Faith in one’s ability brought a coal minder out of a pit in Wales and into London’s swinging 60s — there he would make circus and fairground lights.
His son Chris Bracey was an art-school dropout. After a years work experience in graphic design, he decided to join his fathers apprenticeship at the fairgrounds. From his father he learnt the novel skill of making light signs, but money was tight. He knew sex was the moneymaker and so set off for London’s Soho. There he would create — “neon sex.”
It was the mid 70s when Soho was ‘seedy.’ Chris Bracey set to work telling a club owner that his club looked drab. In exchange for adding class, colour and light, all the client would have to do was pay him. The first to receive a Chris Bracey makeover was ‘Raymond’s Pink Pussycat Club.’ When turned on the neon lights hummed ‘Girls, Girls, Girls.’ Soon every strip club in Soho wanted one. Chris Bracey was blazing a trend!
Each strip club was unique. Soho was a neon light show. He had learnt his apprenticeship well. However, his neon-antics proved unpopular by the council who were constantly hot on his heels. He needed a change of scenery.
By chance, Chris met a film director who wanted to film in the clubs. Ever the opportunist, he sealed a deal in exchange for doing all the lighting and signs. Neil Jordan’s British film, Mona Lisa, was a cinematic hit. Hollywood came calling allowing Chris to jet off to new adventures with his box of neon tricks. His film repertoire includes: Batman, Eyes Wide Shut, The Fifth Element and Charlie and Chocolate Factory, to name a few.
‘Chris Bracey has been the neon man for 37 years’. His work has been televised on adverts such as Rimmel London with Kate Moss, BBC Three’s Don’t Tell The Bride and Alan Carr’s Chatty Man. He has also created signs for Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and the V & A’s exhibition: David Bowie Is. The list grows longer with luxury retailers Agent provocateur, Vivienne Westwood and his current exhibition at Selfridges & Co.
His technique with neon uses venetian glass from the Murano factory in Venice. He shapes the glass whilst in the flames, then places electrodes in the end and fills with neon gas. Different gases produce different colours. When a voltage is added to the phospher powder the gas excitedly lights up. Cool, right?
These neon creations that once lit up the world, and new editions salvaged from disuse have been resurrected at Gods Own Junkyard in East London…for now. His old nemesis the council are reclaiming their land. Does this spell the end for God’s Own Junkyard? We neon fans hope not. With only a short time left to visit, you really haven’t lived until you’ve been, ‘Halfway To Heaven and Halfway To Hell’ at Gods Own junkyard.
Opening Times; FRI 8th & SAT 9th November 10:30 – 5pm; SUNDAY 10th November 11:00 – 4pm