Neon Sparks Fly in Soho

Gods Own Junkyard

Neon will never die in Gods [sic.] Own Junkyard. More wonderland than warehouse, gigantic disco balls hang between numerous clever and downright saucy signs that offer a glimpse into a collection that began over 50 years ago with a man named Dick Bracey.

The lights first fired up in 1958 behind the doors of Electro Signs, a business specializing in fairground and circus lettering. It was not long until Dick’s son, the late Chris Bracey, joined his father’s fluorescent line of work – clearly, neon flows through Bracey blood.

Gods Own Junkyard

In the early 70s, [Chris] Bracey was after something more – carnivals were not the neon pinnacle. So he got his foot in the door of a very different, but no less riské scene – the heart of Soho. His clientele, including the infamous Kray brothers, were now as red lit as the signs themselves but it was only a matter of time before Bracey would seek to push the envelope further.

In 1998, American light artist, Bruce Nauman, was exhibiting at the Hayward Gallery on London’s Southbank. Neon featured heavily and Bracey realized the potential of neon to illuminate more than just sex in Soho. He began to salvage and restore film signs and experiment with materials such as gold leaf and radioactive krypton gas. The result was “Sodom and Gomorrah mixed with art” and the world could not get enough.

Gods Own Junkyard

The works are available for hire and purchase although Bracey was renowned for once turning down a £30,000 offer for his “God Save the Queen” – each piece of artwork is a new love that he would have rather kept. While the price tag may be more than a little steep for the average punter, you can offer up your own things for a customized neon resurrection. Anything goes – from smashed car doors to wheelbarrows. Delightfully, neon has no limit.

Sadly, Chris Bracey passed away due to prostate cancer in 2014. His glowing legacy, however, carried forward by his wife, Linda, and two of his three sons, Matthew and Marcus, shines on.

This year is the third time that Gods Own Junkyard has returned to where it all began – the Soho Streets, the very soul of neon. The kick ass collection, in collaboration with art gallery, Lights of Soho, is called ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.’ Adding depth to the usual commercial festive displays, the exhibition pieces are a vivid finger to the dystopia of 2016.

Gods Own Junkyard

Need to know

Exhibition: ‘Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life’: Lights of Soho, 35 Brewer Street, London

  • Until January 23rd, 2017
  • Opening Hours: 10am-6pm for public; after 6pm members’ only

Gods Own Junkyard: Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, London E17 9HQ

  • Opening Hours: Friday & Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-6pm
  • Grab a bite to eat at The Rolling Scones Café found within the enclave

If you would like to make a donation to Prostate Cancer UK on behalf of Chris Bracey, you can do so here.


All photos are courtesy of Gods Own Junkyard

Alice Rich

Contributor

New Zealand-born Alice Rich is a newly-minted digital nomad. She loves getting involved in community projects and was a co-founder of CreativeMornings/Kuala Lumpur, a creative lecture series. A registered Personal Trainer, Alice loves anything active, particularly when there is mud involved. "My favourite aspect about London is Big Ben."

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