Exeter St Davids with Billy Ruffian inset

Two local artists chosen for new literary artwork installation at Exeter St Davids

What: Local artists Isabel Keen and Jack Ratcliff chosen to create new permanent artwork

When: Artwork will be unveiled by late February 2024

Where: Exeter St Davids station

Who: Exeter UNESCO City of Literature and Great Western Railway

Exeter UNESCO City of Literature and Great Western Railway (GWR), along with a community panel, have chosen two local artists to produce a new, permanent artwork at Exeter St Davids station. Isabel Keen from Ashburton (working under the name Billy Ruffian) and Jack Ratcliff from Plymouth will produce artwork celebrating Exeter’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. The artwork will be installed along the two public footbridges at Exeter St Davids station and will be in place by the end of February 2024.

This will be one of the biggest permanent public art commissions to take place in Exeter for some time. It’s part of Exeter City of Literature’s ongoing work with GWR to celebrate Devon’s literary heritage with input from local communities. A previous grant enabled groups from St. Martin’s Primary in Cranbrook, Exeter College, the University of Exeter’s Multicultural Students Society, The Pelican Project, and customers at St Davids to help choose the location of the new artwork and the themes they would most like to see reflected in it.

Almost 30 artists applied for the commission, which is being funded by a grant from GWR’s Community Fund. The judge’s panel was made up of Anna Cohn Orchard, Executive Director of Exeter City of Literature; Ashley Potter, BA Programme Lead in Illustration at the University of Plymouth; Laura, an artist and member of The Pelican Project; Nick Jarvis, a recent graduate of Exeter College; and Scotty Gillespie, a local artist.

Isabel Keen and Jack Ratcliff both grew up in Devon and met at the University of Plymouth, where they studied illustration. They currently work as illustrators. Previously, Keen produced an illustrated publication on Cornish tin miners’ oral histories. In Ratcliff’s final year at university, he was selected as part of a group of students to attend the Angoulême Comics Festival as part of the Exeter UNESCO City of Literature cohort.

Anna Cohn Orchard, Executive Director of Exeter City of Literature, says: “Isabel and Jack’s vision and passion blew the panel away. Their idea celebrates Devon’s literary heritage, highlights the themes from the public workshops, and, as Jack said in the interview, shows that books can take you anywhere. We can’t wait to unveil what will be an eye-catching and exciting piece of work in 2024.”

Robin Barrington-Best, Exeter St Davids Station Manager, says: “We’re thrilled to be working alongside Exeter City of Literature once again to support such an exciting and collaborative project. We’re looking forward to seeing Isabel and Jack’s work take pride of place at Exeter St Davids station as it gives our customers a warm welcome to the city, celebrating rail travel and Devon’s literary history.”


For more information, please contact:

Anna Cohn Orchard - hello@exetercityofliterature.com

Catherine Hyde – catherine.hyde@gwr.com

Contact Information

Catherine Hyde


Notes to editors

Photo Credit: Great Western Railway / Billy Ruffian

Exeter City of Literature is a charity established to steward the UNESCO Creative City designation that Exeter received in 2019. Our vision is for everyone to love stories and storytelling and our mission is to celebrate diverse stories by working with our local and global communities. With 41 other UNESCO Cities of Literature, we provide opportunities for Devon residents to collaborate internationally and to use stories to better understand each other and the world we live in.

We believe in the power of words to imagine new possibilities for this world. Drawing on Exeter and Devon’s creativity and working in partnership with inspirational organisations, we will deliver a meaningful programme to the residents and visitors of our city and county for years to come.


GWR First Greater Western Limited, trading as “Great Western Railway” (GWR), operates trains across the Great Western franchise area, which includes South Wales, the West Country, the Cotswolds, across southern England and into London. GWR provides high speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services, and before the covid-19 pandemic helped over 100 million passengers reach their destinations every year. GWR has been awarded a National Rail Contract to continue operating the Great Western network, which shall run up to 21 June 2025, with the potential for a further three years at the Secretary of State’s discretion. Find out more here: https://www.gwr.com/about-us.

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. We invest public money from the Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision. See more on Arts Council England’s 2023-26 Investment Programme on their website: www.artscouncil.org.uk/investment23