.  

Sarah is approaching our Vessels theme by through the lens of body – Bodies of Water/ Vessel of Message. Virginia Woolf said that when walking, ‘my story would begin telling itself,’ walking the streets of London to generate dynamic language, characters and plots. Perhaps she walked to actively think and make sense of life, or perhaps find inspiration and peace in the physicality and freedom being outdoors in the shared urban world. Sarah’s jumping off point is inspired by this quote and a nod to older bardic tradition, during this residency Sarah is exploring what ideas might compose themselves by walking a repeated route outdoors in a city shaped by its proximity to water and sea roads, speaking to old and new connections to this place. 

Exploring the Quay through a combination of quayside walks and encounters on scheduled residency days, alongside writing at the Custom House, Sarah will respond and weave in research, delving into histories of selected vessels in the local heritage archives. 

Sarah writes:  

“I am excited to spend time at the quayside thinking vessels and look forward to listening to its voices and memories while making new connections, seeing what may be revealed at the residency writing desk after walking practice outdoors. This is a new project with space to dig into new writing and also research historical material alongside exploration into how the physicality of walking may flesh out ideas and lines, and how the memory of this place may walk itself into these.”  

There will be an interactive residency writing desk set up at the Custom House upstairs where any local writers are invited to drop by and enjoy the desk for their own writing. On the desk Sarah will also leave maps and traces of her walking routes, prompts and a journal/ comments book to suggest ideas or reflections. Sarah is interested to hear from anyone who would like to pop by and share memories of working or leisure vessels in the quay and harbour waters. 

About Sarah Acton 

Sarah is a writer and poet passionate about place, nature, and people through collective memory, oral storytelling culture and working landscapes. Sarah’s recent work includes spoken word and performance, poetry and outdoor events including poetry walks, community theatre, creating educational resources and designing and delivering socially engaged arts projects. She has worked with Dorset, Blackdown Hills and East Devon National Landscapes and has had frequent commissions from Stepping into Nature, with long-standing partnerships with regional museums, libraries, and memory cafes. Her recent book, Seining Along Chesil (Little Toller, 2022) captures memories, voices and stories of Dorset Seine fishing traditions. Sarah founded the ongoing Heart of Stone oral history project about the stone industry and quarrying on Portland, and Caught in the Net community project and plays. Sarah recently returned from a rural tour of the South West with a spoken word piece Seiners, commissioned by Sound UK with film by Common Ground and live musical accompaniment from musicians Becki Driscoll, Julie Macara and Emily Burridge. Much of Sarah’s work is about the relationship between natural environment, human culture and the other-than-human world, exploring how physical landscape holds memory and shapes ours, and the communal and individual construction of identity and memory, connections between landscape, myth-making and the stories communities remember and tell about the past, their world, and their place in it. Sarah lives in Devon, swims in the sea and is a gig rower. She has sailed around the world (not solo!) and loves reinvented maritime and folk traditions.  

Photo credit: Robin Mills


Meet the writer
Tuesdays in July, starting 9th July

Sarah’s days on site will be Tuesdays 9th, 16th, 24th and 30th July. You could join her for her 9.30am walk then from 10.30am to 4.30pm she will be at the public writer’s desk and anyone is welcome to come and say hello and write alongside. 

Tuesday 16th July • 6-8pm
Thursday 18th July • 6-8pm 

During the residency Sarah invites participation in two walkshops at dusk which explore the theme of bodies of water and the vessel of the body as part of individual and communal writing practice. Here we will get curious about the physicality of composition with our walking movement outdoors then see how this feeds into our writing practice together with discussion about the river memory/our bodies as vessels holding memory. Participants will meet Sarah at the quayside, enjoy a gentle walk while hearing stories of the quayside heritage, and generating ideas and fragments of new writing inspired by playful prompts and pacing out, then returning to the Custom House for a hot drink and to develop writing notes or visual art and writing posters. Book your place →