Star Wars: the story behind the Grove Green Road mural

The three-part work by the Wood Street Walls collective is dedicated to Star Wars make-up artist Stuart Freeborn

There’s so much street art across this part of east London that you can often walk straight past it without realising – take the recent works dotted about E10, E15 and E11, all created for the London Mural Festival, for example.

But one brilliant piece in Leytonstone that’s quite easy to miss – which you may have passed a thousand times – is dedicated to Star Wars make-up artist Stuart Freeborn.

Stuart Freeborn Yoda
Freeborn created Yoda. Photo: SE

Born on Grove Green Road back in 1914, Freeborn was the “grandfather of modern make-up design”, working across the original Star Wars trilogy, and even creating the faces of Yoda and Chewbacca.

Which, of course, is why they’re the focus of this triptych in the railway arches opposite the Heathcote & Star.


After pondering the images of the seminal characters, take a wander down to nearby No. 351 and you’ll see the blue heritage plaque on the house where Freeborn was born.

It was unveiled, after his death, in 2015: the event was even marked by a colourful crowd headed up by Darth Vader and a few Storm Troopers, no less.

Star Wars
Ewoks and friends in the central section. Photo SE

The mural was lovingly painted by local artists from Wood Street Walls in Walthamstow as a thought-provoking permanent tribute to this famous Leytonstone son. Shouldn’t more, we wonder, be made of it?

At least when the new cafe, currently being renovated, opens on the corner, you’ll be able to sit on the pavement terrace, espresso in hand, and ponder afresh a bit of classic Hollywood, in this unannounced corner of E11.

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