Walthamstow is full of secrets. Who’d have thought that this quiet suburb at the end of the Victoria Line would turn out to be home not only to the William Morris Gallery but possibly the most unusual arthouse you’ll ever visit – a cavernous shed lined with neon signs, gloriously jammed together in no particular order, all fully lit and fighting for your attention.
The gallery, modestly named God’s own Junkyard, is a short walk from Walthamstow Central station – their website helpfully gives you directions accompanied by a series of photos of streets and buildings along the route – and is identifiable by the multicoloured cow standing outside. Inside is a psychedelic heaven of neon, interspersed with quirky antiques and religious statuary.
They have the largest stock of vintage neon signs in Europe, and if one of them takes your fancy you can buy it (though they don’t come cheap) or hire it.
It’s the work of Chris Bracey who’s been making and collecting neon signs for thirty seven years, though the junkyard is now run by his son Martin.
Some of the neons on display were designed for films and then discarded when filming finished. Others were salvaged from the streets, from advertising displays or from fairground and circus lighting.
There are vintage neons, LEDs and cold cathode displays, repaired and made to shine again. And neon art made from found objects or retrieved and renewed waste and lights.
God’s own Junkyard is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday (the electricity bill is too huge for it to open all week) and is free to visit. There’s a café, The Rolling Scones, where you can have a neon-lit cake and coffee. But be warned – the real world will look strangely dull as you come blinking out into the daylight afterwards.