Angie Gough meets Marie Murray of the Eastern Curve Garden

Dalston dwellers will recognise Marie Murray as the face of the Eastern Curve Garden. Together with partner Brian Cumming and their team of staff and volunteers, this powerhouse of a woman has created a unique environment: a restful sanctuary in what was once a wasteland behind the peace mural on Dalston Lane.

Marie Murray, the force behind Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Marie Murray, the force behind Dalston Curve Garden

I first met her when the garden opened in 2010. There were a few raised beds, a Stik painting on the wall and that was about it. Now, the place is buzzing – with bees and bodies. It has more than 150,000 visitors a year, with residents using the garden as their own.

Born in Belfast, Marie moved to Hoxton in the mid-80s before settling in her beloved Dalston. She followed up a degree in politics with an MA in museums & galleries at City University, before becoming a garden designer.
After a happy stint at the Geffrye Museum, Marie joined the team at the Chelsea Physic Garden, where she polished up her botanical Latin (yup) and curated an exhibition about chocolate (yum). She is a woman of many trades and talents.

Although working in West London, Marie was firmly rooted in the East and became involved in OPEN Dalston, actively campaigning to ensure the council’s masterplan for development in the area would include open green space for residents to enjoy. It was out of that ongoing campaign that the Curve Garden was born.

Gardener or campaigner, which are you? I would call myself a horticultural activist. I’m passionate about the impact of green space on people. And about making sure that everybody can experience its positive impact, which is so vital in our urban environment.

Pumpkin festival at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

The annual Pumpkin Festival… or Festival of Light

What drives you? I love Dalston and I love plants. but the joy that plants give to people is the best thing. The look on their faces when they come into the garden; how people’s shoulders visibly relax; kids dancing to Double Bass Dan on Friday mornings.

We’re part of an ecosystem here, with residents looking to the garden as a touchstone, a safe place. We never rest on our laurels, our work is never done. Reaching out and making a difference. That drives us on.

You clearly remain true to your community values, relying on volunteers, income from the café and donations to keep going. But the recent mayoral consultations around ongoing development of the area, including the possibility of opening up the garden to create a public walkway, must have been difficult… That has been really challenging, but the outpouring of public support, reading people’s submissions to the mayor, knowing it’s not just us – that was so encouraging.

Marie with Brian Cumming

Marie with Brian Cumming, her partner in crime, at the Artskickers Awards

And of course there was your Artskickers Award that’s provided a much-needed moral boost… but what’s your biggest challenge now? Making sure new Hackney is for everybody, that nobody gets left behind.

I’m a street art fanatic so can’t not ask about the Stik mural, now obscured slightly by a lush border of beans and flowers. Stik lived in what’s now Farr’s on Dalston Lane, when it was a squat, and there were tons of his stick characters on the walls before we were here.

 

 

 

Stik mural at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

DECG’s Stik mural

 

The first day the garden opened, we arrived and there he was on a ladder. He just came in and did it, this lucky talisman, and the humanity in his work is very much reflected in the garden. It’s called Putting Down Roots.

How appropriate, then, and how lucky this community is that Marie put down hers in Dalston.

 

Marie’s hotspots

A sneaky stroll down Broadway Market on a Saturday: “it doesn’t take much to feel like you’re on holiday”

Columbia Road Market on Sunday, followed by Tapas in Laxeiro

A rest in the herb garden at the Geffrye Museum, followed by a film at the Rio Cinema

 

How you can support the garden

Visit, buy a cuppa in the café, donate and join an event. dalstongarden.org/activities

Half-term sees the return of the Pumpkin Lantern Festival. Join the fun on 21-22 Oct. Bring your own pumpkin, tools provided. Light show every night until 29 October

To volunteer, contact marie@dalstongarden.org

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