If you've been out and about on Earlham Grove in Forest Gate no doubt you've seen Hazel tending to her show-stopping front garden at her Grove Guest House. This ain't your average guest house though as it's been handed down from generation to generation, evolving into a local landmark with her opening her doors to support social activism, art workshops and community-powered projects.

Whether it's costume creating for E7 events including Forest Gayte Pride, sculpting striking structures for the Market Place like the crocheted Christmas tree, or just inviting you round for a chat and a cuppa, I see Hazel as Forest Gate's fairy godmother casting her creative spell over the area and welcoming everyone from all walks of life.

As she's currently celebrating 10 years of the Grove Guest House and its informal art school she's hosting an exhibition at The Gate until 29th June so now is the time to give back so show some support and if you don't know, get to know!

Hazel will also be inviting local natives round to the Grove Guest House garden entrance as part of the Forest Gate Gardens Trail - she also recommends poppin' over to explore her neighbour Kate's Garden of E7 Eden have a sneak peek here. On approaching Earlham Grove look out for the guest house welcome sculpture Murial that also beams bright at night to welcome you to the neighbourhood.

Here's a Forest Gate flashback through time with Hazel's local love letter...

"I grew up in 153 Earlham Grove, E7 since 1955. I Studied at Earlham Grove Primary, Stratford School and Chelsea School of Art.

I love London. Working in the field of community arts since 1972, my passion is the creativity of communities... And making… I love making things…

Our house was bought by my Nana Lily in 1955 when I was just 9 months old.

An attraction was the Synagogue built in 1910 – my grandfather was an early member. On the Sabbath and high holidays people would stop off at our house for refreshments.

My mum and Grandma were hairdressers locally, my grandfather a barber – and when the salon in Vicarage Lane, E15 had to be pulled down they continued to work at home. Customers would come and sit in the parlour having tea and chatting – it was more like a social club. My father was head of a local secondary school down by the docks – he did a painting of the playground in 1972 filled with activity – including a knife fight – I recently took the picture back to the school and had a great session comparing challenges then and now.

I worked with the pioneering Charity Free Form Arts Trust for over 40 years, leading the Community Design and Technical Services, supporting residents and tenants to improve their neighbourhoods. I met the founders of Free Form when I was just 15 years and they were working on the Kier Hardy Estate, Newham.

This meeting changed my life; an introduction to art in every day life.

I loved making mas with Perpetual Beauty Carnival Association (1984 -2002), based in Stoke Newington, leading the Design Team of this prize-winning Carnival Costume band and supporting the development of the first UK college offering accredited courses in Art & Design through Carnival Arts.

Having lived in Hackney since 1975, I came home in 1997 to look after my dear mum, increasingly disabled.

In 2012 my mum and I founded Grove Guest House – we needed a way to stay in our home and have an income – hosting people from all around the world; an amazing experience, mum loved hearing people’s stories. Grove Guest House is in the Trip Advisor Hall of Fame.

Returning home after 22 years away in Hackney I felt a great need to start connecting locally. In many ways people had turned their backs on the street – arrived home and shut their front doors.

I lived on the Pembury Estate where everyone knew each other and hung out in the public spaces. I missed that – so I decided to start an informal Art School in my front garden linked to the Guest House.

With over 500 people directly involved our projects include The Snail’s Progress – a mosaic made for the local community garden symbolising our communities shared immigrant and refugee experiences carrying our homes with us; founding supporters of Forest Gayte Pride including costume building; building landmark garden and Market Place sculptures. Community and social activism seem core to our houses’ being – it was originally built as a wedding present for Elizabeth Fry’s niece.

We are celebrating 10 years of international hosting, creative action and joyful shenanigans with an exhibition now open at The Gate Woodgrange Road.

International Romanian Violinist Adriana Cristea will be performing live with a violin recital on Friday 17th June at 5.30pm and again on Saturday 25th June at 5.30pm so get one of these dates in your diary.

The exhibition is open from now until 29th June so hope to see you there."

You can check out more about Grove Guest House here and for further updates follow their Facebook page.

Lead image courtesy of
Max Miechowski plus photography by Leo Mumford and Paul Romane.