Express yourself at Norwich Body Art Festival

Body art has its roots in ancient cultures, but these days tattoos are increasingly mainstream fashion statements. SIMON PARKIN reports on Norwich's Body Art Festival which draws enthusiasts from across the region.

The buzz of the tattooists' needle will again echo through the unlikely medieval surroundings of St Andrew's Hall this weekend as Norwich hosts the now annual festival dedicated to body art.

Tattoo artists and body art enthusiasts from across the country — and throughout the world — are expected to attend to marvel at inked creations and piercings through the most unlikely of body parts. Some may even be tempted to go under the needle themselves.

The fourth festival — which has seen prices reduced to 2010 levels to reflect economic times — builds on the success of previous years that left an indelible mark on the Norwich alternative scene.

Organisers have this year expanded the scope of the two-day event, which takes place at St Andrew's Hall tomorrow and Sunday, taking in not just tattoos and piercings but all forms of alternative self-expression — from more conventional art works to burlesque and cabaret.

The event is again expected to draw hundreds of people to the historic hall to get their bodies indelibly marked by some of the best in the business.

Among the more than 70 tattooists will be ink artists from around the country, including London, Edinburgh, Leeds and Brighton, as well as the region's best.

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Norwich tattoo artists who will be creating living masterpieces will be Indigo Tattoo, Enter The Void, Sith Tattoo, Ink Addiction and Styx.

In addition Norwich-born artist Paul Roe will also return to his home city, having made a name for himself by establishing a shop in Washington DC and running tattoo community website

This year's event will be held in the two main halls and the ancient cloisters as well as a marquee to house artists, plus a second bar and extra stage.

If inking your skin isn't your idea of self-expression, fear not, because the event also includes performers from around the world including a traditional Japanese hand-tapping artist, cabaret and burlesque artists and live music including Johnny Cash tribute Sun of Cash, The Vagaband and DJ Jazzlord.

There will also be a Festival After Party on Sunday featuring acclaimed burlesque performer Miss Daisy Deluxe and the Juke and the All Drunk Orchestra providing a sinister landscape of lounge-core and exotic sounds to match the twisted cabaret.

Co-organiser Emma Garwood said the weekend was 'a celebration of expression' with graffiti and screen-print artists working alongside piercers and tattooists.

She said: 'It widens your eyes for the weekend, seeing people with their different piercings, hairstyles and tattoos. Even for those who don't want to get tattooed, there are plenty of other things going on. We're just keen to brighten up Norwich for a weekend in August.'

The success of the festival comes as tattoos have become more respectable than ever. Whereas once tattooing was a class thing for soldiers, sailors, bikers and criminals, now they are so main-stream even Samantha Cameron has one (a dolphin, just below the ankle).

One survey found a fifth of all British adults have now been inked. Among 16- to 44-year-olds, both men and women, the figure rises to almost a third.

Norwich Body Art Festival reflects this attracting both hardcore tattoo enthusiasts whose bodies are an artists' canvas additionally decorated with various piercings and those whose interest extends to something tasteful discreetly hidden away on a shoulder or ankle.

Yarmouth tattoo enthusiast Penny Taylor is among those who will be visiting. 'I think it's fantastic that we now have a festival like this on the doorstep hopefully it will really grow and they'll start getting some of the big name tattooists,' she said.

'I think it is going more mainstream and I think that's great. I met several people at the festival who hadn't got any tattoos more piercings themselves and weren't getting any they were just curious to see other people's — like a living art exhibition.'

Another fan returning this year will be Tony Barber, from Norwich, who likes the tattoo culture even if his own living artworks are limited to Celtic designs on his shoulder and arm. He has a warning for first timers tempted to go under the needle. 'Tattoos are the most addiction thing in the world, it's so easy to get really into it very, very quickly and before you know it you've got both arms full,' he said.

Online ticket ordering has now stopped, but you can still buy them on the door at St Andrew's Hall, or in person from: Indigo Tattoo Studio, Lower Goat Lane; Rock Collection, Lower Goat Lane; Rude Boy Tattoo Studio, Orford Place; and Beatniks, Magdalen Street.

t Norwich Body Art Festival, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich, August 18/19, �17.50 weekend, accompanied under-16s �8.75 weekend, �10 day tickets, under-16s �5, 01603 629920,

t Norwich Body Art Festival After Party is on August 18, �6, 01603 508050

Tattoo Tips

t It's stating the obvious, but a tattoo lasts forever. Don't rush into your design decision and end up with something you will regret.

t If it's your first tattoo, don't go big. Small tattoos are also easier to work around later if you have a change of heart and need a cover-up.

t Yes, it's going to hurt. And, yes you will also bleed some. But in most locations its not that bad, especially if you're getting a small tattoo.

t Tattoos last longer than most relationships, so be wary of putting someone's name in your design.

t Most people, and especially people new to tattoos, should avoid getting tattoos on hands, neck, head and face. Most responsible artists will refuse to do the work anyway expect in exceptional cases.

t Talk with your artist about proper tattoo aftercare. Generally you should keep the tattoo bandaged overnight, then gently wash the area the next day. Do not scratch or rub your new tattoo.

t Cleanliness is next to godliness. Artists should be using new pots of ink and new needles (make sure they open the packets in front of you) for every customer. Anything less is risking infection.

t Wear comfy clothes that make this easy for you and the artist.

t Don't drink beforehand. Not only will you regret getting a drunken tattoo, but alcohol acts as a blood thinner, which means you will bleed more than normal.

t Think hard about the design, style, colour of your tattoo. Be absolutely certain.