Newport Tattoo Convention

Tattoo [node-title]
Published: 28 June, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 187, June, 2010

Many moons have passed since my past sojourns to Wales’ southern reaches; once for a rugby tour, and once to compete as part of a choir in the Eisteddfod (Wales’ national arts celebration)…but I don’t want to linger on that.


I arrived bleary-eyed on the Sunday morning and was immediately greeted by Pam and Shaun, both warmly welcoming me to the show that they have built over the past five years. Neil’s enthused about Newport a great deal in past issues 

of Skin Deep and I was keen to discover the magic for myself. 


Hosted in the Newport Centre, the convention encompassed the venue’s entire main room and was packed with an array of tattooists and vendors, ranging from artists based just down the road to the furthest reaches of the African continent. The balcony above the main area gave visitors an overview of the entire room and a more subdued spot away from the bustle of the floor, including a trade area for tattooists to salivate over new machines and books for the reference library. It’s something of a testament to Newport’s reputation that artists from foreign climes make the journey over here for this bank holiday weekend, and they weren’t alone: queues snaked around the side of the building long before the doors opened as people queued in the burgeoning May sunshine, eager to gain entry. 


I took time out to survey the place after assembling my studio gadgetry and made mental notes of the faces smiling back at me. Brim christened his Nu Rose banner as it received its first convention airing; Terry Fuller was back in full force and as chipper as he’s ever been; Jones and Hatton (the Chrises, or Crises, delete as appropriate) grafted and giggled under the banner of Physical Graffiti; Fil and Toni represented Broad Street Studio; Pert made the trip over from Ireland…a full house in terms of gregarious and talented artists. The initial couple of hours also provide an ample browsing period to see what’s occurring and establishing which pieces I  hope to photograph upon their completion. 


Judging took place behind closed doors, which caught me off guard to an extent and I took to accosting entrants in the corridor as they left the judging room. I’m pretty sure I’d get into a lot of trouble for that kind of thing if I didn’t have some accreditation about my person, but it was undoubtedly the best means of snapping the most outstanding tattoos to appear at the show. I love to see a healthy range of subject matter and I wasn’t disappointed: portraits, pin-ups, realism and traditional were all strongly represented.


Entertainment took shape in the form of a series of live bands that let rip sonic booms from the main stage, and I won’t lie to you: I’m not a huge fan of this arrangement. The thunderous cacophony emanating from the heavier music on offer has to be distracting if you’re an artist working on a particularly intricate piece, but it obviously had no adverse affect on the tattoos produced over the two days. One thing that did rock my socks was the range in music: no exclusive rockabilly or doom metal bands for a change! I bounced around to the ska covers band that appeared on the Sunday as they jammed out numbers from The Beat, The Specials, and many other 2 Tone classics.


As the Monday instalment of the show arrived, more people lined up to make their way into the Newport Centre for a slice of the action. It’s not the busiest show in the world and frankly, it’s nice to attend a convention that’s a touch more laissez-faire. The ambience is probably best described as homely and warm, with most of the working artists appearing to know each other and the staff all eager to assist in any way that they could. The sun warmed the bones of those supping caffeine-based sustenance and enjoying a crafty snout in the car park, and I got chatting to a few people about their experience thus far. Everyone I encountered loves the Newport show and they return year after year for the craic and the informal atmosphere that permeates the convention hall.


Wrapping up the studio and preparing for a two hundred mile drive jacked up on Rockstar, I had my usual moment of reflection on the weekend’s events. It’s been a while since I attended a smaller show (which is in no way meant to be a derogatory term) and I’d almost forgotten their charm. Whilst I love the bustle and frenetic activity of enormous convention halls, to spend a leisurely couple of days talking to artists and convention goers was a great pleasure and I revelled in the opportunity to garner new information – mmm…tattoo knowledge... (cue Homer Simpson eye glaze).


All in all, Newport is a cracking weekend spent and I thank Shaun, Pam and all of the convention staff for their hospitality. The longer I spent there, the more enamoured I became with the Newport convention’s charm. So much so, in fact, that Neil may have to wrestle the car keys from my hand next year…








Skin Deep 187 28 June 2010 187