[Skip to Content]

  • Community Hubs Network: Our centres are based at the heart of their communities, offering and hosting an ever-expanding range of services, public events and activities, and spaces to meet friends and contribute to community life. Read more...
  • Inspiring Employability - Career Orienteer: Career Orienteer is our unique and pro-active response to improving back to work support. At the heart of our approach is life-coaching. Read more...
  • Inspiring Community Centres - CCWeekUK: Coming together makes a real difference in our community, and we're community-led and community owned! @CCWeekUK #loveyourcc www.facebook.com/ccweekuk Read more...
  • Inspiring Young People: Octopus is delighted to be supporting the work of London Village Network in Islington. Why?...because we just love youth-led social action. Why?...because we think there's a lot of talented young people out there. Read more...
  • Urban Wild Places : Grow wild things, grow food, grow amazing flowers, grow vegetables and herbs you've never heard of before. We love our urban communities because We Can Grow in the smallest and obscure places! Read more...
  • StayWell, LiveWell: Six of Islington's Community Hubs have come together to encourage their local communities to live healthier lifestyles... how? Read more...
  • Growing Octopus Communities: We have the Power to Change. We are committed to developing our unique Community Centre Peer Network to grow our membership! Read more...
  • Urban Wild Places: ...We Can Grow - it's a YES until we are told NO! Read more...

Meet the Team

Anita Gracie

Anita is a Development Officer with the We Can Grow. She takes particular responsibility for developing and leading our programme for older people (over 55s) as well as looking after our project finances and reporting to funders. Anita joined Octopus in January 2011 as a Development officer with our earlier Wild Places project. 

Anita’s long term career (33 years) was in the IT industry where she worked for International Computers Limited, eventually leading their sales team which supplied HM Government, many local authorities, and the then newly privatized utilities companies. Her final role with ICL saw her exploring the emerging word of e-delivery of public services, which took her all across Europe and to Hong Kong in search of best practice.

After taking early retirement from ICL she set up her own consultancy company to pursue e-services as well as helping organisations to bid for Government and European Commission funding.

Anita’s big passion is gardening which has been with her since the age of three. She has a large allotment and is a volunteer Master Gardener with Garden Organic helping novice gardeners to grow veg. Any other spare time is spent in pursuit of the study of history and garden history, and walking her dog on Hampstead Heath. 


Hilary Taylor

Hilary is a Development Officer with the We Can Grow Project. She is responsible for leading on the development of social enterprise for young people as well as assessing impact and change. She joined Octopus in 2010. 

Hilary has a particular interest in setting up enterprises and has worked in numerous enterprise agencies and co-operative development agencies to inspire and motivate people to use their imagination to reach their full potential in setting up their own businesses. This has taken her across Europe, Africa and into Russia to help them develop a market economy in the 90s.

Hilary takes a keen interest in gardening but unfortunately has no outdoor space for this passion, so her flat is a jungle of plants and any outside space is devoted to growing herbs, flowers and vegetables. 


Fran Box

Fran started with Octopus Community Network in 2016 as the Project Administrator for the We Can Grow project. She is responsible for helping to co-ordinate the project and provide support to the Development Officers.

Fran has spent her career working in the third sector, delivering education and sustainability focused projects. Alongside her current work at Octopus Communities Fran works at primary schools across Hackney running gardening lessons as well as lunchtime and after school clubs.

 Fran is passionate about the positive impact that growing food can have on a community in terms of benefiting people’s health and wellbeing, creating community and improving individuals relationship to food. To put her beliefs into practice she set up a small community garden in Hackney, which she still visits when she has the chance.


Frannie Smith

Frannie is a Development Officer with the We Can Grow project. She is responsible for delivering our children and family activities; leading on the Nature Detectives programme and Environmental Schools. Frannie joined Octopus in May 2017.

Frannie's previous long term career was in running services for children, young people and families and she has an extensive background in play and youth services. She is committed to ensuring that activities are fully inclusive and designed to meet different needs.

Frannie is a keen gardener, having been involved in being part of her family allotment since a teenager. She has a particular interest in food growing and wildlife gardening. She has a National Certificate in Horticulture and a Open College Network Certificate in Planting Design. She is passionate about working with people to create and design outdoor spaces that are well designed places that encourage different ways to get in touch with gardening, nature and food growing