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The disappearance of the ‘real’ London along with the increase in rent tend to dominate private conversations and public debate these days. Inextricably linked, it seems inevitable that London will join New York in the transformation from a benevolently nurturing petri dish for squatters, punks, artists, musicians, fashion designers and creatives alike, all living on tuppence ha’penny and the odd dole cheque, roaming the unlit streets for inspiration to the current cash cold environment of faux artisan (fartisan?) coffee shops cheek by jowl with uninspiring chains dreamt up by the corporate moneybots. Behold those lucky young hopefuls, funded by the bank of mum & dad, bouncing happily in and out of their lofts and drinking dens in Dalston while the rest of us resentfully shuffle off, darkly muttering, to a very different existence as economic exiles in zone 86 or even (say it ain’t so) the wilderness outside the metropolis. You might see the occasional tweet from some Marie Antoinette-like patron of the arts, bemoaning the high rents potentially driving all the “groovy people” out of London, which I’m sure is coming from a good heart; however, dear one in your lovely Islington mansion, it is already too late.

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All the more reason to embrace whatever remnants we can before all is either  bought up by overseas investors or bulldozed to a rubble. The late and dearly missed Chris Bracey founded God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow, a place to surround oneself with all the life-enhancing colour and light of the incredible collection of neon sculptures he’d both accumulated and designed during his lifetime. Bracey sadly passed away a year ago but God’s Own Junkyard is still very much there and his family carry on curating the existing works and designing new.

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Soho was where Bracey first had the call to do neon as art work and as his wife Linda Bracey puts it, ‘“Soho is part of our DNA, we wouldn’t have held this show anywhere else. In some ways, we’re acknowledging the people that we knew, who gave the area’s aesthetic its seedy – and now sought after glamour. All the underground scenes are disappearing because the area has been sold to the highest bidder. The gallery represents the positive side of the regeneration, revitalising Brewer Street with blazing neons, creating a different and more artistic kind of hub which also reflect the sex establishments of the past.” Thus the show at Lights of Soho is a wonderful warm den to escape into, somewhere to enjoy the vintage signs side by side with the designs by the Bracey family. I urge you to see this show, whether out of love or nostalgia. That world really was a one-off and once it is gone, it is gone; I don’t think we’ll be coming to a similar exhibition in 40 years time, gazing nostalgically at a Nando’s or Starbuck’s sign.

God’s Own Junkyard – My Generation
Till 23 January 2016
Lights of Soho
35 Brewer Street
London W1F 0RX

Words by Anna Bang

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anna bang, Chris Bracey, God's Own Junkyard, Lights of Soho, Linda Bracey,