God's Own Junkyard: Threatened Neon Heaven To Get New Home?

By Nicolas Chinardet Last edited 128 months ago

Last Updated 03 September 2013

God's Own Junkyard: Threatened Neon Heaven To Get New Home?

A famous business that creates and collects neon signs has apparently been saved from closure. The future looked bleak for God's Own Junkyard in Walthamstow, following an eviction notice from a developer. But a local market has stepped in to offer the business a new home. We recently stopped by to take a look around...

If you saw a certain chase sequence in the latest series of Luther, you could have been excused for dismissing, as we did, the convoluted jumble of old signs and gaudy neon constructions as something from the fevered imagination of a set designer. That vision is, however, a real place. God’s Own Junkyard, as it is modestly called, is tucked away against a railway line in Walthamstow.

The Bracey family, owners of the business, have made neon signs for over six decades, and have been on the current site since 1978. While the founder started with circuses and fairgrounds in the 50s, his son and the current owner Chris once made signs for Soho’s sex industry (including Raymond Revue), and now gives the venture a more artistic edge.

You will have seen his creations in the background of many Hollywood films (spot the example in the first picture above). Chris Bracey has also created pieces for photographer David LaChappelle, and artist Martin Creed while helping decorate the windows of Selfridges.

The outside space is a weird and wonderful heap of the reclaimed incongruous, bringing together religious statues, giant bottles of champagne, a plastic crocodile, the front end of a posh car, a shrine in a garden shed, or a sign rescued from a local chip shop. And much more besides.

The workshop is just as zany; an Aladdin’s cave of Bracey‘s creations, from the very simple to the very elaborate. Hearts seem to be a favourite symbol here.

All these wonders, and the 18 full-time members of staff they support, including Bracey’s two sons, are, however, in a precarious situation. Notice has been given and the site has to be emptied by 21 September to give way to a block of flat.

Bracey is looking an alternative location in the area, and denounces bitterly "developers [who] are taking out thriving businesses and destroying successful places of work with tiny flats and calling it regeneration". Salvation may be at hand, thanks to Wood Street Indoor Market, whose owners have now offered Chris space.

In the meantime, and if you feel that Walthamstow is little too far in the wilds of outer London, Selfridges will be showing (and selling) some of Bracey’s pieces from Friday 6 September for the next six weeks.

God’s Own Junkyard is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, until 21 September.

See more photos from the site on the author's Flickr.