Newport Convention '09

Published: 17 November, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 174, July, 2009

This year is Shaun and Pam’s fourth attempt at hosting the Newport Tattoo convention and I must say this show gets better and better. I missed last year’s due to prior commitments but I have had the pleasure of attending all the others and like a fine wine, the show improves with age. Shaun obviously knows a thing or two about tattoo conventions having worked umpteen shows up and down the country himself, so he has brought all the good bits that he has experienced over the years to his own convention.

Newport is now the only surviving South Walian tattoo show (with the exception of a brand new one on the calendar to be held in Tenby this year) so it holds the mantle for the Welsh shows and one that sets the benchmark for all others.

   Maybe for this reason or maybe word has got around the Newport show is a good show; that the numbers of tattoo fans coming through the doors has increased steadily to this year's crescendo of convention goers.

   Whatever the reason Shaun and his gang of loyal helpers (many of whom are regulars at his Images on Skin Tattoo Studio) did their darndest to make everyone more than welcome and looked after all their needs, tattooing or otherwise.

   As the doors creaked open at the Newport centre to the awaiting public, the fifty or so tattooists steadied themselves for a weekend of inky fun and all I spoke to said that the venue, which had had a bit of a redesign as to where the booths went, was by far the best arrangement yet.

   The whole show was on split-levels with all of the tattooists working in a block/aisle style arrangement with the traders and sundry goods upstairs.
Shaun went with a new idea that I haven’t seen over here yet but is quite often seen at some of the foreign shows; body painting.

   On the balcony there were three or more of the UK’s best body painters in attendance showcasing their talents on what must have been some very patient models. These guys must have stood stock still for more than four or so hours to allow themselves to be adorned with paint and other body accoutrements. These artists were working constantly all weekend and the results were shown off on each evening. The finished bodies looked amazing and drew many admiring glances from the public (whether that was because of the art work or the naked ladies parading themselves, I’ll leave up you to decide!). Suffice to say it was a real nice extra touch and considering the amount of tattoo shows going on in the UK now, a nice new feature to the proceedings.

   The weekend progressed with the attending artists getting down to business. Obviously being a Welsh show, there were many of the ‘land of my fathers’ finest tattooists in attendance.  Guys like, John Treharne and Brim (Skin Creations), Chris Jones and Phil (Physical Graffiti), Chris Govier (Body Art Tattoos) Bryn (Living Colour) and Lee Hadfield (Studio 7) to name but a few. Other ‘usual suspects’ were; The Priestly brothers (Skinshokz), Michael Rose Tattoos, Robb and Ruth (Eternal Tattoos), Clive Bilham (Ink 2 Envy) as well as a bunch of other guys, too numerous to mention.

   Wandering around the booths after setting up my photo studio I noticed a lot of interesting work being applied.

   Working a tattoo show by yourself can be a little difficult sometimes. You set up the photo room then what do you do? Wait for folk to come and find you? Or do you get out there and grab one or two folk at a time to photograph, which can be very time consuming?

   I needn’t have worried as again, Shaun had come up trumps and very kindly found me a room just off the main tattooing area to work out of. I put the obligatory Skin Deep photo sign on the door and hey presto, folk started coming in such large numbers.

   I spent the best part of Sunday in my room shooting tattoos of all shapes and sizes.

   There were big ones, small ones, long and short ones (and that was just the people!) and all had a really varied selection of body art to show me.
In the time I managed to escape from the confines of the photo room, I noticed the aisles were heaving with tattoo fans and each booth I walked past had at least one body standing, lying or kneeling getting tattooed. Grabbing a restorative pint, the bar was packed out with thirsty punters as well. So again, tattoo fans bucked the trend about the so-called economic downturn in the UK.

   As the day wore on and the tattoo machines continued with their monotone and strangely hypnotic sound, the music kicked the convention in the pants to liven things up a touch.

   First on was a band called the Rosie Waters Band who covered many good old rock standards then Earth Monkey Band who did covers of Pink Floyd type sounds, neither too intrusive as to upset the working artists.
I had the great pleasure of doing some of the judging for the best of day on the Sunday evening and boy was it difficult! The standard that passed by the judging table was superb and diverse. Myself and the two other judges had a hard time deciding on a winner as we all liked different tattoos that we had seen. Still, that’s why you have three judges.

   Some tattoos of note over the weekend were a great black and grey portrait of Julius Caesar done by Paul Curnock from Tattooland UK in Woking. Considering this was Paul’s first ever portrait, I suggest he does a few more, the quality was amazing. I saw a good selection of work from Simon Ashley from Needle Asylum in Cardiff - great work sir! There was some really Striking Jap work (as you would expect) from John Treharne, including an extremely vibrant Blue Dragon circling a chap’s arm. Lee Hadfield from Studio 7 in Llanelli sent me some very good B&G tattoos to be photographed over the course of the show. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye out for in the future.

   It was good to see some new tattoo faces at the Newport show. Andy Bowler from Monki Do Tattoos in Derbyshire was working his first show. He looked a little nervous to start with but he soon settled down to working over seven hours on a single piece. Now that’s dedication! He also had moral support from many of the fellow artists including cheeky chappy, and convention old-timer – Michael Rose.

   Considering Michael’s relatively young years, he has worked many shows including State of the Art, Tattoo Jam and countless others so he gave Andy the support and encouragement he needed. Andy very soon took to the show like a duck to water.

   As the show is run over the bank holiday weekend on the Sunday and Monday, folk started to filter out of the hall on the Sunday evening, all eager to enjoy the following day either at the show or elsewhere and those that did missed what, for me, was the best act of the event; The Las Vegas Elvis Band.

   These guys are comprised of the ever-insane piercer – ‘Ed the Impaler’ from Chrome Inc in Cardiff and other assorted loonies. He and his merry men set about attacking a catalogue of late Elvis covers with the lead singer cavorting about the stage, surrounding tables, chairs, speakers and anything else he could climb on dressed in a fake Elvis wig, rhinestone encrusted Elvis Presley-esque jumpsuit and continued to bellow out Elvis numbers to great effect. These guys really livened the evening up with their mad-cap antics. God, they were funny and I would recommend them to anyone who is planning an event.

   With the sounds of punky Elvis covers still ringing in my ears, I locked the photo booth and sloped off to my B&B to get ready for the party that Shaun had arranged for the artists and Skin Deep forum members. The theme was heroes and villains and I have spent a bit of time getting my costume ready for what was going to be a good time. Back at the B&B I got myself dressed into my costume, then sat on my bed for a quick cup of tea. The next thing I know, I woke up at three in the morning still on my bed dressed as a gangster, trilby on head and machine gun laid across my lap.

   Now either I nodded off or I had the best night of my life and couldn’t remember any of it! As I wasn’t hung over I can only presume that I missed the party altogether. Apparently Darren Stares, the legendary portrait tattooist from Portsmouth, stole the show by waddling in dressed as The Penguin, much to the delight of all attending.

   The Monday started much as the Sunday had; machines started their merry tune, the smell of green soap intermingled with a faint chlorine smell from the adjoining swimming pool and folk that had queued patiently came through the door.

   Admittedly, there were not as many bodies as the Sunday but it has been proved time and again that Sunday seems to be the busiest day for any show, regardless whether it is held over the weekend or bank holiday. Saying that, the aisles filled up to an acceptable level and the work of judging the comps, listening to the bands and seeing some great ink get done got underway and before too long it was time for the winners of the competitions to be announced. Again, the quality of work on show was very impressive and the standard was extremely high.

   I get to judge at a lot of conventions and I’m always amazed at the quality of UK tattooing. We definitely can hold our heads up with the rest of the world when it comes to skin art and the Newport convention showcased some of this.

   As I mentioned at the beginning of my write-up Shaun, Pam and their team strive to improve the quality of their show constantly and this year was the best yet as far as I and many people I spoke to over the weekend were concerned.

   It just goes to me to thank Shaun and all concerned for yet another great Newport Tattoo Convention and if you are based in the South West area I would wholly recommend getting yourself to Newport for next year’s show.

And the winners are...

Colour Small
1st - Jamie Turner by Lee Clements @ Chameleon, Barry
2nd    - Sam Sorci by Tony Ciavarro @ Stinky Monkey, USA

Colour Large
1st - Jamie Turner by Lee Clements @ Chameleon, Barry
2nd - Stefanie Borkowski by Quadey @ No Regrets

Black & Grey Small
1st - Mark Keogh by Roy Priestley @ Skinshokz, Bradford
2nd - Martin Lambe by Clive Bilham @ Ink 2 Envy, Portsmouth

Black Grey  Large
1st - Ruth Priest by Robb Priest @ Eternal Ink, Dorking
2nd    - Cliffy by Chris Jones @ Physical     Graffiti, Cardiff

1st - Gareth Bush by Quadey @ No Regrets
2nd - Clare Meah by Paul Saunders @ Voodoo Tattoo, Warrington

1st    - Mark Harris by John Treharne @ Skin Creations, Cardiff
2nd - Chris Nichols by John Treharne @ Skin Creations, Cardiff

1st - Mark Keogh by Roy Priestley @ Skinshokz, Bradford
2nd    - Shaun Keating by Roy Priestley @ Skinshokz, Bradford
Best of Sunday
1st    - Mark Keogh by Roy Priestley @ Skinshokz, Bradford
2nd - Jamie Turner by Lee Clements @ Chameleon, Barry

Best of Monday
1st    - Mike Griffs by Michael Rose @ Michael    Rose Tattoo Studio, London
2nd - Lauren Passfield by Emma @ Lady Luck, Portmouth
Best of Convention
Shaun Keating by Roy Priestly @ Skinshokz, Bradford.


Text & Photography: Neil


Skin Deep 174 1 July 2009 174