Tattoo Convention Manchester '09

Published: 01 May, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 171, April, 2009

Recession, What recession? Judging by the amount of eager ink collectors queuing outside the Manchester Central (Formerly the GMex), there is no such thing. I have long believed that as an industry tattooing will survive this so called economic downturn and pretty much every one I spoke to over the weekend said that they were as busy as ever.


I know there are thousands of unfortunate individuals being made redundant but tattoo collectors seem to make sure they save a little cash for their next fix of ink. Let’s face it; getting tattooed makes you feel good and gives you a smile each time you leave the studio, and that has to be a good thing when all the media is doing is spouting doom and gloom at us.

This show, as with the Brighton convention in January, proved to me that tattoo conventions in the UK are still going strong and if these two very well organised shows are anything to go by we will have a very good year for tattoo events.

As I mentioned earlier, the queue outside was very healthy for a Saturday and the feeling inside prior to the doors opening was one of good cheer and expectation of a fun weekend ahead of us all.

This is the second year that Jorge and his crew have held the convention at Manchester Central, moving from their old home at the Piccadilly Hotel. I heard from a few people that ‘it's not as good as the Piccadilly' but I would have to disagree. The Central is a wonderful venue with more amenities and scope to improve and expand as the show grows. Jorge did the right thing as far as I am concerned and moved, at some considerable cost, I might add, to the Central.

The doors opened at eleven and in came the crowds, many with pre-booked appointments, others looking at portfolios and hoping to get a tattoo on the off chance of some space becoming available with their chosen artist.

Manchester always plays host to a good selection of artists and this year was no different, with close to one hundred tattooists willing and eager to apply ink to skin.

There were such diverse styles and techniques to cater for all tastes, from demonic black and grey work from the machines of Liorcifer - New York and Alan Hale -Alzone, to eye wateringly colourful work from Gerry Carnelly – Octopus Tattoo and Rob Radcliffe – Border Rose as well as Traditional work from some overseas visitors such as Musashi – Japan and Fuiavailili – New Zealand.

Some new faces this year were guys like Ollie XXX who hails from Canada but resides in Sweden. His New/Old school work is just stunning, the quality of his line work and colour saturation is second to none and what a nice guy to boot. (Ollie will be working Tattoo Jam in August). Also a first timer was Liorcifer from Tribulation Tattoo. Lior was over sharing a booth with convention virgin, Mickey ‘Renshi' Hall who owns Ki Ink and Steel in Dagenham. Both guys were busy all weekend and turning out some real nice B&G work and generally lowering the tone of the show with their banter. That's what tattoos shows should be about; having fun and good tattoos, and both were more than prevalent.

Older but none the less as enthusiastic artists included, Emma Kierzek from Aurora Tattoo in Lancaster and I have to say Emma's work has really stepped up a level. She had always produced some nice work but her new work that I saw this weekend was incredible. (Check out the B&G angel on these pages). The boys (Olly and Simon) from Hope and Glory were there having started their tattoo tour of most of the conventions in the UK, Matt From Inkwerx in Hull was also in attendance as was Dave ‘Da Buddha', Mick Tomo, Steve Potton and many more tattoo luminaries.

Last year, being a new venue, there seemed to be some empty gaps around the venue but these were filled this year to good effect with tables and chairs, which can sometime be overlooked at shows.

The effervescent Johnny Dee claimed the main stage and kept the crowd entertained all weekend. Johnny is a lovely bloke and his stage shows are great but I know some aren't too keen, but you need someone who can keep the punters entertained and keep the weekend rolling along seamlessly and he did this with his unique brand of comedy and banter.

I spent a good portion of my weekend in the very conveniently-placed photo booth directly behind the Skin Deep Merchandise Stand (other organisers please take note – this works so well for getting good photo coverage!) but I did mange the odd foray out and about and judging by the amount of folk in the isles, numbers were way up on last year. I don’t know if the standard of tattooing has improved significantly but the quality of tattoos that I get to see at this show improves annually. Tattoos of note were Tom Sugar's wonderful portrait of Johnny Depp from the film Sweeny Todd, a stunning, ongoing back piece on a very brave nineteen-year-old girl by Max MacAndrews at Old Town Tattoo, a very sweet and well-executed old school Owl by Ollie XXX, an amazing Bio Mechanical sleeve by one of the Studio 81 Guys; oh, I could go on for ages...

Saturday's judging best of show was a mammoth task by all accounts, with forty-five entrants and only one or two points between first and third place, such was the quality of tattoos on show. Sunday's judging was just as difficult.

For me, Manchester is one of those tattoo conventions that just seems to have the perfect blend of international and homegrown tattoo talent, good venue, friendly atmosphere, not overpriced food and drink, and overall just a good fun weekend and long may it continue.

There are big plans for next year's show so watch this space...


Is there any good news at the moment? Whilst I know we should all keep abreast of the problems facing the world today, it's so tempting to remain in the (almost) perpetually joyous cocoon of the tattooing world and isolate ourselves from stories of inept financial institutions and total governmental failure. After such a formidable showing of smiling faces and chipper tattoo aficionados in Manchester this weekend, I'll take the cocoon, thank you!

Saturday began with the usual story of an item of unimaginable importance being left at our office; this resulted in me nipping out on a reconnaissance mission to unearth some sticky-backed Velcro (and believe me, this stuff is more sought-after than a ticket to a Suicide Girls' hot-tub party). Upon my return, I had to wade through a crowd of eager enthusiasts swarming around the front entrance, clamouring to make their way inside; it was apparent that the show would be a smidgen busier than last year… As the doors opened, people spilled through like an endless wave in a bid to explore the venue and discover who was where, fervently filling the aisles with activity.

The room was lit up beautifully everytime the sun bothered itself to shine for us, cascading in through the vitreous panelling and filling Manchester Central with a hint of early spring, a stark contrast to the distinctly wintry conditions that persisted throughout the two days. However, we cared not for Mancunian meteorology, because if there is one thing that the Manchester show ensures, it’s that outstanding tattoos just materialise from the ether - the number of people attending the show that sport the kind of work that makes you want to take a scouring pad to your own skin is ridiculous! Proud bearers paraded a constant stream of eye-popping ink around the venue, and as Neil mentioned, having the photo booth located directly behind the stand paved the way to many a fleshy work of art being documented with ease, and we would be eternally grateful if all shows were this simple to snap!

The location is going from strength to strength for the organisers and 2009's convention definitely appears to have acclimatised to its new abode; last year there were strong overtones of it being a small show in a large room, but Jorge et al have found a way to spread the proverbial wings of the Manchester Tattoo Show and this time around it felt as though the convention belonged in Manchester Central. The inclusion of tables around the central area of the main room where people could hang out and consume a beverage or seven certainly injected some life into the room, and also gave them the opportunity to observe the artists working up on the raised booths. A separate bar was provided for artists and traders, enabling provisions to be acquired swiftly for those working the show so that they could scuttle quickly back to their stalls. I'm none too sure how patrons of the event felt about this, but we certainly appreciated it!

It was a touch disappointing to discover that the panels dividing each booth were as tall as the rear panels, thus rendering any contact with your weekend neighbours impossible, and it did inevitably restrict the atmosphere to an extent. However, the constant bustle of attendees ensured that the vibe remained anything but stagnant and everyone I encountered appeared to be in fine spirits.

Big thanks go to Jorge and his crew for a hospitable reception and another weekend of tattooing goodness that was once again a pleasure to partake in. The Manchester International Tattoo Show has firmly established its presence in the Central venue – it looks and feels like it belongs there now – and I honestly believe that it will continue to evolve and surpass the ever-increasing standards that it sets for itself.


Text: Neil and Alex Photography: Neil, Alex, Annabelle Neale


Skin Deep 171 1 April 2009 171