Skin Deep 178

By now, the London Tattoo Convention will be over and there will be one tattooist that has a rather nasty taste in his mouth. 

Jeff Gogue from Oregon was turned back for not having the correct paperwork/visa.

Having spent an uncomfortable seventeen hours on a plane, then being held in UK customs for a further seven hours, he and his daughters were sent back home.

Speaking to Jeff the weekend before at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering, he was so excited to be coming over to work the show but he seemed even more pleased to be bringing his two daughters with him for a brief (but anticipated) sightseeing trip.

Jeff did what he has always done when visiting the UK and told the truth; that he will be at the London convention and will be tattooing for tips, hotel rooms, etc, but this time the customs officer proved to be a little more officious and gave Jeff the third degree and decided to send him and his girls packing back to the States.

This was not only a real blow to Jeff and his daughters but also a big loss for the London convention organisers and the folk who had been looking forward to getting tattooed by Jeff or just to stand by his booth and watch the great man work. Now there are two ways that you can look at this situation.

Some may say that he should have filled in the correct paperwork and applied for a work visa, which can take ages, and if he came over here and worked then surely he should be paying tax on his earnings?

If that is the case then I’m afraid that is a little shortsighted, in my opinion. 

Secondly, all the tattooists that I know of that come over here to go to conventions will not only have to pay for their flights, book accommodation, pay for food and drink but nearly everyone will go home with a pile of books, artwork, tattoo machines and much more, leaving any (or more, in some cases) of the money they earn in the UK, therefore putting the sterling straight back in the economy; at the same time swelling the coffers of the British traders that they have bought their goods from.

Now surely that can only be a good thing?

This situation with America really is a shame as artists from the European communities can come and go as they please and work freely over here; not to mention the thousands of illegal workers going about their jobs in the UK on a daily basis, yet say, a few hand-chosen artists can’t come over for a weekend to do a few tattoos and enrich the UK tattoo scene with their obvious talents. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have situation similar to Southern Ireland whereby artisans such as musicians, artists, poets, sculptors (but NOT tattooists, strangely enough) do not have to pay tax on earnings made for the sale of their art; this would surely ease the transatlantic tattoo trade enormously, helping to increase the crossover of tattoo talent from all continents.

Or perhaps the hoops that a tattooist has to jump through are too complicated and long winded? There are sponsors to be sought, guarantors to find, as well as the monetary costs involved then months of waiting not knowing if they can go ahead and book flights, hotels and all the other travel arrangements that have to be made to make a trip go smoothly; not to mention the uncertainty of not knowing whether to take tattoo bookings or not.

I know of another tattooist from the States that was told that he had to have at least £3000 in his bank account before he even applied for a visa!

It’s a sad reflection on society that all we do is think that overseas travellers are coming over to rip us off or blow us up; people are fearful to travel and I personally hate going through border controls knowing that if the customs officer is having a bad day I can be turned around and sent home without as much as a reason why.

With more and more tattoo conventions taking place all over the globe, would it not be a logical thing for the world’s governments to come up with a simpler and more convenient way of allowing artisans to visit their chosen country and show off their talents to all? Art, in whatever form, should not have to face bureaucratic borders, as I thought it was supposed to break down social barriers? Or am I being a little too optimistic? All the time we are scared of reprisals for actions taken by a minority. Let all art be available for all!

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