Gillingham '07

Published: 30 September, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 148, July, 2007

After having a really mild winter and one of the warmest and driest Aprils on record May has been a bit of a mixture weather wise, and the bank holiday weekend at the end of May was a bit of a disaster and not only in the UK, freak storms, snow, hail storms, and torrential rain hit most of Europe, for us over here it was probably the wettest weekend of the year and this did definitely effect the number of people who turned out for the Gillingham show this year. We drove down to Gillingham on the Sunday morning in heavy rain and flooded roads and a lot of the other artists and traders had endured the same problems.


For anybody reading this who has never been before, the Gillingham convention is held at the King Charles hotel on the edge of Gillingham town centre and is an ideal location for a convention as everything is all on site so nobody has to go out, and considering the weather over the weekend that was a good thing. By the time the doors opened to the public at 12 noon there was quite a queue waiting outside, some standing at the door and others waiting in their cars to keep dry but once the doors opened there was a steady stream of people coming into the hall.   

Over the past few years the owners of the hotel have been revamping it and each year something has changed from the previous year and this time was no different, the only thing was for the show the new updates actually worked against us, they had done away with the food counter and doubled it up with the bar and this made for some long queues, also on the Sunday night the owners daughter was having her 18th birthday party in part of the hotel that is usually used for the convention which meant that the second bar was not available to the convention goers on the Sunday.  This was something that the organisers were not aware of before hand so couldn’t really do anything about it…but everyone got through the day without starving or dying of thirst.   

The number of working artists this year seemed to be a bit down on last year but not drastically so, there was still a good selection of artists for people to choose from including…. Tony B from Tilbury tattoo, Jason Butcher from Immortal ink, Nicky from Electric Buddha, Shaun Clifford from Newport, Emma from Lady luck in Portsmouth, Ray Hunt and the crew from Medway tattoo in Rochester and Mac from Punctured body piercing. There were some really good pieces of work being done over the weekend and some unusual body mods being done by Mac as well, including a tongue split quite early on the Sunday. Mac also had his daughter Alex with him doing her first convention and working hard all weekend.   

What with the weather and the fact that the bar in the convention hall closed at 7pm because of the other party, the hall emptied out fairly early on Sunday night, which meant everybody retired to the main hotel bar to relax and some well earned light refreshment, also to catch up with what has been happening since they last spoke and relive old times…. that just goes to show how long we’ve all been doing this and that we’re fast becoming old farts. One thing I missed was Kev Shercliffe trying to do a hand stand in the early hours and falling on his head…he had a nice lump on it the next morning.

Monday Morning saw everyone up and eager to do loads of work, well except for a few who’d been in the bar til 5am, some of them didn’t look or feel to cleaver, but they just about awake and ready by the time the doors opened at 12. Monday was competition day and as usual I was set up in the judging room so hopefully I got to see most of the work on show and there were some good new pieces on display. Again numbers seemed a bit down on last year but I think the majority of this was down to the weather…. If I hadn’t been working I would have thought twice about going out in it, especially as the Monaco grand prix was on the box. Once the judging was finished there was a cover band on to keep folks entertained whilst the scores were added up and the winners finalised and then it was time for the presentation of the trophies to the winners and before you knew it another Gillingham show was over.   

I know for a fact that words were going to be spoken about the mix up on the Sunday to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again and that just leaves me to say a big thank you to Paul, Jan and Daz for the hospitality once again and see everyone the same time, same place, next year.


Text and Photgraphy: Paul Callaby


Skin Deep 148 15 July 2007 148