Imagine walking into neon heaven.
Surrounded by the glow of a thousand signs that scream Girls! Girls! Girls! and Elvis and Hello Soho, its feels as if you’re in Vegas, except you’re in a salvage yard in Walthamstow, north east London, and the glowing detritus you’re surrounded by is the build up of years and year and years of hard graft that rather than being let go to waste, has been stock piled here for the enjoyment of others.
In between the glitzy outlines of cocktail glasses and pairs of lips, giant disco balls and enormous, glittering stiletto heel sculptures, you’ll find a shed containing a shrine to a neon Jesus, holding a gun. Little neon-lined coffins decorate the walls. Baz Luhrmann would love it here. I love it here. I have come here on a Saturday afternoon with my friend Roisi, and now that I am here, I am never leaving.
God’s Own Junkyard is, as you’ve guessed, not a cemetery. No dead Victorians are buried here. Instead it’s a collection of hundreds of neon signs made by Chris Bracey, a neon tube artist known as ‘the master of glow’ who lit Soho up in the 1970’s before moving on to design neon signs for Hollywood movies like Eyes Wide Shut, Bladerunner and Casino Royale. He sadly died in November 2014, and here is his legacy – a wonderland of razzle-dazzle all in one place, meaning that the neon he created never really dies.
Instead of being discarded after use, it can live on here, and we can all go and see it for free. There’s even a cafe (The Rolling Scone Cafe) where you can drink tea, eat cake and bask in the sleazy glow of this beautiful light show.
The God’s Own Junkyard web site has this to say (and it says it best, and it says it all, really):-
‘Chris has collected these neon and bulb icons and salvages old neons and architectural advertising from the streets before they disappear forever. Repaired and resurrected, coupled with quirky art and powered up to shine like jewels of light. Icons in their own right, Gods own junk yard where neon never dies.’
I am heartily glad that the decades and decades of neon tubing collected here did not disappear forever. A bright and fun legacy that lives on – a memorial to the work Bracey created and to the man himself. And a reminder not to discard the things you create, whatever that may be. You never know who might benefit from it later on.
And I cannot wait to go back and bask in the neon glow once again, and imagine that this is my living room.
Want to explore some more ‘alternative graveyards’ in London? Check out Hungerford Bridge’s ‘Skateboard Graveyard‘ a touching and organic memorial to Timothy Baxter, a skater murdered in 1999, or keep an eye out for the ‘Ghost Bikes‘ located all over the city.
Visit God’s Own Junkyard on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 10pm (6pm Sundays). Admission is free.