London’s Surprising Hollywood History Inside a Neon Art Haven

Written by Nick Daniels
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London has Big Ben and Westminster Abbey; Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and Oxford Street too. But did you know London is also home to a surprising neon art collection that has decorated Hollywood films, TV shows and theatre sets since 1953?

Known as God’s Own Junkyard, it is the largest collection in the world for hire of Neon signs, Bulb signs and LED signs. After a one and a half hour journey across London to Walthamstow, I finally landed in what some might call a small industrial park.

But don’t let that fool you. Inside is a quirky and kitschy secret slice of London.


20220813_111711_copy_1734x2312_1

The Museum Junkyard

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 like a cat’s does a laser beam. This is when I knew we had landed at our destination—Gods Own Junkyard.

20220813_111745_copy_1734x2312_1Grab a coffee at Rolling Scones

As you enter this space you instantly feel a rush of energy running through your system as the electric burst of colors and vibrancy fill up your vision. Add to it the epic rock and roll music that’s played throughout the shop, and I am instantly feeling that 80s/90s buzz of Las Vegas or a seedy Red Light District.

Continuing the journey through the neon junkyard it is clear to see the talent of Chris Bracey, aka “The Neon Man.” The array of different lights and colors is blinding and exhillirating. Everywhere you look are new and used neon fantasies, salvaged signs, reclaimed neon signs, old movie props, neon art made from found objects, retrieved and renewed waste and lights, carnival and circus lighting  and  more.

History

Chris 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.

20220813_121950_copy_2312x1734_1This Stark sign featured in Marvel movies featuring character Tony Stark

To get a better understanding of Chris, we sat down with his long-time friend and current shop manager Garry, a humble, soft and well spoken man who welcomed us into the back courtyard.

20220813_122046_copy_1734x2312_1This Blue Dragon sign was used in the film Blade Runner

“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.”

Sadly, Chris passed away on the 1st November 2014.

God’s Own Junkyard has been around for more than 10 years. From Monday to Thursday, the shop is closed for filming and shooting purposes.

Neon as far as the eye can see

Notable Mentions

The Neon artwork is ablaze and overwhelming, 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 used in the Marvel movies representing character 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.

-Lest we forget the small but distinct hotel sign which was used in Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.

-Lastly, there is 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.

20220813_122836_copy_2312x1734_1Looking for trouble?

Final Thoughts

Although we didn’t eat there, the junkyard does have a small cafe, the Rolling Scones Café, with a small but simple menu.

You can also pick up merchandise such as T-shirts, bracelets and other souvenirs. Replica signs can also be purchased 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.

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Gods Own Junkyard
Unit 12
Ravenswood Industrial Estate
Shernhall Street
London

God’s Own Junkyard and Rolling Scones Cafe are open to the public

Friday – 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday – 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday – 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

***

BeSeeingYou In: London

Good to know: There are lots of other venues to visit in the area such as distillery’s, restaurants and breweries.

WOW! Factor: You’ll see more than 1000 signs, which make up a mere 10 percent of the collection

Tip: Call ahead to make sure they are open

 

 

 

 

Nick Daniels
Nick Daniels is a charismatic and gregarious bloke who found his knack for writing during his travels around the world. Born and raised in the heart of the midlands South Africa, Nick found himself travelling between the three major cities all his life which gave him his sense of freedom and independence. After completing a Bachelor of commerce degree under the exceptional cloth of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Nick ventured off on his first major travel experience to become an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This experience was a complete eye opener into life in SouthEast Asia and where one might say, he was bitten by the infamous “travel bug”. After two years in Vietnam, he Studied a postgraduate degree in Education through the University of Sunderland where he went on to teach English Language Arts, Social Studies and Math at two of the top tier schools in the calm chaotic city of Saigon. After being to places such as the bustling streets of Thailand, devouring the delicious cuisines in Malaysia, finding enlightenment in the skyscrapers in Singapore and the swimming in beautiful coral reefs of the Philippines, Nick decided that it was time to return to the UK enter into the exquisite world of a travel writer. Nick now finds himself in London (for now) as he looks to take on the challenge of creating his own journey as the Chief Experience Officer of BeSeeingYou.

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