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Tattoo boss offers lifeline for Ukrainian artists

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Tattooist James Conway

Tattooist James Conway

Stephen Hamilton

Mr Conway says there is significant interest in his plan both from Ukraine and tattoo shops in Ireland

Mr Conway says there is significant interest in his plan both from Ukraine and tattoo shops in Ireland

Stephen Hamilton

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Tattooist James Conway

Award-winning tattooist James Conway is working with ink studios across Ireland to offer work placements and a route out of war-torn Ukraine for fellow artists.

Mr Conway, who runs his own studio in Belfast city centre, says he has a network of around 30 shops across the island willing to take in Ukrainian tattooists fleeing the invasion.

As Putin’s brutal war machine continues to lay waste to land and life, Mr Conway says he and his body art colleagues stand ready to help.

He told Sunday Life: “Tattoo artists are quite a friendly community and would travel and work together quite a bit.

“I saw what was happening in Ukraine and the difficulties people were facing getting here and decided to try and do something.

“There are about 20 studios in the south who are happy to offer places and there’s a good number up here who are keen to take part as well.

“I was trying to find a way to help and I know lots of studios who would be happy to give two or three artists a job for as long as they needed it.

“The studios will have to let them work for free pretty much, but the ones I’ve been in touch with are more than happy to do that and waive their usual fees to get these guys out of Ukraine.

“They’re even keen to help them find accommodation and stuff like that — the response has been amazing.

“Some of the shops are happy to pay for flights and stuff if it gets people over her, so it’s been an incredible response.”

Military service is mandatory in Ukraine, and although the government has denied conscripting civilians with no combat experience, men of fighting age are not allowed to leave the country.

This has prevented Mr Conway, who runs the Skull And Bones Tattoo Society on North Street, from successfully receiving any Ukrainian ink artists despite there being strong interest in his plans.

He added: “One of the problems we have faced is that a lot of people between the age of 16 and 60 have not been able to leave the country.

“So, we have had guys keen to come over, but without a way out. We’re hoping that will change in the near future so we can start bringing artists across.

“So much of the country has been left in ashes and we’re ready to help bring as many as we can over and give them an escape and a place to work.”


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