It was Darren, the boss of Valhalla’s idea.
One day at work a few months back Darren mentioned it would be pretty cool to organise a work trip somewhere. It was probably originally intended to be a few days away and somewhere where we could all switch off, have a laugh and not have to think about work. Somehow the destination became Belgium and it was to be based around the Leuven Tattoo Convention. Two outta three ain’t bad.
Apartments were booked, along with a hire car and we promoted our appearance at the convention via social media. I’ve worked plenty of tattoo conventions but this was set to be my first outside the UK. One of the things I most miss about being in a band is the touring. Getting to see new places, meet new people and drink strong foreign beer. It’s all memory building (although strong Belgian beer can also be memory erasing) and so the thought of going away with a few of my good friends from work became an exciting prospect.
Sarah and I booked an early Eurostar train which meant arriving in Brussels around breakfast time on the Friday. Darren and Dana arrived a few hours later and we were soon chilling in the Belgian sunshine drinking the first of our Belgian beers. Darren kept his ‘professional head’ on (his professional face DOES look a little weird at times) and didn’t drink for the entire weekend as he offered to be the designated driver for the trip. After checking into our apartments we went to an oriental restaurant for a fine meal (frogs legs in garlic for starters!) before a reasonably sensible early-ish first night.
Unlike a lot of conventions, the artists weren’t allowed to set up the night before so we headed to the venue at 9am to set up in time for an 11am start. Immediately, I noticed how large the Brabanthal venue is (a huge room with a high ceiling in an industrial space on the outside of Leuven). A large venue for a first convention can sometimes be the kiss of death for a promoter and the attending artists but fortunately, the public did begin to spill pretty consistently through the doors.
Aware that a foreign convention could be a case of more lookers than bookers, I played safe and arranged in advance to tattoo my good Belgian punk friend Paul and his brother-in-law Aaron, on the first day. Paul went for a bird/girls head hybrid adapted from my sketchbook and Aaron toughed it out and got a panther/skull hybrid I’d previously drawn up. It was a pleasure to catch up with them and Paul’s pregnant wife Justine and being presented with an unexpected beer and chocolate belated birthday present was a bonus! Overall, a great first day.
The Sunday wasn’t as busy for me although my Nuthink pizza stickers got scooped up like well….hot pizza. I managed to grab a couple of walk ups and used the rest of the day to chill and explore and check out the other awesome work going down.
The celebratory drinks and burger restaurant dinner ended the final night and we returned exhausted to London the following day.
I love working conventions but they are normally something I do on my own so working this one with my friends from work was what made this one a different kind of special. Thanks guys!