Make your mark 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 that draws artists from across the world.

The buzz of the tattooists' needle will again echo through the gothic surroundings of St Andrew's Hall this weekend at Norwich Body Art Festival.

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 third festival — co-organised by Indigo Tattoo Studio and Outline Magazine — builds on the success of the previous two events event that left an indelible mark on Norwich's alternative scene.

Organisers are hoping the two-day event, which takes place at St Andrew's Hall tomorrow and Sunday, will again see hundreds of people make their way to the historic hall to get their bodies indelibly marked by some of the best in the business — or at least watch others doing so.

This year's event will have the two main halls and an ancient cloisters given over the tattoo and body artists and a marquee to house even more traders and artists, plus a second bar and extra stage.

The festival is again brimming over with tattoo talent not only welcoming back many artists from last year and number of new tattooists, including two traditional artists who will be displaying their incredible handcraft.

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The most notable figure will be body art living legend Xed le Head from Divine Canvas, who is among the artists to have tattooed the world's most tattooed man, Lucky Diamond Rich.

Gema King, festival organiser, said: 'We're now in our third year and we are hoping to build on two successful years. This year we are bringing in an extra 10 artists — making 80 in total. Among them will be Chris 51 who is coming from America especially and has been commissioned to do a special piece that's a Star Wars totem pole, which I'm intrigued to see.

'Xed le Head will also be here again. He is one of the most sought after artists around and has a very specific and recognisable style. He is usually booked up for months in advance but at the festival he likes to keep slots open to be able to do work with visitors to the festival.'

Tattooing has in recent years become a respectable high-street business. The 2001 Yellow Pages listed four tattoo parlours in Norwich, in 2010 that has increased to more than 10. And they are no longer consigned to back streets.

The festival will reflect 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.

'The festival aims to show people that the best artists may hold a tattoo gun instead of a paintbrush and the best canvases may be your own skin,' said Gema. 'It'll be two days of tattooists doing what they do best.'

Among those visiting again will be Yarmouth tattoo enthusiast Penny Taylor — she is still weighing up whether to add to a design of white lilies on her right arm. 'I think it's fantastic that we now have a festival like this on the doorstep Last year 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.'

In addition to the body art this there will be trade stands showcasing everything from fashion to art, an awards ceremony and some interesting stage and street performers, including sets from local bands The Vagabands and Cake and Ales and shocking cabaret performance from The Transmutants.

The graffiti jam also returns, curated by graffiti artist Tony Allen, owner of Sticky Fingerz gallery and shop, who will be creating some masterpieces along with other well known spray painters.

? Norwich Body Art Festival, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich, August 13/14, �20 weekend pass (under-16s �10), �12 day tickets (under-16s �6),