The Great British Tattoo Show – Day 2

I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect from my day at The Great British Tattoo Show last Sunday at Alexandra palace.

Day 2 Graffiti Wall
Day 2 Graffiti Wall

I was slightly apprehensive having done some hasty research on the web about the history of this convention prior to my involvement.

It would appear that amongst the more hard-core elite of the tattoo community a boycott was to take place against the show as well as Skin Deep Magazine, and this is, “Absolutely what tattooing does not need.” (Source – Tattoos Day UK)

So was it really a convention designed to leech off of the tattooist elites? Was it actually a thinly veiled conspiracy to create a capitalist cash in by the creators and their major supporters Skin Deep Magazine? In a word, no.

What it was, was actually one of the most enjoyable days out I’ve had this year, a convention put on and hosted by some of the nicest and most amiable event staff I’ve ever met and a full eight hours surrounded by quirky, weird and wonderful events accompanied by several hundred smiling and happy attendees. Well, truthfully there were a couple of frowny faces at certain choice moments but I’ll get to that later.

I’d like to begin with everything The Great British tattoo Show got right, which was in all honesty probably 90 percent of what they set out to achieve. Firstly, as a venue for such an event I believe they couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place than Alexandra Palace. The light, airy feel of the inside kept the blazing hot sunshine beating down outside a treat to enjoy.

A hardcore tattoo fan
A hardcore tattoo fan

Roughly a quarter of the venue was dedicated to the roller derby championships taking place, whilst the rest held a well designed balance of tattoo stalls, the fashion/events stage and of course the obligatory roped off model cars which seem to be a stalwart of every convention ever conceived of for some inexplicable reason.

Strolling through the stalls and stands surrounded by the usual denizens found wandering Camden High Street amidst the incessant buzz of the tattooists needles gave the impression of being in some form of bizarre Lynchian bee-keeping documentary. It was an almost out of worldly experience.

Stopping to chat to the artists and vendors was always a nice experience, you could tell everyone was enjoying themselves and getting a great chance to show off their skills and practise their trades. After bartering with a few different people I decided on getting myself a small version of PacMan scribbled on my wrist from two beautiful Italian tattooists of Blessed Tattoo Studio for a very reasonable price.

The events put on were numerous but set up in such a way that there was always time to slip out into the sunshine and soak up some rays before the next big show. Notable mentions were the stunning models of both the Monster Ladies lingerie show and the Fetasia Latex show, although some of them did look as if they wished they could have been anywhere else.
The roller derby championships admittedly went a little over my head at first having never seen a ‘jam’ before, but it was excellently explained to me by the lovely members of the London Rockin’ Rollers.

The day’s proceedings were excellently topped off by the mind-blowing Nympherno Girls whose show consisted of angle grinders; fire breathing and choreographed pyrotechnics displays worthy of the highest quality Rammstein music videos.

There was an after party for all attendees but unfortunately I was unable to take any more action, I was completely exhausted and done in by six o’clock, although happily so.

Roller Derby girls watching roller derby
Roller Derby girls watching roller derby

I mentioned at the beginning of this review a certain factor of the show that was less than impressive, and I cannot stress enough how nicely I am putting this. That major issue was the choice of compare. At first I thought it was a simple mistake by the organisers, that they had gone for the cheapest comedian they could find and didn’t realise how his style of humour was completely irrelevant and out of place with the vibe of the audience, but it turns out he was actually the same compare used the previous year.

I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt in saying that maybe it was just me that didn’t ‘get it’, but it was very clear from the swift exit of most of the revellers as soon as he took centre stage and the general groans and murmurs of discontent at his corny lines that he was simply an awful, awful choice for a host.

Despite that, all in all for me, Sunday was a thoroughly pleasant great British day out at the People’s Palace. I certainly hope to be attending again next year, just please get a new compare. For your own sakes!

Check out our video highlights from the event:

Written, filmed and edited by Duncan Stevens, Photography by Guillermina Enquin


  1. I was at the show to be tattooed by an artist from the Netherlands; both he and I had some problems with the venue and the organisation. Having everything in one huge room was not good; in particular, the noise from the roller derby and other events was a constant annoyance. Several of the artists I spoke to were very irritated by the distractions of the sudden loud noises from starting horns, referee whistles and the compere trying to raise interest in the next act. I also though the event was a bit lost in the huge space, which was a bit soulless. Even though they were a source of irritation, I felt sorry for the entertainers trying to work with a tiny (compared to the space) and transient audience

    The Brighton Tattoo convention, earlier this year, was much more fun and friendly. The entertainment events and the refreshment space were areas, greatly reducing the distraction but also not dwarfing the entertainers (giving them an audience which filled the room and mostly stayed put for the duration of an act). The rooms with the artists’ booths felt much more intimate without being cramped. More importantly, the loudest noise in those spaces was the buzz of tattoo needles – as it should be!

    If the same people are organising this show in the same way in the same venue, next year, then I won’t be interested in going back.

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