God's Own Junkyard: The Neon Family Who Made Soho Sizzle

London's hipsters flock to new exhibition showcasing three generations of neon ar

Tess Holliday
Tess Holliday

London's hipsters flock to new exhibition showcasing three generations of neon ar

You'll have seen God's Own Junkyard. It's the neon light sign design studio that everyone wants to be photographed in, whether they're models, selfie-takers or genuine lovers of this ultimate 20th century pop art form. If you wondered where our amazing set was for our Tess Holliday shoot in the December issue, well, now you know.

What you might not know is that it's a family business - and that the Junkyard family are almost single-handedly responsible for the look of London's Soho: all flickering signs, hot pinks, electric blues and promises of good times in seedy basements.

Dick Bracey came to London after world war two having learnt the electrician's art in the Royal Navy, and started creating neon signs for fairgrounds and amusement arcades. In the 1970s his graphic designer son Chris had the idea of selling their services to the naughty nightclubs springing up around Soho such as the famous Raymond Revue Bar.

Before long they were making signs for bars and cafes, often thinking up names for them too, transforming the look of Soho and capturing the imagination of rock stars, artists and designers who hung out in its seedy streets. Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick enlisted the Braceys to give Bladerunner and Eyes Wide Shut their signature sleazy glow.

Chris Bracey sadly died last year, shortly after remodelling the Raymond Revue Bar. But his wife Linda, sons Marcus and Matthew and grandchildren Amber and Charley have all learned the family craft. "In the old days in Soho, you'd see things that would make your hair perm," says Linda. Now they've each created a new artwork that riffs on the iconography of Soho for a new exhibition in their Brewer Street gallery.

"Chris and his father Dick both loved the area and the grandchildren have grown up hearing edited highlights," says Linda, who has created a series of bustiers and corsets for the show inspired by the red light district's notorious working girls.

"Soho is part of our DNA. We're acknowledging the people that gave the area its seedy glamour and creating a different and more artistic kind of hub, revitalising Brewer Street with blazing neons."

See behind-the-scenes on our shoot with Tess Holliday.

My Generation is at LightsOfSoho.com, Brewer Street W1F 0RX

You can lust after your own piece of Soho glow at their exhibiton, open now 'till 26th January.

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