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Convention to be held in city centre venue for the last time

Tattoo big for Ulster Hall

By Paul Ainsworth


No longer confined to bikers, rockers or jailbirds, body art is big business, with everyone from your mum to your teacher likely harbouring a secret tat somewhere. Like any booming business, a convention for the best of the best is held, and this weekend sees the return to South Belfast of the Northern Ireland Tattoo Convention, where artists from all over the world will come to display designs, meet peers, and of course, do a bit of inking.

Getting bigger each year, this will be the last time the now-annual gathering will take place in the Ulster Hall, and plans are afoot for an even bigger venue in South Belfast to hold the thousands expected for next year’s bash.

In the meantime however, organisers, including Derry tattooist Andy Moore, are planning the biggest and best event they can cram into the Ulster Hall, with live music to accompany the artists during the two-day show.

Andy also revealed that as Titanic imagery is everywhere you look in Belfast, the infamous ship is also likely to make a few appearances on skin canvasses.

“It’s been said for years now, but tattoos really are a growing business, even in recession,” he explained.

“It’s the same all over the world, and for instance, in the US, 75 per cent of all 18-25 year olds have one, while celebrities such as David Beckham and the like show that they aren’t restricted to the old clichés of Hells Angels. Dublin alone, a city racked by recession has 60 tattoo parlours alone.”

The convention will act as a showcase for some of Ireland’s best artists as well as visitors from as far as Poland, and awards will be handed out for the most innovative and striking pieces of work. One of the judges on this year’s panel is famous Belfast artist Terry Bradley, who is known for his images of old-style sailors adorned with body art.

“Last year, Belfast artist Tommy Gunn picked up three awards, and there’s an excitement in the community as to who will be making a name for themselves this year.

“Meanwhile, as we have over 60 stalls, there will be plenty of artwork being created for visitors to see. Basically, we have had to register the whole of the Ulster Hall as a giant tattoo studio, in terms of hygiene. Given the size of the place this is no mean feat, as we have to have plastic covering everywhere, but if people wish to be tattooed during the convention, it’s essential to make it sterile. Hygiene is foremost in the minds of all good tattooists.

“One design I predict will be big is the Titanic, given the mania surrounding the ship in Belfast right now. A colleague of mine has just returned from a convention in Portugal, where he did nothing but Titanic tattoos.”

Looking to the future, Andy added: “As it is we are simply outgrowing the Ulster Hall, and we are aiming for something like the Kings Hall next year, which we hope to secure. This is becoming Ireland’s foremost tattoo event, and we need a venue capable of holding it as it grows.”

The NI Tattoo Convention 2012 takes place on April 28 and 29. For more information visit

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