Review & Photography by Graham Hilling
It’s that time of year again when the London Tattoo Convention rolls into town to turn Tobacco Dock (its’ resident location for the past few years) into a cornucopia of all things tattoo as well as several bits and pieces on the periphery! Check out what happened…
Tobacco Dock is divided by the floor, the upper being reserved mainly for the artists attending the convention and tattoo trade merch and the lower for the stages and stalls and also a few more artists.
The building itself is a little bit labyrinth, seeing me getting lost as to where a particular stall or stage was. Strange really, because looking at the floor plan, it all looked pretty easy – must be my age!
On the top deck there are over 400 artists this year, literally from the 4 corners of the world. Such is the attraction and size of the convention, now in its’ 11th year, that it attracts some of the biggest names in the tattoo business.
This means there is an opportunity for punters to be tattooed by artists that they would have to buy expensive plane tickets to visit ordinarily.
Walking around on the upper floor and through the tattooing areas, it’s clear to see that there is no shortage of customers, pretty much all of the artists I walked by (and that was most of them) were busy at work.
The buzz of tattoo guns thick in the air. Some of the larger tattoos being done specifically for the show, planned well in advance. You have to hand it to these punters too – this can mean several hours of being worked on for all 3 days of the convention – surprising that some didn’t see their bodies go into shock (literally!!).
There is also a section for traditional hand tapped tattoos, where no mechanical gun is used and the ink is “tapped” into the skin. It’s a slow process indeed compared to the modern tattoo gun which has now been developed to within an inch of its’ life.
Testament to this is the merch area, where there are tons and tons of different guns for sale, every possible shade of ink and even apps for calibrating your guns. Plus all sorts of other tattoo paraphernalia, motors, gloves, needles etc.
Surprisingly quiet when I visited but I guess all of the tattoo artists were actually busy tattooing!
There is also an exhibition of provocative photos by Haris Nukem. Well worth checking out at the facebook page. There is also an exhibition of paintings by Chris Guest, which are also great to see in the flesh as it were. And even a show shine stall…..
The lower floor has stalls selling all manner of things related to tattooing and alternative lifestyle (apologies, I hate that expression!). You can buy all manner of clothes, jewellery, taxidermy art, paintings and a whole lot more.
You could spend a good few hours just wandering round and taking in the atmosphere which is light hearted and very friendly. By mid afternoon the whole place is looking very full.
There are 2 main shows everyday at the convention, featuring “paeon to female beauty”, according to the program. Not too far wrong to be honest.
The first act is a London based fire performance group called Pyrohex; and there is much fire indeed! Along with this we also get some angle grinder action and much sparking!
The safety guy advises the crowd to step back a foot from the stage, which we all dutifully do, only to move back 10 seconds later! All very entertaining and a suitably heavy musical accompaniment finishes it all of nicely.
Next up is Elegy Ellem, dressed, initially as least, as a Stars Wars Stormtrooper. She runs through her burlesque routine and finishes off the set by getting members of the audience to staple (yes, staple!) items to her!
The set is quickly followed by Cervena Fox, who dances around the stage with a hula hoop. She looks like she could do this for the rest of the day to be honest with the hoop never looking like it is in danger of falling.
You can only do this for so long though and it’s not long before the highlight of the show, The Fuel Girls take to the stage.
More fire, some truly eye watering acrobatics, more hula hoops and even more fire!
The crowd laps it up and I’m sure for some this will be their highlight of the visit to the convention.
My only crtiticism would be that there is very little space to move around while the shows are taking place, sometimes it feels that the convention is a victim of its’ own success on this score.
In addition to the main show, there is also a music stage, with a variety of different acts each evening and a pinup stage where in addition to running the Miss Pinup UK and Miss Pinup International competitions they are also have burlesque shows running all weekend.
In keeping with some of the more alternative activities on this stage, we’re also treated to a “beard” competition. Some pretty impressive beards on display for sure!
There’s also a variety of bars to keep things moving along in an orderly fashion, along with various places to buy food includung the Hard Rock Cafe.
I close off my visit to the convention 2015 with a visit to the Cupcakes and Cookies stall to buy some vegan cupcakes! Excellent way to finish off an excellent day out!!