REPORTER AT LARGE—TIM COLEMAN
Our reporter across the pond is longtime friend and contributor Tim Coleman. Although Tim has been spending the last few years making videos about extraterrestrials and voices from beyond, Tim has produced numerous images and stories that have raised eyebrows and surprised many readers back when I edited Skin&Ink. Always a top-notch photographer, Tim was kind enough to send along some snaps from the 10th Annual London International Tattoo Convention.
10th LONDON INTERNATIONAL TATTOO CONVENTION
First held in 2005 the London International Convention has morphed into the largest and most spectacular tattoo convention in the world. Originally located in the Old Truman Brewery in London’s ultra trendy East End, the convention has hugely out grown its initial venue and was forced, in 2007, to find a far larger one. Now held at Tobacco Dock, which is only stone’s throw from one of London’s most famous land marks, Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge, although perennially popular with tourists from around the world, could not even begin to compete with the immense pulling power of the London Convention, which now attracts around 30,000 people over three days (Sept 26, 27 and 28.) The organizers of the convention pulled off a brilliant publicity stunt, when, in 2009, they were immortalized in the Guinness Book of World Records. They broke the record for the largest number of people being simultaneously tattooed: a staggering 178.
I’m not sure if this record was again broken at the 2014 convention, but I wouldn’t be surprised since there were over 300 tattooists working feverously among the vast and cavernous Victorian architecture. Some of the best artists included Filip Leu, Nervio, Diego Mannino, Ching, Hua, Yang, Chris Crooks, Carlos Torrst, Brent McCown, Anna Paige, Bugs and many, many more. For a more complete list go to http://www.thelondontattooconvention.com/artists-2014/.
I was pleased to see that both Lal Hardy and George Bone also had booths and were busy working. Certainly Lal Hardy deserves a huge place of honor since it was his collaboration with three other British tattooists in the ’80s and ’90s that resulted in the first big U.K. tattoo conventions, held in Dunstable.
It’s astonishing to realize now, but before this tattooing in the U.K. was a completely closed shop and conventions were not open to the public. Dunstable changed all that and revolutionized the way the public perceive tattooing, dragging it out of the back streets and into the mainstream. It was the popularity of these initial conventions that laid the ground for the massive popularity of today’s London super conventions.
As well as hosting some of the best tattooers from around the world the convention put on a dazzling selection of performers and entertainers including: Lucky Hell, “The Sword Swallowing Painted Lady”; The Fuel Girls; The Nerdy Stripper, Burlesque performer Elegy Ellem; Les Soeurs Tribales, a Tribal Bellydance & Modern Urban Fusion Dance troupe from Italy; and pinup Sabina Kelley.
In addition to this the convention hosted a number of fabulous art exhibitions including paintings and sculpture from a number of tattooists that had previously been exhibited at the hugely prestigious Courtauld Gallery in London. An event that in of itself carries great significance and shows how far tattooing has come in its containing effort to become a respected mainstream art form. There is no doubt that each year the London Convention continues to outdo itself, and its reputation as the world’s largest and most spectacular tattoo event seems certain to endure for some time.
Call me old fashioned and elitist, but I can’t help thinking nostalgically about my first tattoo convention organized by the Tattoo Club of Great Britain, in 1985. It was small, a few hundred people. It was intimate; everyone knew each other. It was closed to the public, so no gawkers, and the standard of tattooing was, by today’s standards, dreadful. But it was also charming and magical. Perhaps today’s super conventions, in their efforts to attract ever-greater numbers, have lost some of this magic. Perhaps the innocence has been lost and the corporatization of tattooing has well and truly taken over. Either that or I’m just getting old.
For more information go to http://www.thelondontattooconvention.com.
—Text and Photos by Tim Coleman
Note: Click images to enlarge