When some people picture one day conventions that aren’t in major cities, the same assumptions seem to pop into their heads- cramped booths and cheesy entertainment. Once in a blue moon, this is true, but those people who think like this probably missed out on a good time this September, as the Teesside Convention proved that smaller conventions can be just as, if not more fun than some of the bigger shows!
The Teesside convention is in aid of a charity called the Jo & Mya Foundation. This foundation as founded by Ian Richardson, after losing his wife and daughter in a car accident. They aim to help children who have been affected by the loss of a family member, and those who have been affected by organ donation. It’s a fantastic charity, which helps to alleviate some of the pain these children go through. For the convention, Ian is also joined by Mark Bester, who tattoos at Marked for Life. When their brains are put together, the result is fantastic .
The show took place on a Sunday afternoon right at the end of Summer, in a not-too-chilly Teesside at the Thornaby Aerodrome Club. The friendly venue and free space creates an inviting atmosphere, which was fantastic for a family friendly convention. Those who attended last year’s convention probably noticed straight away the new layout, which included a giant marquee outside to accommodate the trade stalls. Last year, the trade stalls took up a lot of space downstairs, where there could have been more tattooers. With such a small venue, it was great to see the space being used in such a great way, making it so much easier for both guests and those working at the event. Outside also boasted bouncy castles for those younger guests who may not have appreciated what was going on inside, alongside Mickey and Minnie Mouse entertaining around the venue!
Inside, however, was where the real magic happened. This year saw both floors taken up with fantastic tattooers, and hundreds of enthusiasts. With a small show like this, it’s easy to assume that the tattooers attending are all local people who you could be tattooed by at any time; almost taking away the point in attending. However, there were tattooers at this show from all over the country, and the standard of their work was phenomenal. In one corner, Jordan Crooke worked on a Nikola Tesla portrait, while Gary Widenhof in another corner tattooed a fantastic fruit ninja monkey! Meanwhile, Mark Bester tattooed a guy’s skull, and Gray Silva gave a customer his take on Lenin in a Russian style leg piece. The standard of work this year was outstanding, but it was also very diverse, which is just as important. When you’re at a convention that is almost purely about tattooing, you want to see great tattooers there, because you’re interested in seeing them work. Seeing an average tattooer work is boring to a guest at a convention, where the great guys are exciting and captivating- for this, Teesside did not disappoint at all, and seeing the work done on the day was a delight. The only issue with the tattooing was the limited space to see everyone. In one corner of the main room, only a small space separated tattooers, which created crowds and immovable lines, making it all very hot. This is inevitable, due to the shape of the venue, but it is a shame that some tattooers were probably a little hot and claustrophobic!
One visitor who was a little late for the doors opening was Paul Burgum, who arrived in the afternoon after finishing a 104 mile run in aid of the Jo & Mya fund, raising almost £500! Other fundraising events included a tombola and a silent auction, on some absolutely amazing artwork by fantastic tattooers. Prints and the UK Top Tattoo Artists Sketchbook was also on sale for the charity, which pushed the day’s total up even more. Everyone was willing to give whatever they could, even if it was a case of putting their change in one of the money buckets- it was all welcomed and appreciated, instead of forced and expected, like some charity events.
Another thing Teesside really got right was the entertainment. Where some conventions are too noisy for some guests, this one has one band, on in the evening. The band, called Style Selektors, is a really great ska band that catered to the young and old at the show, and didn’t assume what tattooed people like to listen to. The competition was also very organised, and kept the crowd more than entertained as it went on. This year’s competition was in front of the stage rather than on it, which worked surprisingly better, as the crowd around it could marvel at the work on display on entrants’ bodies. Both the band and the competition were great, but weren’t forced on guests either.
Overall, the stars of the show were Mark and Ian, who organised such a great convention. They’ve manged to put on a small convention with outstanding tattooers, and raise a lot of money for charity, too. Not many people would be able to pull off a small show like this, in what feels to some like the middle of nowhere. However, if you can get tattooers of this standard all in one place, and promise a good time, people will come. The show was more than enjoyable, and visitors and tattooers alike commented all the way home how much fun they had. Here’s hoping that this convention makes a return next year.