Manchester International Tattoo Show (2010)

Published: 22 August, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 184, April, 2010

There are two things that I always look forward to in the first week in March, my birthday (another year older and deeper in debt…) and the Manchester International Tattoo Show.

So as the country finally managed to thaw out from its icy grip of winter, I was eager for a weekend of inky fun and frolics. The sun shone and as I walked up to the Manchester Central (formerly the G-Mex). The venue soared above me like some giant piece of rollercoaster, with its huge cast iron dome arcing up into the cloudless blue sky, I could feel this was going to be yet another great weekend of tattoos, talk and time to catch up with friends to see the new ink that had been acquired during the previous year.


The organisers of the Manchester show have quite literally come to the front when it comes to putting on a convention. In previous years the show was held in what some might say were the ‘shabby chic’ surroundings of the Piccadilly Hotel in the centre of town. The hotel shows were great fun and somewhat ‘intimate’ but it soon became obvious that the venue was too small and Jorge and the crew took the bold move to up sticks and move to the Manchester Central. For the first year the show was held in the back portion of the venue, but over the past three years as the show has increased in popularity and size, moved forward to the middle and this year, it finally made it to the front of the building. The Manchester tattoo show had arrived.


As the Skin Deep crew and myself pulled up to unload our goods and chattels, I noticed a certain air of calm inside the vast edifice that is the Centre. I looked around, and saw folk taking things easy, wandering about with coffees in their hands and chatting to old friends and making new acquaintances. “This can’t be right” I thought, where are all the people running around frantically trying the get the last odds and sods finished before the doors open?” It was quite unnerving. All the booths were up and the large skate ramp was built, the stage was set up with large TV screens to relay the weekends' action were working, the food area was already serving food and drinks wafting out a tantalising aroma of home cooked food, reminding me I had not had breakfast, things just seemed too relaxed.


I should really have known; Jorge and his crew really are old hands at this game. 


This year was the ninth Manchester Tattoo Show so these guys know exactly what they are doing and I didn’t see a single hitch or problem all weekend that wasn’t insurmountable. I mean, the power went of in my photo booth but no sooner than I had mentioned it to a passing member of staff, than an electrician appeared and fixed the problem in a second, such was the efficiency of the staff. I dare say that there was an awful lot of running around and coming and going had gone on prior to the traders and tattooists arriving but that what makes the difference between an okay tattoo show and a really good one. This was most definitely the later of the two.


With the booth set up and a welcome coffee in hand, I wandered back out into the sunshine to see what was happening outside the main doors. By the time I had managed to get outside there was about an hour and half before the doors were due to open but an orderly queue had already started to form. I took this to be a good sign for the two days ahead.


One of the things I like the most about the Manchester Show is that the organisers manage to attract artists that may not, for one reason or another, attend other tattoo conventions in this country. Looking down the extensive list of artists I noticed a few familiar faces like Joe Myler from Ireland, Sista Sammy, from Fallen Angel, Steve Potton, Mick Tomo, Rob Ratcliffe, Saz and Paul Saunders and others but there were names that I’d not heard of like the guys from Prague Ink, Inner Sin in Germany, Simply Tattoo, Finland and very healthy selection of Greece’s finest like Sake, Akis and a large contingent from Tattooligans, again from Greece. I was really looking forward to meeting and seeing some work from these guys and they did not disappoint that’s for sure. 


As the time ticked on to eleven o’clock, the doors opened and the steady stream of punters entered the Centre then spread out into the vast tattooing area. If you read my write-up last year you may remember that the artists booths were a little claustrophobic. Not in size but in the fact that the sides of each booth had full height panels, thus cutting the working artists off slightly from their neighbours. Not this year, the booths were open plan with plenty of room for all those working the show to lean on the fence as it were and have a natter with their companions. I spoke to many who were working who said that the layout was vastly improved, giving the show a much more personable feel.


In the centre of the erm, Centre, there were four booths which housed the traditional artists like Lawrence Ah Ching from Samoa, Musahi from Japan, the ever smiling Mr Nu from Thailand and in the fourth booth was the one and only but also ever smiling, Dan Gold. Ok Dan isn’t a traditional tattooist but he draws quite a crowd at tattoo shows these days so to avoid a bottle neck in the aisles, he was given a plinth of his own to work from.


Within minutes of the first public walking through the doors, the tattoo machines started their merry song and that noise pretty much set the tone for the rest of the weekend. I find it really odd that a sound that anyone who has been tattooed, will associate that noise with pain of varying degrees, yet it seems so comforting at the same time. I dare say there is a Freudian explanation to this feeling but I do like the sound of a coil tattoo machine humming away; it’s kind comforting and homely in a strange way.


As I wandered about the booths, pretty much all of the attending artists were either heads down, working or waiting for their clients to arrive and I started to see some really nice tattoos taking shape. As I mentioned earlier, the Manchester organisers had brought over some incredibly talented Greek artists. Sake and Akis are gaining quite a reputation in the UK for their delicious colour realism work, but I’d not seen any tattoo work from the Tattooligans until this weekend and boy, did they have some work to see. Each time I shot a tattoo that literally made my jaw drop, it was by either Dimitis or George Mavridis from Tattooligans. Cast your eye over their work in this show report to see for yourself. George quite rightly, took best of Saturday for one of his creations. Talking of winners, another chap that caught my eye was a very humble Scott Mustapic from Ink Vs Steel in Leeds with an incredible old school deer’s head and antler tattoo along the ribs of a very sore client. Scott picked up best old school tattoo award in recognition of his fine tattooing skills.


The competitions seemed a little quiet with not too many people entering but the quality of work on stage more than made up for the numbers and the camera relayed the images on big screens, giving those a chance to sit back and look at the work from a distance.


As the day wore on, the half pipe skate ramp picked up a pace with some good demonstrations of aerobatics by the skaters and BMX boys.


The compare Johnny Dee did his best to keep the crowd entertained with his unique sense of humour and mad-cap stage acts but I did hear a few complaints that he was starting to annoy some of the working artists. It must be difficult to get the balance between keeping folk happy whilst they grab a beer or something to eat, but at the same time not to get too loud as to put off the tattooists. I certainly would not like that job. There did seem to be a lack of entertainment other than Mr Dee. Previous years there have been pole dancers, burlesque girls, Japanese Drummers and suspensions but this year the emphasis seemed more on the tattooists themselves, which is by no means a bad thing but it is always that old chestnut of keeping those not getting tattooed amused. There was an impromptu duo who did a ‘bit of a turn’ on the Sunday, who I enjoyed quite a lot. Sadly you will never keep everyone entertained all the time but I didn’t hear anyone complain about the lack of things to do.


During both Saturday and Sunday the large venue filled up to a point where it was busy and all the aisles, seating and the three bars were in use but not to the point where you had to shuffle and rub shoulders with folk all the time. It was crowded but to a nice degree if that makes sense?


We had a very steady stream of tattoos to photograph over the weekend and I must say that the Manchester show always holds its own when it comes to quality tattoos to point my camera at. I don’t know why but we always get some incredible tattoos to take pictures of here and I struggle to find room in the allotted pages to showcase them all. I could pretty much run an entire magazine just on the Manchester Tattoo Show’s tattoos alone, such is the quality of work brought to the show.


As well and the top-notch tattooist line-up one American artist; KG from 264 Customs in Hollywood brought his good friend Ritchie The Barber along and he spent the entire weekend shaving the public with either a pair of clippers or with his weapon of choice; a deadly looking cut throat razor.


The whole weekend had a really nice and laidback vibe about it, there were plenty of top quality tattooists to get work by or just to stop by their booths to see what was taking shape, the trade stands were plentiful giving those the chance to shop also.


In a small outside section of the venue some Graffiti artists were working on what turned out to be some very nice designs. The intricacy of some of the work was astounding considering the paint came direct from cans, if I hadn’t watched them myself I’d have said one of the pieces was done with an airbrush, such was the smoothness of the work.


Before I knew it, it was time for the prize giving and awards ceremony.


With the grateful recipients of said awards going home with a unique hand made glass trophy, the crowds started to disperse and the tattooists had a well deserved stretch, rubbed their tired eyes and the traders started to break down their stalls after what was again another very successful Manchester International Tattoo Show.


This year was most defiantly the best one yet held in the Manchester Central and many I spoke to said it captured the feeling of the days when the show was held back in the Piccadilly hotel. Now that is a result and is testament to Jorge and all his staff’s hard work and determination to get the balance just right for everybody.





Black and Grey female

1st. Lindsay, Artist. Rose Price @ Golden Dragon, Chester

2nd. Jen, Artist. Paul Saunders @ Voodoo Tattoo, Warrington


Black and Grey male

1st. Jack, Artist. Leszek @ Gonzo tattoo

2nd.Troy, Artist. Tom Sugar @ Alan’s tattoo, Moreton


Small colour female

1st. Charlotte, Artist. Billy Hay @ Custom Ink, Scotland

2nd. Zoe, Artist. Sweet Larraine @ Elemental Tattoo, Texas


Small colour male 

1st. Jamer, Artist. G Mavridis @ Tattooligans, Greece 

2nd Billy, Artist. Carlos Lopez @ 101 Tattoo, USA


Large colour female

1st. Bee, Artist. Tom Sugar @ Alan’s tattoos, Moreton

2nd. Renol, Artist. G Mavridis @ Tattooligans, Greece


Large colour male

1st. Live, Artist. G Mavridis @ Tattooligans, Greece

2nd. Staylor, Artist. Sake @ Sake Tattoo, Greece


Best portrait

1st. Eddie, Artist. Aivors Leipa @ Alan’s Tattoos, Moreton

2nd. Adam, Artist. Paul Owen @ Naughty needles 


Best old school

1st. Kylie, Artist. Scott Mustapic @ Ink Vs Steel, Leeds

2nd. ED, Artist. Dan Gold @ 13 Ink. Liverpool 


Celtic/Tribal Female

1st. Louise, Artist. Matt @ Bolton tatshop

2nd. Ankela, Artist. Gavin @ 72tattoo


Celtic/Tribal male

1st. Fred, Artist. Tommy @ No Regrets, Cheltenham

2nd. Martin, Artist. Joe Myler @ JMD’s, Waterford


Sleeve tattoo female

1st. Emma, Artist. Bob Holye @ Garghoyle, Eland

2nd. Hayley, Artist. Sista Sammy @ Fallen Angel, Liverpool


Sleeve tattoo male

1st. Peder Aspelin, ,Artist. Noi Siamese @ 1969 Tattoo

2nd. Graham, Artist. Mark the Shark @ 13 Ink Tattoo, Liverpool


Best of Saturday

Livez, Artist. G Mavridis @ Tattooligans, Greece


Best of Sunday

Rena, Artist. G Mavridis @ Tattooligans, Greece


Text: Neil Photography: Neil & Alex