What could possibly be more fun than a weekend by the seaside? Stick the best weather of the year in there and mix together with a badass tattoo convention.

The 12th annual Brighton Tattoo Convention came upon us again with its usual ferocious and unapologetic style. In the weeks leading up to the convention some of the major faces, (and bodies), of this years convention were flying high over the Brighton seafront as part of their advertising campaign.

Photography by Jimmy Tibs Davies
Photography by Jimmy Tibs Davies

Being one of the most talked about parts of the event, artists such as Lal Hardy, Felix Seele, Hollie Pryce-Jones and Paula Castle were on banners 30 feet high with their tattoos on show as part of the branding. When I caught up with Paula she said ‘it’s something I felt I needed to do, to make sure every different size of person was represented because I’m a curvy girl and I feel that’s not represented enough in this industry’.

So, as the Tattoo Generals stood to attention over Brighton, they waited for the army of the inked to arrive on the 23rd and 24th of February.

It is said Brighton has a very serious, high calibre line up, but it’s a convention that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It seemed that the usual convention stress levels and tense setting up atmosphere were replaced with laughing and enjoyment. Maybe this is the infectious nostalgia of being by the Brighton seaside – Lal Hardy was telling me that he would come to Brighton as a child to visit his grandparents and has many happy memories, and Chris Stockings told me that he used to perform with his band in here and the crowds were always great. Whatever it was, the spirits were high and this continued all weekend.

Brighton Tattoo Convention 2019
Brighton Tattoo Convention 2019

On day one people were desperate to get inside and escape the beautiful sunny weather outside to start snapping up the walk-up appointments, within minutes the tattoo machines were buzzing and the inks were flowing.

Mike Stockings and Sneaky Mitch were two of the first blasting out the colour which saw them both picking up a ‘Best of Show’ award for Saturday. Mike’s piece was a cows head with his signature neon glow in a breath-taking turquoise, while Mitch’s was a possessed like hare with autumn foliage taking centre stage.

During the afternoon I was able to get some time with artist Neil Dransfield and asked him what he thinks about the Brighton Convention and the ‘fun work’ atmosphere. ‘I’ve done the convention five times and the list each year gets better and better, and with that the vibe gets better – which is a contradiction because it should get more stressful but it never does’ he said.

After the partying of Saturday night the energy was still high at the start of day two- this time the queuing down the street was accompanied by the Brighton Half Marathon. With some of the hardcore runners donning their medals as they got tattooed later in the day.
Stephanie Melbourne’s piece was the talking point of the show. A crisp lined, crying woman’s face with satisfying flesh tones and the pop of a red crystal necklace which allowed Stephanie to take home the ‘Best of Show’ award.

Neil Dransfield by Danny Woodstock
Neil Dransfield by Danny Woodstock

With the charity football match, piercing, art gallery, bars and traders, Brighton Convention was much more than just tattoos. One of the main moves was allowing the traders stalls to be intermingled with the artists booths – an unconventional step in convention world. One trader Hobo Jack clothing, a purely tattoo inspired brand, said, ‘We never stopped selling T-shirts all weekend, people wanted to buy, ask questions and sign up to new offers’.
The organisation of Brighton allowed a continuous energy enjoyed by all, until the sunset behind the burnt out West Pier on Sunday.

Don’t miss our report on next issue of Tattoo Life!