As sailors were the first Europeans to get tattooed, it is fitting that The International London Tattoo Convention has made Tobacco Dock it’s home for the last several years. There are pirate ships moored outside and much dockyard ephemera still sits about this (usually) abandoned part of Tower Hamlets.
Nowadays, of course, it’s not just old sailors sat drinking in the British Legion who have tattoos, it’s become a bit of a cultural phenomenon. All walks of life sport some sort of ink now, but let’s be honest, many of them are a bit naff or predictable at best. You’ll not find red devils or Chelsea FC badges being inked here though, this is the elite, arty end of the business.
Famous tattoo artists from all over the world are invited here, and wandering round you begin to get an idea of what’s hot in the world of body art. Lots of Chicano artists in attendance again, with their smoky grey patterns and beautiful girls in clown make-up very prevalent. Lots of Mexican Day of The Dead imagery too – it seems south of the border is where it’s at for tattoo fans right now.
However, it’s not just about getting inked, the whole alternative lifestyle is celebrated here. There’s lots more to enjoy if needles aren’t your thing. Burlesque dancer Elegy Ellem entertains with a strip that goes from Jabba the Hut to sexy Princess Leia (really!).
Legendary artist Vince Ray plays rockabilly in the Voodoo Crypt with his Boneshakers. Graffiti artists work on giant canvasses in the atrium and Sailor Jerry Rum is swigged by thirsty punters. Just like the sailors of yore I suppose.
It’s around £20 for a day ticket to this colourful weekend event. If you like tattoos, rock n roll, acres of exposed flesh, crazy art and good booze then this is money well spent. If you don’t, well then why the hell are you reading this?!