Brent Taylor has added plenty of colour and buzz to Taranaki’s event scene.

The keen tattoo fan is the founder and director of the New Zealand Tattoo and Art Festival – an annual two-day celebration of ‘ink’ held at New Plymouth’s TSB Stadium that attracts some of the world’s best tattoo artists, thousands of like-minded people, and a fair few curious onlookers.

“It started out as just an idea I had with some of my friends who are tattoo artists,” explains Brent, who had never run or  organised an event before he and wife Kirsty held the first festival in 2010.

“New Zealand didn’t have an international festival, so I thought it would be cool to have one.

“The idea was for it to start out very small, with the thought that it would eventually move to TSB Stadium. But it grew really quickly, and we went from organising 30 booths for the first festival to 105 in six weeks.

Photo credit: Che Rogers

“It happened organically. I’m very lucky my tattoo artist friends believed in it, shared it with some of their Australian colleagues and said ‘you’ve got to come’.”

Come they did, and they have been for the past decade – not just from Australia, but from all over the world, including reality TV tattoo stars from the United States, and artists from the likes of Japan, Germany, and Malaysia.

“The first year we had about 150 artists, with 50 from overseas. Now there are about 300 artists, close to 200 from overseas, and about 6000 people attend.

“It started off being something more for New Zealanders to be proud of, to now being one of the big international tattoo events in the world, which is kind of cool.”

The festival has developed too, with live music, FMX and BMX shows, and Harley stunt riders adding to the tattoo  entertainment. Kiwi freestyle motocross star Levi Sherwood, of Nitro Circus fame, has been among those to take to the air at the festival.

Brent says Taranaki as a location has been a key to the event’s growth and ongoing success, with local businesses and the community really getting behind the festival.

“It’s more challenging doing it in a smaller place, but if it was in a bigger city it would likely be in a concrete jungle, whereas here we have the backdrop of Pukekura Park, the ocean and the mountain.

“There’s a unique vibe – it feels different to any other event around the world, which the artists love and comment on."

“I think it’s a reflection of Taranaki – the lifestyle’s cruisy, it doesn’t take long to get anywhere, the place is humming and people are busy and productive.”

And while COVID-19 has halted the inclusion of international artists for now, the reputation of the New Plymouth festival has them eager to return.

“A lot of the artists are still booked in to come whenever they can travel. It’s great that they value it so much that they want to hold their place, even if they can’t come back for a couple of years.” 

Photo credit: Che Rogers