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Davina Quinlivan

Introducing Davina Quinlivan as Suki Tea writer-in-residence with StoryArcs, The Story Institute, Bath Spa.

Tea was part of my story long before I could even begin to understand how it would shape my future. In my book Shalimar: A Story of Place and Migration (Little Toller Books, 2022), I write about how my father spent many years in Darjeeling, the home of tea plantations, as well as the tea plantations in (Myanmar) Burma, but I’m still thinking about tea as I raise my young family in Devon and all the ‘criss-crossing’ migrations of previous generations, from Ireland and Scotland to India and back again to England.

Time and space comes a little undone in the book, and I find myself at the centre of a bigger story where I encounter ghosts of my past, including my fathers’, the Green Man and my grandmother kissing Ireland’s Blarney Stone, as I make seven moves across Deep England.

I’ve written about lahpet, Burmese tea, and the ways in which it connects to my own understanding of culture, community, place and heritage. I am also of Irish heritage and the Belfast-based home of Suki is very inspiring to me. Suki tea will be an inspiring subject to think with, alongside untold histories of the natural world, well-being, community and place.

I’m a creative non-fiction author, academic and cultural producer. Shalimar was recently shortlisted for the Creative Writing Prize 2023 by the Association for the Study of Environment and Literature (ASLE). I was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Critical and Historical Studies at Kingston School of Art for 12 years, and I’m currently based in the Department of English and Creative Writing at The University of Exeter. I was Writer in Residence with Quay Words, Exeter and, for many years, I devised and presented the popular F: For Flânerie series of film and creative writing seminars with the Freud Museum; my writing has been commissioned for Toast Clothing and it has appeared in The Willowherb Review, Hinterland: Creative Non-Fiction, Caught By The River, Litro, The Lucy Writers. I hold a PhD in Film from King’s College London.

Over the course of my time with Suki Tea, there will be lots going on including the brand new release of Tea Stories, our very own literary salon, a few collaborations, a regular blog post and reports on tea, reels, images and story-making, from the Suki archives and beyond.


Some of my writing has been published here: and my narration of my audiobook/performance can be found here:


My collaboration with StoryArcs is part of a new pilot scheme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can learn more about the scheme here:

Davina Quinlivan’s work maps, with grace and rigour, the rich, strange ground that lies between memoir, cultural history and nature writing.’ Robert Macfarlane

Shalimar is dreamlike and full of sensation – Quinlivan constellates memory, place and belonging with such rarely-seen subtlety. This is a book that will weave its way into your thoughts and stay with you.’ Jessica J. Lee, author of Two Trees Make a Forest

‘A haunted archive, a casket full of memories, myths and dreams. A strange and startling cargo of ancestors brought vividly to life by a magician.’  Jeff Young, author of Costa  Prize-shortlisted Ghost Town

‘A strange and magical memoir of growing up in prosaic England with Anglo-Burmese parentage. Teak trees interweave oaks; myth and imagery chase each other through the author’s odyssey through suburbia, Earl Grey tea, a Lutyens garden, and – above all – her father’s mind.’  John Sandoe Books