Pro Custom Bike and Tattoo Show, Newark Show ground

Published: 18 February, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 138, October, 2006

What is it with tattoos and bikers? They go together seamlessly and you can guarantee to see a good percentage of bikers sporting a plethora of tattoos. Go to any rally, custom bike show or rock venue and there will be acres of tattooed skin on show.

This is something that Stez, one of the organisers of the Pro-custom bike show has noticed and used to enhance his custom bike shows. Stez, not being shy of the tattooists needle himself, has a pair of superb Celtic inspired sleeves, skilfully applied by the ‘King of Celtic’, John Sargerson from Celtic Art Tattoo in Chesterfield. 

So Stez and the crew thought it was a logical step to include a tattoo section when organising the Pro custom show. The Pro custom show in its third year, showcases this countries best custom bike building talent and has given birth to the UK Biker Build off. This is similar to the American Biker Build off TV show aired on the Discovery Channel. The aim is for six custom bike builders to each hand build a custom bike and ride the bike to a pre-destined show for final judging. This year hosted the second year of the competition but had moved to Newark from its original home of Doncaster.

On the weekend of the show, the sun was out and the bloody football was on so what better excuse did I need to jump on my bike and head for Newark with my trusty camera to get some photos of great looking custom bikes and some equally great looking custom tattoos. For me, spending the weekend in the company of top quality custom bikes and being surrounded by lots of beautiful ink is my idea of heaven and as I said earlier, even the sun decided to grace us with its presence – result!

As I arrived at the Newark Showground, I was greeted with the sight of a sea of bikes in the car park. There were hundreds of them. I always have a good mooch about the car park at these events as you can spot some great looking machinery that often wouldn’t look too out of place in the show. 

Grabbing my ‘Do you know who I am pass’ (press pass), I wandered into the hall that played host to the Pro Custom show. I’m not sure what I was expecting as I have been to loads of this type of event, but I wasn’t prepared for the sight of probably the best collection of choppers I have seen outside of the Rat’s Hole custom Show in Daytona. The hall was so bright and looked like it still had wet paint on the walls, it looked so new.

It wasn’t long before I heard the familiar and somehow comforting sound of tattoo machines working. Stez has a good working relationship with top tattooist John Sargerson so it made sense that he asked John to come along to the show with some of his tattooists to ply their trade. John also agreed to do the judging for the tattoo competition so luckily for me I had the opportunity to wander about the showground and drool over the bikes and hunt down tattoos and try to convince the wearers to enter the competition. I was quite surprised by the lack of interest of folk in showing off their ink but as soon as John got Spoonie to work her charms on the passing crowds, the line up of people wanting to have their work judged was pretty long for both days.

To protect people’s modesty there was a small room used for the piercing for folk to show the judge their work and this was then photographed for this ‘ere tome and also filmed for the up and coming DVD of the show. I was impressed at the quality of the tattoos that were being shown and they ranged from small arm bands to a lady with pretty much a full body suit.

John had brought two of his tattooists with him to work the weekend. Both Gary and Nicola have been with John for a while now, each bringing different styles and influences to Celtic Art Tattoo Studio. Both guys seemed pretty busy most of the weekend, working from their clean and hygienic booths.

A stroll outside had me drooling over some incredible custom bikes that were in the ride-in show and some beautifully looked after custom cars and hot rods. Oh, I could just about have taken them all home given half the chance. Being a bit of a hoarder, I also couldn’t resist a rummage through the auto jumble stalls and ended up buying stuff that I know will come in handy –  one day.

This was the second year for the UK Biker Build – Off and the quality of custom bikes was as good as last year ranging fromw a real Old Skool, springered bobber running a Brit JAP Motor and barley twist frame to an incredible bike and ‘erm, side car that doubled as a fully working bar, supplying lashings of Hog’s Back real ale. So all you have to do is ride the bike and sidecar to your chosen destination, unhitch the sidecar and party on. It sure beats turning up to a shindig with a warm ‘Party Seven’ under your arm.The tattoo and bike show was pretty quiet on Saturday partly due to three reasons. The World Cup, the change of venue and the fact that the sun was cracking the flags that it was almost unbearable to go out in open.The first year of the convention in ‘Donnie’ was quiet too but the following year was heaving so hopefully this will be the trend at Newark. Next year we will, (thank god) be football free too so expect an influx of punters.

Watching last year’s Biker Build off programme, I noticed that every one of the builders had loads of tattoos. Even part of the show was dedicated to following Tooty and Phil Piper on a trip to their tattooists such is the cross over between tattoos and bikes. Again this year, many of the builders had their skin art on show.

If you are a fan of either or both custom bikes and tattoos, you could do a lot worse than get yourself along to the Newark Showground for next year’s Pro Custom bike Show. A huge thanks goes out to Stez and his crew for making me feel very welcome and for all their help and all the guys at Celtic Art Tattoo just for being nice. See you next year…