God’s Own Junkyard; the grooviest, most vibrant slice of heaven in London.
Down a gravelly backstreet of garages and wheelie bins, the only clue proving that I wasn’t lost was a sign that read ‘Heavenly junk in a hell of a location’ (A.K.A Walthamstow). I followed the sound of “Shot Down” by The Sonics and the neon glow that bled into the street to find what I can only describe as an electric heaven. I cannot give justice to the shed load of neon signs and flashing bulbs in hot pinks and sulphurous blues that stood before me. It was lit.
Perhaps feeling slightly dazzled by the multitude of letters and lights (don’t go with a headache), I was rather confused by this overwhelming, bizarre yet wonderful collection. Fluorescent filament tubes, twisted into the shapely figures of women and one-legged flamingos, peeped out from behind signs reading “Sex, Drugs and Bacon Rolls”, “I’m no Angel for God’s Sake” and “Let’s Play Doctors and Nurses”. A child’s scooter, previously owned by Robert Coldwell in 1972, an antique radio and a porcelain clown doll were tucked in between the flashing signs to be found like a vintage treasure hunt. A miniature Statue of Liberty, with “I’m waiting for my man” painted across her chest, waved from amongst the bric-a-brac mass of passé chairs and enormous disco balls, together with a huge glittering stiletto and a brass gramophone; a torn-off bonnet of a rusty car and an untuned piano; any precious finds of beautiful junk that bring the shed to a standstill in the 60s.
This funky, junky collection was initiated in 1952 by neon artist Dick Bracey. His dream to fill the garage with his handmade light-up signs was shared by his equally talented son, Chris, who took on the business to complete God’s Own Junkyard. It is a portal to the time when the neon bulb first illuminated our cafes, bars and clubs, and not because of the blue tardis toilet in the corner. Outside of this shed, the Bracey’s signs have lit the movie sets behind Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Jack Nicholson in Batman, and are still available to rent today.
A step away from the Jesus shrines and “Rock ‘n’ Roll” signs, and past a teapot big enough to bathe in, is a cosy and groovy space called The Rolling Scones Café. Mismatched chairs and sofas and painted tables provide a space to enjoy the junkyard with a beer in hand, while an outside area where red brick walls are clad in falling maple leaf vines offers a peaceful place to rest one’s eyes and enjoy some lunch.
With a name that places the exhibition on a rather mighty pedestal, God’s Own Junkyard fulfilled my high expectations. A winner of two TimeOut awards; it is a must see.