Injecting some colour

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Thousands of tattoo fans made the trip Doncaster Racecourse to visit Jazz Publishing’s Tattoo Jam. Stand Out caught up with the event’s organiser, Shelley Curry…

It was one of those assignments where you just didn’t know what you were going to see, but one that you also knew would open your eyes to new experiences. Upon arrival at Doncaster Racecourse, all that walked towards me were a pair of eyes… the face, shaved head and neck of said individual were just a sea of colourful tattoos. I was here to meet Shelley Curry, previously events manager at Chester racecourse and now events manager at Jazz Publishing. Today sees the start of Tattoo Jam, a three-day event that pays homage to the body art, and it’s not a show for the feint hearted.

Tattoo Jam is utilising all available space. The racecourse’s entrance hall has been transformed into a retail village and the Lazarus exhibition hall is home to 306 stands and 232 tattoo artists. On the first floor, there are catering areas, the second floor is housing a tattoo museum, and the Conduit suite and third floor is hosting seminar areas.

Tattoo Jam is the convention of Skin Deep, Jazz Publishing’s flagship tattoo magazine, and 2010 sees its third outing. In 2008, the show took place in North Wales, soon outgrowing the venue and so in 2009 the decision was taken to up sticks and move. Doncaster Racecourse was chosen and the site offers the event enough room to grow in coming years.

Curry explains: “Today is Artist Friday, which begins at 2pm and lasts until midnight. It’s an opportunity for tattoo artists from all over the world to network and catch up. Tonight sees a drinks reception and industry awards and the Tattoo Masters Ball. This year we have insisted on a fancy dress theme of Wild West and this is reflected in the show’s branding. There’ll be karaoke and a disco, and over the course of the weekend we are hosting a battle of the bands competition. It’s the first time we have had an outdoor stage outside, and 30 live bands will play and entertain visitors. “

Jazz Publishing has contracted Urban Audio for all staging and AV and Parex Exhibitions in Rotherham for all shell scheme, and as the show gears up to welcome 10,000 tattoo fans, Curry’s attention also turns to tomorrow’s world record attempt for the most people being tattooed at the same time. Tattoo Jam has paid for a Guinness World record adjudicator to visit the event and count the number of people being simultaneously tattooed over a 10-minute period. And an even larger amount of money to find out on the day if the record has been broken. A second world record attempt is also being touted – the largest tattoo convention in the world.

Jobs for the girls… and boys

In 2008, Tattoo Jam attracted just 3,500 visitors and in 2009, 6,500 walked through the show’s doors. The increase in attendance is a positive indicator, with the show’s closest rival – the Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth in Las Vegas – boasting only 170 artists.

To publicise the event, Curry has utilised other titles within the Jazz Publishing stable as well as local press, local radio, Tattoo Fest magazine and Tatowier – international publications with footholds in the Netherlands and Germany.

Ticket giveaways and competitions have been prolific in generating interest but the show’s content in itself is so niche and unique that attracting an audience does not appear to be an issue.

Visitors to the event have the opportunity to get a tattoo whilst on-site and as such Doncaster Racecourse must be licensed as a tattoo studio for the event, adhering to all subsequent health and safety rules and regs.

Curry and her team, which includes Wendy Marks (assistant event manager), Dee Skinner (advertising and sales), David Gamble (artist liaison) and Stuart Mears (support), have worked with Doncaster County Council’s licensing and environmental health team – Jane Connor and Caroline Borgstrom – to address the minefield that is health and safety.

Sterile environments are paramount as are sharps tins for used needles and category A bags for swob disposal. Carpets must be covered in Visquine to stop blood and ink soaking into the flooring and tables must be covered in clingfilm.

Curry continued: “The problem is that other tattoo conventions are run by tattoo studios that invite their mates and have a ‘convention’. My background is events and so I see what works as an event and I don’t think what needs to work as a tattoo convention.”

Splitting the roles and responsibilities, Curry creates blue and pink jobs, allocating pink jobs to female team members and blue jobs to male colleagues. The guys get to operate cherry pickers and hang banners while the ladies take on a more a customer facing role.

So what plans for the future?

Curry plans to develop the show at Doncaster Racecourse over the next three years, as at the moment she feels that Tattoo Jam is only reaching a local market. The potential to grow is vast and there’s the opportunity to break more world records.