I first met Reno Sammut back at the Brighton Tattoo Convention (see my blog about it) in April, when I was getting inked by Dan Gold. He was chatting to Dan about a new convention he was setting up, and – as I was a bit of a captive listener – I couldn’t help but join in the chat when I found out that it was literally over the water from my home on the Isle of Wight!
Fast forward three months and once again I’m convention-bound. It’s not a long trip, as I’m on the 10p.15am Hovercraft, then a taxi, then I’m outside the Gaiety Suite entrance of South Parade Pier. This is the first time a tattoo convention has ever been held on a historic pier!
I am one of the first people to arrive but within minutes there is a queue of us starting to decorate the seafront with our tattoos and chatter.
Once the doors were open we proceeded up a slight incline, passing stalls selling clothes and shoes, and already I’m recognising faces from other conventions that I have attended. A quick couple of ‘hellos’ and it’s time to buy my ticket.
Passing the ticket booth leads you into the main hall which kind of took me by surprise after the tight confines of the Gaiety Suite stalls. There are booths spread out in front and to the left of you, and further away on the right you can clearly see a dance floor and a
I almost immediately bump into Reno, and with his words; “Dan’sthroughthereouttheback” ringing in my ears’ he’s past me in a flash and into the throng of people, smiling brightly and pumping hands.
I wander past the cubicles, watching as artists from Germany and Austria set up stall to my right, while artists from the UK and the USA adorn my left. I walk up some small steps, make a mental note of where the bar is (through necessity, of course), and head through a short corridor… into another hall.
This one isn’t as big, but it’s not far off, and only now do I begin to realise just how big a convention Reno has created. And I am impressed.
The man who created and inked the ‘BAM’ tattoo on my left hand is now going to decorate my right hand with something else that is very dear to my heart.
I find Dan’s booth, but can only see a guy rummaging around under the table wearing a red hoodie and baseball cap. Now, as we all know, Dan Gold wears a suit… and…
It isDan, and instead of looking dapper… he looks comfortable. And when I realise that the
Coke can on the front of his hoodie reads ‘enjoy Death’ it finally makes me realise that this weekend is going to be relaxed and fun (?!); as it is already for the convention and the tattooists.
We talk briefly about what I want on my hand, as I had suggested either my older boys’ name – Cameron – or I also mentioned that my (fairly) bare right arm was going to become a zombie sleeve.
“Ok,” said Dan, “that’s the direction we may as well go in.”
The next thing I know and I’m in the chair with Dan drawing various lines and squiggles in bright markers all over my hand. I’ll admit that the shapes meant very little to me, but this is how he did BAM so I have complete faith. The artistic eye can clearly see more than the writers’ eye can…
Now, the problem you’ll encounter when being tattooed by one of the most recognisable people in the business, is that every five minutes someone wants a piece of Mr Gold. He literally IS gold to the people that stop him and ask for photos, autographs and advice. The plus side is that my ugly mug is gonna be in photos all over facebook, as I found out after the Brighton convention!
It takes almost four hours for a two and a half hour tattoo, but I enjoy the experience and don’t complain, and once we’re finished people stop me throughout the rest of the day to talk about my new tat, my BAM tat, and any other tats I have planned! (which I have for next January… a big job by a big name…)
I kill time talking to other convention-goers and taking photos of anyone that will let me, which, at a gathering like this, is everyone!
During my tour a man accidentally clipped the heel of my shoe and we both turned to apologise. He then took a look at my hands and asked if I could follow him quickly for a photograph. He leads me up some stairs along with a couple of other tattooed conventioners he has in tow, and soon all three of us are being photographed for Total Tattoo magazine! Fingers crossed I’ll be in next months issue!
I then slip off to Gunwharf to meet a couple of friends for a vodka before being told by the
bar maid that I might have trouble getting in to their bar later as I have visible tattoos. I refrain from telling her that there are hundreds of people down the road who look like me and may be descending upon her for thirst quenchers later that day.
Nice to know that some peoples’ and establishments’ views are still old-fashioned. Maybe I should introduce them to my 75 year old fellow taxi-driver, George, who has often complimented me on my BAM tattoo. It’s refreshing to know that not everyone’s views are still skewed.
Back to the convention and another walk around and photo-taking session before I catch up with Dan who says we should grab a couple of drinks afterwards.
Actually, his words were ‘Let’s get fucked’, but they carry the same meaning.
Dan still has work to do, so myself and my two good friends, Inman and Matt, go to enjoy the tattooists and bands that fill the pier with the sounds of needles and music, respectively. And if you were watching the band – The Racketeers – you will have seen a half-cut Matt Newton break-dancing on the dance floor, much to the amusement of the lead singer!
Just after this and I see two stunning ladies that I have come across a couple of times that day. I managed to get a few words from one of them before they sauntered off in high heels and short dresses. Next thing I know, the two of them are half-naked on the stage. These girls are the Sweet Harlots. Well done, Reno!
We stop to admire Mr Nu (Thai Tattoo) who has come all the way from Bangkok for the show to show his traditional tattooing methods. Another man who has (literally) come a long way is Lawrenceah Ching – a Samoan tattooist using the stick method. Both men are inundated with requests for tattoos and whenever they work there is a large crowd gathered around them.
One young man had his shoulder tattooed, and – upon seeing him later that night – I forget all about it and give him a hearty slap on the same shoulder in greeting. He winced. I cringed. Then we carried on drinking.
Hannah Aitchison from La Ink and Lal Hardy prove that the convention has pulled out some big guns, but I can safely say that EVERY busy tattoo artist drew a crowd. The throngs of people talked and traded tattoo stories as they watched, and the whole air was one of enjoyment and closeness – something that the larger conventions can lack on occasion.
As a writer covering the show I ask all and sundry how they like their weekend so far and everyone- tattooists, traders, convention-goers alike – are all in agreement that the First Annual South Parade Pier Tattoo Extravaganza has been a big success.
Dan finishes inking some cats on a lady and the bar is hit hard. Soon Reno, Dan, myself and other artists and wristband wearers are all at the bar hitting it hard and drinks are drunk until closing time.
That wasn’t nearly the end of my night, however. But this blog is about the tattoo convention on the pier, not about Jode chewing the fat with Dan in his hotel room, staying in strip clubs for the rest of the night and then finding himself sat in a pole dancers’ lounge at 6am.
That’s another story.