Interview with Tattooist George ‘Astrix’

Originally Published in The Bite Magazine – Note – The TV show was never made and these artists no longer work together.

George ‘Astrix’ Wilkins the ‘Liquid Elite’ of tattoo artists catches up with Becky while sticking it to her!

‘Liquid Elite’ have a stand at Hammerfest so we thought we’d have a looksie. Having researched the boss George’s work I am very impressed with the quality and book myself in for a few hours under his needle. Well, it would be rude not to right?

George, often known as Astrix, heads up the team – a quiet, unassuming gent (but I later learn this is a just a front really, he’s just as badly behaved as the rest…he’s just more subtle!). He leads his crew and various guest artists around the country to festivals, conventions and events in a town near you. Look out for The Tattoo Tour Bus. He also has a private tattoo studio at his home in the South West of England. He has the place kitted out to make the experience as private as he can from the outside as he often tattoos celebrities who enjoy the anonymity as well as his artistry.

The guest artist this time is the easy on the eye Adam G from The Tattoo Boutique in Liverpool’s trendy Bold Street. He has a great style and inks another Bite Mag team member Steve whist we’re there. Keeping these inksters in check is their fabulous front of house master Jay. Always smiling and ably demonstrating his organisational skills by making sure everything runs smoothly.

The banter is great with all the guys and the hours I am there whizz by. They cope seamlessly with marathon tattooing days, one after another client with barely any time to rest. They are very adept at handling the drunken fools or curious bystanders that wonder in and try and chat to them while they work. I imagine that tattooing at a festival is a lot different from working in a studio, there is a lot of pressure, definite time constraints and of course you have to watch out for intoxicated persons. George says simply ‘it’s what we do, we’re used to it’. But admits he enjoys how its constantly different from one minute to the next.

I am extremely pleased with the tattoo I receive and how he has understood and even improved my vision. The end result looks fantastic and I can’t wait to go and see him again to finish it. I am hardly a tattoo virgin and I can safely say I hardly felt a thing! He is by far the gentlest tattooist I have been under! He has won literally hundreds of awards for his work and I can see why.

They tell me George and his crew are being featured on a tattoo reality TV programme being made by WestonSuper Television, also starring Dan Gold. I ask what he thinks about the two week ‘tattoo academy’ course that is being run in the UK. ‘What a load of shit’ he says ‘And you can quote me on that!’. We discuss how you cannot possible learn to be an ‘artist’ of any kind in two weeks. He tells me of various ‘scratchers’ that he has open shop over the years, producing terrible work and putting people’s lives at risk. Most of them don’t even know what an Autoclave is and if they do they can’t afford one so they don’t use them. For the uninitiated the autoclave is the sterilising machine used by artists…pretty essential. George explains how there is no real regulation system for tattooists so practically anyone can buy equipment off ebay and set up shop. This is of course dangerous and stupid and we both agreed a regulation system ought to be put in place. The best way to become a tattoo artist, in George’s eyes, is to get in with a good artist and start at the bottom. Learn the trade and earn your stars and stripes. Most front of house bods are tattoo apprentices earning their place.

I ask what the stupidest tattoo he has ever been asked to do is, he says he once tattooed a portrait of a baked beans can on someone. But asserts it’s subjective, like all art. ‘To me it’s strange, but to others it’s not. Nowadays there are no limits to tattoo’s and styles’ He explains how in the tattoo world there are different fashions just as in any other form of culture. ‘Tribal used to be big now it’s a joke to some, day of the dead skulls are everywhere at the moment but then it’ll be something else’. He goes on to explain how he personally won’t tattoo faces as he feels it’s too much of a commitment. He also tells me it’s actually illegal to tattoo hands and faces but that he has never heard of this law being enforced anywhere.

Hammerfest IV 2011 – My Blog

My Personal Hammerfest Blog – originally published online at The Bite Mag’s website.

Well I’m back in one piece after my first Hammerfest experience…which is more than can probably be said for a few people haha! Hammerfest IV was held at Pontin’s in Prestatyn, an ingenious use for this holiday camp out of season…Hard Rock Hell is also here every year. It is a strange but not unwelcome experience to have regular access to a bed, shower and toilet at a festival. The fact it’s mostly indoors helps significantly with weather issues and this in turn means lots of people wearing fabulously weird and wacky clothing (not covered head to foot in plastic waterproofs!). On a personal note it was also nice not to have a sea of people wearing those awful printed ‘festival wellie’s that are so fashionable these days! I’m all for having your own sense of style, but as a girl who grew up on farms I think I care less whether I have pink skulls on my wellies and more about whether my feet are dry and comfortable…perhaps I’m just getting old.

Infact Hammerfest is probably a festival that appeals to a more mature crowd anyway due to its amenities and atmosphere, there were young people but not in the quantities you get at other music festivals. Of course being an 18+ festival has something to do with that too. Overall everyone we spoke to from bands, staff, festival goers agreed that there was a very warm, welcoming, partying atmosphere. I didn’t worry about people trying to half inch my purse and thought nothing, as a lone female, of wondering around the stages on my own. I met tons of lovely people, all willing to chat, mosh and drink with me. It was a great festival and I will definitely go back.

The Bite Magazine Staff arrived laden with our equipment, cowboy hats and a suitcase full of booze. We shared a chalet and I was the only female member of the team. Yes, I can confirm boys smell. But then according to them so do I! A huge amount of alcohol was consumed, in between hard working of course, but it was in no way equal to the legends staying near us who lined up their bottles and cans in their windows. It was impressive and my liver hurt just looking at it.

I won’t lie, we knew we’d have to do a lot of work, but I think we also all felt we’d have a bit of a jolly too! Late nights, early mornings (for some anyway!), long days on our feet and running from stage to stage actually was a little harder than we’d imagined. The key is more staff we think, we started small but we’ll have to expand as we do more of this kind of thing. It became apparent how a few people can’t be everywhere at once! And so I spent the majority of the festival on my own getting my jobs done, as did the other staff as we had little time to socialise with each other. This did mean I got to chat to lots of people and enjoyed a different kind of experience all round. And at night of course we had a few cheeky pints together and let off steam. Thankfully the camera went home at that point so there’s little photographic evidence of this!

Naturally the staff team did their research before they came and lined up interviews with some promising, up and coming bands. We will be writing a small feature for the next issue, including interviews, with my top tips of the festival …the bands to keep your eye on in the next twelve months. These include Fury, Inferno, A Thousand Enemies, Raven Face and AR. All our interviews will feature in the next issue of the mag and reviews and photos will be posted on the blog in the coming weeks.

As a huge Anthrax fan they were always going to my highlight, and boy did they bring it! I have seen Paradise Lost and Skindred before and both are great bands so I looked forward to their sets. I missed Skindred as I was getting a tattoo at the same time. Paradise Lost were a little disappointing, I’ve seen them do better. Another band I was really looking forward to was Senser, as I was a huge fan in the 90’s. I wasn’t disappointed, they were brilliant. I also enjoyed Evile, first time I’ve seen them, and Lawnmower Deth! Evil Scarecrow really stole the show, lots of people talked about how great they were and they won a lot of new fans at Hammerfest. On the third stage Kyrbgrinder and Trucker Diablo tore it up with crowd pleasing gigs. Of the up and coming bands Fury, Inferno and A Thousand Enemies excited me personally the most. For very different reasons I loved these bands and will be watching their future careers with great interest. I was very sad to have missed Falling Red’s set and I shook my ass to AC/DC tribute Dirty DC.

Don’t forget to check out our June issue which will feature a full Hammerfest review, interviews with lots of the bands, an interview with award winning tattooist George Astrix, fan comments, reviews and pictures.

To Chic Festivals, Metal Hammer, Pontins, The Bands, The Crazy Fans, Staff and all those involved…Thanks for a memorable weekend , and we’ll see you next year! x

Wheatus Interview – orginally published in The Bite Mag

Becky Beynon-Lewis catches up with Brendan B Brown from Wheatus for a chat about their upcoming appearance at Bearded Theory Festival in May 2012.

Kedleston Hall , Derby, plays host to Bearded Theory Festival 18th- 20th May this year. In 2011 this family friendly festival won Best Independent Festival in the Aim Music Awards. Wheatus are special guests whilst Dreadzone, Levellers and The Damned headline. Organisers say they have two totally new areas, a local brewery stocking their bars and a whole range of activities meaning 2012 is looking like a vintage year for the festival. Bite Magazine are pleased to be going along for the first time and will report back on what we discover!

Here’s what Brandan had to say…

Our magazine is based in Wales, do you usually get much love when you play in Wales?

Wales is one of two places on the earth that constantly competes for the best place to play on our tour. Its Scotland or Wales, I’ve seen it go between the two so much. Last time Dundee took the title away from you. But it’s been Cardiff and Bangor. You guys are crazy. Something about the celtic blood I think.’

What are the bands plans for the festival…

‘When we played in Swansea we actually broke the record for the amount of people in skeleton costumes in one room’ Apparently the band plan to wear false beards at their Sunday set to help with the festivals annual record attempt. ‘When we were younger dressing up wasn’t great, it was all record companies trying to get you to wear shitty leather pants, now it’s kinda fun’

Wheatus are a great band to guest star at an independent festival with such a varied, diverse lineup because of the fact the band itself is independent, you’re not tied to a label or agency. What attracts you to this kind of festival?

‘What you mean besides the fact we’re weirdos? I remember how there used to be a lot of tribes in music (I know this because I’m old) and how difficult it was to not want to belong to one of those tribes. To want to experience The Ramones in the same way you experienced Metallica and other music. Genre allegiance used to be intrinsically tied with these tribes. Now things are different. If somehow we can be part of the collective going on finally that’s great for us’.

Even though you have a new album out you plan to play your debut album in full at the festival, how did that come about?

‘Well there’s one song we can’t play but we will do the rest. We don’t normally do that. When we play we play about 3 or 4 songs from that album, I mean we have 5 albums so we try to do a mix. But this seemed like a fun, interesting thing to do.’

It should go down well with the crowd, I’ve been to your gigs before and when you play those songs the fans all scream every word…

‘It’s pretty weird still for us to have that experience’

Do you ever get tired of playing them ?

‘No, every time you play them the crowd takes it to somewhere new. They kind of feel like they own those songs and we accept that’

That’s a nice way of looking at it. Last year Teenage Dirtbag entered the charts for the second time since it’s release ten years ago. How did that feel?

‘Yeah it was weird, totally awesome but on some level I feel confused by it! I always end up comparing it to the solitary experience of writing the album in my apartment in Queen’s like 15 years ago. I wasn’t seeing people, just working on the music. You know in those films where the virus the scientists are working on escapes and infects everyone? It’s kinda like my music got out of my apartment and infected everyone!’

We love it, like a zombie infection movie, only it’s your bands music that turns everyone to zombies.

‘We should totally do that in a video, like the Teenage Dirtbag infects everyone (Bite Magazine claims co-ownership of this idea haha!) No actually we did some music for a zombie film by my friend Anthony Lane called ‘Invasion of the not quite dead’.
(If you haven’t heard of this fan funded film check it out, Becky is a producer…to find out how you can be visit http://www.indywood.co.uk)

What advice would you give to any up and coming bands reading this?

‘I wouldn’t wish people to make it exactly the same way we did, somehow we made it through alive but …(laughs). Everyone is capable of finding their own way. The circumstances that existed which got us into the situation we were in just don’t exist anymore. Bands have a lot more choice now. Whereas you used to have to be creative in the way you made your music, now you have to be creative in how you get it out there. Have you heard of Amanda Palmer, singer from the Dresden Dolls? I recommend following her on Twitter. She is genuine parade of creativity, the things she posts…not just about her music. ’

What new bands out there are exciting you at the moment?

Math The Band, what they are doing is like newer than new.

Well Thanks so much for talking to us, we are nearly at an end but first we have a few fan questions for you from our readers…

Marc wants to know are you a Pepsi or a coke man?

‘Jeez Louise that’s a complicated answer y’know? Ok, Coke, not any coke, it has to be Mexican coke and in a glass bottle. I don’t know why, it just tastes better.’

Heidi asks what’s your favourite Ice-Cream Flavour?

‘Well there is only one kind of ice-cream and its chocolate!’

Model Sarah Tonin says she is a massive fan, can she star in one of your videos?!

‘Thanks! Pass on her details!’

Kevin wants to know if you still have two tickets left to Iron Maiden 😉

‘I do! They are on my wall and I see Iron Maiden every time they come to town if I can. I was invited by a friend to go see them with Alice Cooper but I’m not sure if I can go yet. You can rest assured since I was about 15 I always have in my possession at least two tickets to Iron Maiden.’

Fury at Hammerfest – Orginally published in The Bite Mag

Fury, yes that’s the band I have been going on and on about since Hammerfest in March. They are a 4 piece thrash/speed metal band with a clear NWBHM influence. They are also a small band with big plans, playing the media game really well and understanding and appreciating the role of the press. Connecting with their fans very effectively through their social networks and putting huge effort into it (which has been rewarded, check out their ‘likes’ on facebook!) and with a great selection of merchandise available, they are like a powerhouse of marketing before they even begin.

However all of this is going to get a band only so far. Surprisingly enough you do need talent, even in this day and age, and believe me…they have it in bucket loads. I caught up with Julian, Joel, Alisdair and Martin before they went on stage at Hammerfest for a quick chat at their chalet. They are tuning up their equipment and cracking open the rider when I arrive. Having been added late to the lineup they unfortunately can’t stick around for the festival and will have to rush off to play the final of a Battle of The Bands. ‘We only entered it as favour’ they tell me ‘because a band had to pull out last minute’. They didn’t expect much to come of it but they ended up being voted through to the final.

Fury are a Worcester based band and through a few lucky connections are beginning to get the credit they deserve. Don’t get me wrong they do work hard. When I asked them what they had coming up they bombard me with gig info. Including some key events in London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leicester. They also tell me they hope for a mini UK tour in July, possibly a German tour and hopefully Greece in October. They were also booked to play the Hard Rock Roadtrip to Ibiza. So basically, world domination right?! ‘Hopefully’ laughs lead singer Julian Jenkins. He comes across as a very shy, sensitive man. Not at all the kind of ego fuelled front man I usually meet! But he transforms on stage into something quite ferocious and powerful to watch.

This is their first timing playing the festival and we chat about how nice it is having proper toilets. One of the band (I’ll name no names!) tells a story about a bathroom emergency at a festival once where he was forced to use a loaf of bread as they’d run out of bog roll. Why bread I ask through tears of laughter? ‘It’s more absorbent’ he says. I’m guessing nights out with this lot could get messy!

I ask them about whether they hope to get signed; they have chosen an independent route so far. They tell me that this way there’s ‘more control for the band, but you have to be prepared to work’ and so far everything I’ve seen tells me these guys are. Alasdair Davies, the drummer, and Joel Peters, guitarist, are the two who seem to put a lot into the organisational aspects and talk most animatedly about the bands future plans. This is the kind of drive that’s needed.

Martin Trail, the very smiley bassist, tells me with great glee how he wishes they could stay to see Evile and Anthrax. The rest of the band chime in with bands they’d like to see, such as Skindred, Savage Messiah, Amon Amarth, and you can just tell how much they really love music. I love bands at this point in their careers, hungry and eager and all about the sound…before they get cynical or bored or too media savvy. I wish the guys the best of luck and head off to enjoy their set. Which I do. I even spy Benji Webb moshing along in the crowd.

When I asked them to describe the band in 3 words they gave me energy, power and epic. The set really lived up to that and I have their album on a constant loop when I get home. I urge you, go and see this band, you will not be disappointed. They are indeed, epic!

Mother’s Ruin Interview – originally published in The Bite Mag

Becky chats to ex Heavy Pettin’ drummer Gary Moat. Heavy Pettin’ were an Scottish hard rock band that roared onto the scene in the 80s and toured with the likes of Ozzy, Kiss, Motley Crue and AC/DC. Not content to grow old gracefully Gary has swapped his sticks for a plectrum and microphone to form new band Mother’s Ruin.

Hi Gary, Nice to meet you. How would you say the scene has changed over the years as someone who’s been around (ahem) a while?
Yes, yes, I’m ancient! It’s just the same except there are less people at gigs these days. The world doesn’t have enough money. If you do, you’re middle aged, not much evidence of teenagers at gigs. I guess they are all at home with their playstations and tins (4packs).

We recently ran a story about how HMV are banning their staff from having visible tattoos and long hair. What’s your take on that?
In these days of no money it’s really crazy, everyone is cutting back and everyone’s downloading music for 99p so banning people with tattoos is going to annoy people and surely that’s the last thing you should do. Everyone has a tattoo these days, except me! But I really want one. I’m thinking of maybe a cool Medusa one but I don’t know.

Do you think that having previously played drums and now moved onto guitar that you have a greater understanding when you’re writing your own music?
Obviously I started playing drums, when I was 13 or 14, but Gordon (Bonnar) and I always wrote the songs together. I picked up a few things on guitar from him too. The transition wasn’t difficult, it came naturally. I’ve always wanted to sing, never wanted to be the lead singer but you have in your head how you want it to sound and sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself you know?

Have there been any stand out gigs so far for Mother’s Ruin?

Our first gig, that was in Manchester in March, it was a great gig! We did Hard Rock Hell Road Trip to Ibizia in the summer, really good fun, great crowd and a good atmosphere.

A metal gig in Ibiza, bet that’s a bit strange?

It was, it’s in a bar, and its very hot. We were walking down with our guitar cases and things and there were all these clubbers wondering who the hell we were!

Have you come across any interesting new bands on our travels?

Well, my heroes are AC/DC – we try to sound like that, bluesy rock, no nonsense, bang it out and there we are…nothing fancy! I like that kinda music, I don’t like anything ‘noisey’, all that scream stuff. I was never a big punk. There’s this band called The Treatment, they sound a bit like Motley Crue, they are amazing, a great sound. They sound a bit like us but 30 years younger! Also this band BlackWolf that played after or before us in the Glasgow HRH gig, they were good.

Have you played Wales yet? Any plans to?

I’ve only ever played Wales once in my life, in ’81-’82 before Heavy Pettin’ were signed. It was a working mans club. We’d love to play now though!

Do you have any big gigs coming up?

We are playing Ivory Blacks (Glasgow rock venue) on Nov 10th, first time I’ve played there since the mid 80’s so I’m looking forward to that.

So why have you chosen now to come back with Mother’s Ruin?

I’ve always felt like doing it. Heavy Pettin’ split up in ’89 so that’s when I stopped playing drums. About 2 years ago I played in a few local bands and it got me thinking I really miss this. By coincidence people started saying to me, you’ve got all these great songs you’ve written why don’t you do something with them. So I did.

Can we expect anything big from you in the next year?

I hope so. We hopefully have an album out by next year. There is something exciting in the pipeline but I can’t say anything about it yet.

Thanks for talking to us Gary and we look forward to seeing you at gig soon, and maybe seeing that tattoo!

Find out more about Mother’s Ruin here:
http://www.mothers-ruin.co.uk/

By: Becky Beynon-Lewis

Exercise and a diet that’s wise.

I’ve neglected the blog of late. One of my new year’s resolutions was to do more with my writing so I’ve set myself a mini challenge. For the next 7 days I’m going to blog a minimum of one thing a day. Just to ‘re start’ the habit and flex the creative muscle.

I firmly believe creativity is like fitness. It needs to be fed well, preferably with wholesome foods but a little bit of trash as a treat does no one too much harm. It needs to be used ‘use it or loose it. It can help keep your mental health in check, increase energy and sexual appetite and generally keep you healthy. But, like exercise, too much of it can lead to addiction or make you unwell.

So eat well, exercise, write, paint, make, draw, create and live.

Cephalopod Cell

You call me your addiction,
your dangerous desire and need.
I feel you would not want me,
if you had a choice.
So I infect you with my poison,
fuel your constant urge to feed.
I sit there right beside you,
you will always hear my voice.
My touch, so cold it burns,
confuses even me.
You want me to want you,
but you wish I’d let you go.
If you could run and never look back,
I know you’d leave, I’d see.
But the awkward chains we wear
always keep us nice and slow.
No break for freedom, no grand gesture.
Just a complicated bind.
A tangle of tentacles so strong,
an inky merk so thick and full of dread.
A love so toxic we gave up our souls,
and now you give your mind.
This was the best way, the only way.
I’m devoured, forever in your head.

Making the world dementia friendly

DF Logo

Well, that’s a big step. Let’s start small…let’s start with communities. The Alzheimer’s Society and Department of Health have teamed up to bring about the Dementia Friends initiative. The idea is as many people as possible attend information sessions about dementia and become ‘Dementia Friends’. Some of those then go on to become Dementia Champions who go forth and spread the word by holding their own information sessions and so on and so forth.

I’m writing this post on the train back from Gloucester where I just attended a dementia champions training session. Within the next few weeks I aim to be delivering information sessions for people in the Bristol area. I’m going to start small with some friends and family and then progress shortly onto local groups (eg. WI’s, Girl Guides, Round Table etc etc) and open sessions at libraries and other community venues.

I feel very passionate about dementia because my grandmother had Alzheimer’s. It was a hard, long process and often myself and my family felt we didn’t have enough support. We also didn’t really understand what she was going through. I don’t want to live in a world where that happens so my positive step towards making the world dementia friendly is to try and make my community as dementia friendly as I can.
The important thing to remember is dementia can be a struggle yes but people can also live well with it. We can help that to happen by becoming more aware of what we could do to make that easier for our friends, families, colleagues or members of our community who might have dementia.

If you are worried you or someone you know may have dementia please see your GP or seek help from The Alzheimer’s Society http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents.php?categoryID=200120
If you feel you would like to be a dementia friend check out the website http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/ And if you would be interested in hosting or attending an information session in Bristol, UK please get in touch.

Thanks,
Becky
Dementia Friend and Champion.

Bristol, give me a signal

Love Bristol x

the majesty of smallness

bristol-harbour-england-uk

Bristol. City of squats whose graffiti is a more famous landmark than its cathedral, who has a bakery called Bread an’ Ting, a home-ware store called Happytat and a stationery shop called Paper Gangsta; even your shop names have a sense of humour. Whose native Brizzle drawl involves referring to inanimate objects as ‘he’ or ‘she’ and tacking a random ‘l’ on after words that end in vowels, as though the very dialect is trying to turn every word into Bristol, a football fan’s chant: Bristol, Bristol. You crazy bloody minx.

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This is a city that met the everyday occurrence of a new Tesco opening with riots and firebombs: a stoned city, perennially laid back, outraged into action by the affront of the blue and red commercial beast squatting on its parade of independent businesses, its beating heart. They stretch all the way from Horfield Common down to the Attic…

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Grillstock 2013, Bristol Harbourside

 

Article first published in The Bite Magazine http://www.thebitemag.co.uk Image

A rather wet and grey weekend in May in vibrant Bristol plays host to ‘Meat, Music & Mayhem’. Grillstock Festival, a celebration of Barbeque culture, is now in its 5th year. Combining a variety of mouthwatering food stalls, competitions, bars, demonstrations, BBQ craft and great music it really brings the deep south to the southwest. If you managed to miss it Manchester hosts their own Grillstock on 8th & 9th June, details can be found on http://www.grillstock.co.uk

 

I attended the Sunday so I didn’t get to see the festival in its full swing and I feel the damp, cold weather probably diminished the footfall considerably. However the spirits of those there remained high and there was a real party and community vibe. The James Hunter Six and Seasick Steve providing my musical favourites for the day on the Jim Beam Stage. Such laid back, soulful sounds kept the crowds warm as they swayed their hips and clicked their fingers.

 

As we wondered around eyeing up all the amazing local (and not so local – zebra, crocodile, camel etc) produce we were tempted with enticed aromas from everywhere. It was a tough choice but I eventually settled for a pulled pork fajita with peppers, onions, salad, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and jalapeños from Los Amigos (http://www.losamigoseventcatering.com ). Fiery, filling and bloody lovely! Of course I followed this up with some Churros and chocolate from Churro Garcia (http://www.churrosgarcia.co.uk) For those of you that don’t know Churros are a Mexican snack, kind of like a donut, they are made from a rolled pastry stick that is deep fried and sprinkled with sugar and often cinnamon. They are usually served with melted chocolate.

 

Drinks were in no short supply with Brooklyn Brewery’s, who sponsored the Dive Bar Stage, Red Wolf Vodka and Orchard Pig around. Fine ale’s, craft beers, ciders, vodka and freshly squeezed juices, what more could I need. We particularly enjoyed ‘Summer Ale’ a fruity, floral number that our friend Simon said tasted like they had ‘hopped the shit out of it’.

 

One of my favourite stalls was blues enthusiasts Drummond and Hammett (http://www.drummondandhammett.com )  from Bristol who have made an unusual and quite beautiful Box Guitar. They even sell ‘build your own’ kits for a mere £65. They are gorgeous instruments with a traditional sound, a must have for the muso in your life!

 

Weber master griller Dan Cooper demonstrated cooking methods and recipes in the BBQ Academy and the bravest (stupidest)  visitors entered the chilli eating competition. But the real star of the show is the ‘King of the Q’ competition, sponsored by Mac’s BBQ and judged by master certified judge Dr BBQ aka Ray Lampe. Seven rounds are formally judged by a team of foodies including Matthew Burgess Head Chef at Jamie’s Italian, Ben Bartlett, author of The BBQ Manual and Levi Roots.

 

The rounds are Cook’s Choice, Ribs, Lamb, Brisket, Chicken, Dessert and Pork Shoulder with a winner in each category. Four key rounds (chicken, ribs, brisket and pulled pork) give a cumulative points total to the winners. The overall winner is then crowned ‘Grand Champion’. 27 teams competed and only one won, they were Bunch of Swines – repeat winners, defending last years title. The prize includes £1,000, a qualify into the prestigious American Royal World Series of BBQ ‘invitational’ in Kansas City and an invite to the World Food Contest in Las Vegas.

 

Belly full, feet sore, hair wet and smiling I headed home, ears still ringing with hillbilly sounds and taste buds still tingling from smoky low n’ slow BBQ meats. We loved our day out to this piece of America right here in Bristol’s harbourside and I can’t wait till next year! My only consolation now it’s over is that St. Nicholas’ market has a Grillstock stall where I can fill up on pulled pork, slaw and corn bread on rainy English days.