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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

The Neon Glow in Walthamstow

Northeast of central London is a place called Walthamstow. There, you will find a unique establishment that has many flocking to it just to get a selfie for social media. It’s an unusual and popular spot known as God’s Own Junkyard. This place is a gallery of neon. Inside there are countless signs and other oddities covering the walls, hanging from the ceiling and anywhere else where a sign might fit. The electric glow of neon and lightbulb signs is the main attraction. This place overloads the senses. There is so much to look at, and with it all displayed together, it is difficult to take it all in. One thing is for sure… this place is cool!  This was one thing I really wanted to see during my travels in England. I have had it on my radar for quite some time and wanted to visit, the next time I was back in the UK.

It was the perfect thing to do on a cloudy overcast day. Once inside, I did what everyone else does. I walked around in awe and snapped photos in disbelief (but no selfies for me). I could have spent hours in that place to really get a good look at everything. Seeing the photos people have posted on social media is one thing, but being there in person, is something entirely different. It’s an experience...and one that I highly recommend. I walked around the space several times and with each lap I made, I discovered something new that I missed the last time I walked by. I should mention that there is more to see than just these electric signs.

There are a number of odd objects as well. Things like mannequins, a large ice cream cone, spaceship, a Jesus figure, traffic light, a giant disco ball, police helmet, gumball machines, a cluster of trombones dangling from the ceiling, a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty holding a light saber, a birdcage, old seats from a theatre and a bus, masks, lanterns, a fire hydrant, a Fiberglas shark head, and a Chanel angel wearing Louis Vuitton and holding an antique telephone…Oddities that somehow work with the signs when put all together. It reminds me of a fun house or a carnival from the mid 1900’s. The atmosphere created definitely feels like an escape from reality. And it is certainly something most people don’t see every day. There is a small café/bar inside called The Rolling Scones, which would be a great place to sit to observe everything on display around you. Unfortunately for me, this was one of many stops I had to make that day, and you know what they say - no rest for the wicked.

There is a long history behind God’s Own Junkyard. It is a family business that has been passed down through several generations and with each passing of the torch, so to speak, the business has developed into what it is today. There is a great video that goes into further detail about the history and the family behind God’s Own Junkyard, which I found on their website. (Click the link for more ).

Like most museums, there are a number of stipulations to adhere to when visiting the site. I think it goes without saying but….Please don't touch. Like any other gallery, you need to look with your eyes only. Children must be accompanied by an adult. As for photography, no DSLR cameras, only mobile devices like cell phones for taking photos, and images taken are to be used for personal use or social media only. Also, do a bit of research in advance of your visit. They are not open to the public every day and it can be a bit tricky finding their location.

The staff were incredibly friendly and so welcoming. I could see that this place was truly a labour of love. I don’t know who is responsible for arranging the display of neon as well as the care and maintenance of it all, but they have done an absolutely wonderful job. I would definitely drop by for another visit, if I had the chance. Personally, I found my visit to God’s Own Junkyard to be so inspiring, it certainly got the creative juices flowing.

Walking through the space as a photographer, I was thinking about how challenging it would be to shoot in this environment. Overall the space is a bit dimly lit because it is mostly lit by neon light coming from every direction. The colour cast from the neon lights splashed across all the other elements in the room and both warm and cool artificial light was present. There was a pop of colour everywhere you looked, making it difficult to decide where to focus for an image. For me personally, it was one of the few times I used a mobile device to take photos instead of my camera. I found that the space created a certain mood or atmosphere that was difficult to capture in a photo. One things for sure, it is definitely a unique situation to take photos in.

The images I have included in this post is from my experience of the space.

© Sarahhawleyart 2023.

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Jan Hawley
Jan Hawley

It looks like it is really worth a visit. I'll add it to my London Bucket List! 😀😀😀


Yes, it's an interesting place!

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