After a one and a half hour journey across London, walking up the north west streets of suburby Walthamstow, we finally landed in what some might call a small industrial park. But don’t let that fool you because as you venture in, you are greeted with a number of different quirky places. From a gin distillery to a brewery and even a tiny street side Jamaican restaurant, all of which were lovely, but that’s not why we came here.
Following along up the yard looking for our destination, there was a sharp flicker of light from our right hand side. The sort of flicker that catches the eye of a cat to a lazer. This is when we knew we had landed at our destination. The infamous Gods Own Junk Yard!
As you enter this space you instantly feel a rush of energy running through your system as the electric burst of colors and vibrancy full up your vision. Not to mention the epic rock and roll music that’s played throughout the shop which gives it that much anticipated 80s/90s atmospheric buzz. Continuing the journey through the neon junkyard it is clear to see the talent of Chris, which gave us an instant feel of a Las Vegas or Red Light District sort of vibe. The array of different lights and colors is a sight to behold. The junkyard is also filled with various famous sculptures and artifacts, of which some have been used in movies. But we’ll get to movies later.
A bit of history. Gods own junkyard was started by a man named Chris Bracey, also know as the “Neon Man”. He started his career making neon signs for brothels and strip clubs in the SoHo area in London. He was soon spotted for his incredible talent by music producers in hollywood Tim Mertens, Christopher Nolan and Stanley Kubrick.
To get a better understanding of Chris, we sat down with his long time friend and current shop manager, Garry. Garry is a very humble, soft and well spoken man. He welcomed us into the back courtyard where we interviewed him about the history of the venue. Here’s what he had to say.
Chris got into making Neon signs through his dad who was a Welsh minor from the bronda valley but when the war hit he joined the Royal navy as an electrical engineer. When he came out after the war, he was drawn to London because of the lights where he learned the art of neon bending. He later opened up his own shop called electric signs in 1952. Chris and his brother Kurt then soon followed suit and worked for their dad, learning the tricks of the trade. Chris then ventured out into the art side of neon bending and started creating signs for other establishments other than just shopfronts. After producing enough neon lights, he finally put together Gods own junkyard. The junkyard has been around for eleven years now and includes a collective of movies, TV ads and department stores. From Monday to Thursday the shop is closed for filming and shooting purposes so you won’t be able to get in then.
As you walk around the shop and are amazed by the Neon artwork you may get lost by the ablaze of what’s in front of you so I’ve put through a few notable mentions that you should look our for as you make your way around. Look out for the big blue dragon which was used in the film Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott. The very recognizable Stark sign which was used in the marvel movies representing Tony Stark. See if you can spot the giant rainbow sign from Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The unique looking box with a blue neon spiral in the top which featured in the infamous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Tim Burton. Least we forget the small but distinct hotel sign which was used in Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie and lastly the famous globe that was used at the Olympics. These are just some of the famous neon signs we managed to find. See if you can find some of your own.
Although we didn’t eat there. The junkyard does have a small cafe/restaurant with an outside court yard that offers drinks and a small but simple menu. The cafe inside has a very authentic looking American diner feel and with all the lights in your face, it creates such an unique, ambient energy in the room. There is also merchandise such as T-shirts, bracelets and other souvenirs that can be bought on arrival and exit, and if you are looking to add to your private collection, Replica signs can also be bought for private use. Also make sure to check their website so they don’t have any specific events on the day you might want to visit. Thank you to Garry, the team and Gods own Junkyard for such an unforgettable visit…
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