Brighton Tattoo Convention 2009

Published: 01 April, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 170, March, 2009

“Roll up, roll up!” was the cry, for the spectacular carnival of dermal delights that is the Brighton Tattoo Convention, and roll up they did - in vast numbers! Despite 2009 marking only the second coming of this southerly show, ringmaster Woody and his team have delivered one of the UK’s leading body art spectacles with aplomb and efficiency, popping this year’s British convention cherry with a performance that would have pleased P.T. Barnum!


A host of artists and shops made appearances at the show and entertained the amassed aficionados with their deft mastery of tattooing, showcasing every conceivable genre known to man; Drew Horner, IN2U, Benjamin Moss, Blood Brothers, Piotrek, Jean Harai, Nine, Stotker, Memento Mori, Daredevil NYC…a miniscule snapshot of the domestic and overseas talent in attendance. Moseying around the floors led to the discovery of many more ink smiths squirreling away upon fleshy canvases, and thankfully in warmer climes than those experienced by anyone stood outside! There is no denying that Brighton Racecourse is a tad warren-esque in its layout and occasional confusion did ensue as certain staircases didn’t lead people to where they might hope, but nobody seemed to be devoid of attention and each room containing working artists gleaned a good share of the traffic and were far from idle. As you can see from the shots we snapped, there was a great deal of tattooing taking place, demonstrating that despite the country being collectively broke, tattoos are a necessity rather than a luxury!

The Crowd

What a crowd of attendees! Despite many entering dressed as participants in a race to the Arctic Circle, decorated skin was soon on show as the heating coaxed away coats, scarves and hats, making our task of finding tip-top tattoos a little easier. There were many interesting sights to behold, amongst which a collection of luminescent underpants was put on display by a number of gentlemen, and it appears that 2009 may hail the return of the gimp mask… Amongst the many who packed out Brighton Racecourse were swathes of visitors from up and down the country, demonstrating just how much of a draw this convention has become since establishing itself so spectacularly last year. The atmosphere took a while to materialise on Saturday as people explored the length and breadth of the building, but it eventually warmed and took on a large dollop of familiar charm – many people that we encountered over the two days voiced their opinions on how much they enjoyed the vibe and ambience that coursed through the place.

The Big Top

“We need a larger bar!” was the cry last year, and you can only imagine the collective joy caused by the new and improved facilities that graced the main room (only a stone’s throw from the stage), with ample space for service and consumption - it’s great to see that patrons’ comments from previous shows have been considered and taken into account by convention organisers. The bar also played host to the tattoo competitions and both Neil and I had the chance to cast a close glance over some damned fine tattooing throughout the two days; the spoils were shared between some very deserving tattooists and a couple of the categories were excruciatingly tough to arbitrate! Away from the hustle and bustle of the libation lounge, the aisles in the main Grandstand did become heavily congested at times, but this practically forced people to take their time and appreciate the full spectrum of what was going on. See, every perceivable cloud can soon be found to have a silver lining – all too often you see people rushing to the booths of certain artists and missing out on so much!


There was many a distraction to be found away from the main event; the Unplugged 2 Gallery hosted a selection of fine art from tattoo smiths near and far, Tom Spencer’s tattoo glass (as featured in Skin Deep 162) was granted a prime location, and a collection of Kerry Evans’ sublime paintings provided a feast for the eyes. The inclusion of a wider selection of art is a big plus for Brighton, and in my opinion, it graces a show with the kind of variety that gives you a little more bang for your buck. Those reluctant to leave the bar for too long were treated to lunchtime performances from Italian surf-rockers Bermudas and freak-out spectaculars from The Von Crapp Family Circus and their suitably outlandish antics.

The Final Act

We left the warmth of the racecourse for one reason and one reason alone on Sunday night: party time. Brighton lived up to its reputation as a party town, and assisted by copious volumes of Sailor Jerry rum, the night descended into a haze, accompanied by a rattling rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack from renowned acts Jack Rabbit Slim and Slim Slip & The Sliders. It was a fantastic cessation to the tattoo circus of Brighton and the animals soon made their appearances as the alcohol flowed! Woody and his team appear to have taken on board all of the comments and (sensible) suggestions that followed the first Brighton convention and they have produced a magnificent show that pleases both tattooists and attendees, a tricky cake to bake by anyone’s standards. 2010’s grandiose performance will take place over the weekend of January 30th to the 31st, with details appearing on the website at
Perhaps you’ve noticed that our convention circus is devoid of clowns? Cue the exiting after-party, to be greeted by the sight of boy racers driving sideways through the ever-deepening snow, passing perilously close to the nearby taxis - ladies and gentlemen, I give you, your clowns…


Text: Alex Photography: Neil, Alex & Ashley


Skin Deep 170 1 March 2009 170