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Living Arts Tattoo convention takes place at Don Valley Stadium, Worksop Road, Sheffield (0117-924 9050) today 2pm-10pm, tomorrow 11am-6pm. pounds 6 per day.


Once the preserve of "Mum"- loving sailors and pub psychopaths, tattoos have, for the last few years, been the style statement du jour. Ranging from the discreetly decorative to the full inky body suit, tattoos are the tribal markings of the 20th century, the not-so-painless designer label of the genuine fashion deviant and the wannabe subversive. Indeed, in the light of body piercing and scarification, they're even beginning to look a bit quaint.


These days, tattooing seems the most permanent testament to the fleeting nature of modern romance. No sooner does a celebrity couple decide to score declarations of eternal love of their body parts with red hot needles, than their devotion evaporates. Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold covered their bottoms with water-resistant love tokens before their acrimonious split, Kate Moss had to put up with "Winona Forever" on the arm of beau Johnny Depp and Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee had each others names written in indelible ink on their ring fingers before their relationship went pear-shaped.


Tattooing has a long and venerable history, so it isn't all tacky celebrity divorce. King George V was a devotee of skin art, as was King Frederick of Denmark. The Duke of Clarence and Czar Nicholas II both sported body adornments as did US President John F Kennedy, who had a patriotic Eagle tattooed on his back. The Queen's cousin, Lord Lichfield, is rumoured to have a sea-horse design "about his person".


Beauty may only be skin deep, but that still leaves a good acreage of flesh to titivate according to the dedicated tattooist. Among the 30 or so UK and European practitioners of Body Art at today's convention is an unusually large number of women practising their needlepoint. Lisa Clarke, the UK's youngest working artist will be around, along with Milan's Eleonora Russo and the internationally acclaimed Fiona Long.


Competitions will be running over the weekend. Along with the first rounds of the "Celtic/ Tribal" and "Biker", this afternoon sees the heats for "Best Male Large" and "Best Female Large". As well as the steady hum of flesh embroidery, there will be accompanying festive sounds from various live bands, karaoke, and an "outrageous fetish fashion show". If you fancy a laugh at some skin graffiti, there's a "Worst Tattoo Award", or you can peruse the bars, food and trade stalls. Event organisers refused to confirm whether these trestle-tabled outlets would be selling those rather splendid transfers that you used to get in cereal packets.