Old or discarded articles that are considered useless or of little value.
A place where junk is stored or collected for sale.
Only God could have a junkyard so entrancing and mesmerising as this little warehouse in Walthamstow, tucked between the unassuming suburban streets of North London. While God may have discarded these signs and deemed their neon lights to be of little value, to us mere mortals, these are the lights of heaven.
The man behind the neon signs however is not God, but a Holy Trinity: 3 generations of the Bracey family. Grandfather Dick was a Welsh coalminer who moved to Walthamstow and started making neon signs for circuses, his son Chris worked in the family neon sign company for 37 years. When the business for circuses fell, he started making signs for Soho sex shops and bars. The very famous ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ sign outside Paul Raymond’s Revue Bar was one of his creations!
“What you’ve got here, is Sodom and Gomorrah mixed with art.”
From Sex Shops, Chris moved into the art world, making neon signs for artists and as props for movies. Some of his beautiful signs have been featured along with Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with Johnny Depp), and Jack Nicholson in Batman. One the lights have played their part, he would carry them all home to resurrect them and give them a new life.
Sadly Chris passed away a few years ago from cancer, and now his son Marcus carries the neon torch – the third generation of Braceys.
For a fee you can adopt one of these signs and take it home to have a little piece of this heavenly junk yard in your own house. Jude Law, Kate Moss and Lady Gaga are some of the most famous of his collectors, one day I’d like to buy my own – my two favourites of the night were the ‘Long Horn Bar’ sign and another that had scrawled across: ‘Woken By a Kiss’.
Though the Junk Yard is quite far out of central London, it’s a proper summers day out as the other units in the industrial estate are alive and kicking with food and drink options. I loved the name of the cafe that lies within the gallery: The Rolling Scones! While the actual scones and cakes on offer were not as fresh as we’d hoped for, the little space at the back of the building is really pretty – a perfect place for a private party or just to wile away an hour or so in the North London sun.
Across the road from the junk yard however is a little brewery called Wild Card Brewery which is lovely and buzzing with tables outside, dogs, families and all the coolest hipsters of Walthamstow. While we were there, there was a little pizza pop van up called Dough Bro – they make the pizza right in front of you and then pop it in their mobile oven – and it was absolutely delicious! For those who feel like something a little more fragrant, Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace which offers: dark and delicious damson and sloe gins, delicate and spicy rhubarb & ginger, fragrant summer raspberry and heady gooseberry & elderflower vodkas. There’s no better way to end your trip to Walthamstow than with a fruity gin cocktail!
Go and be dazzled by the colourful lights – I can promise you’ll never want to leave, and even when you do, you’ll be dreaming in neon for the next few months.