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After ExtInked: An interview

A chat with one of the ExtInked projects animal ambassadors

Written by Grace Beaumont / Tom Bing


The ExtInked project dreamt up by the Ultimate Holding Company to mark Charles Darwin’s bicentennial birthday is no doubt one of the most unique and amazing projects I’ve heard about in a long time. Along with an exhibition illustrating 100 of the most endangered animals in the British Isles, the event came to an astounding conclusion with the tattooing of 100 volunteers who then became ambassadors for their animal. So as the exhibition closed yesterday, what is to become of the ambassadors, now back in their natural habitats?

My friend Tom was lucky to be involved in the project and here he shares his experiences with me.

So why did you take part in the ExtInked Project?

Since getting involved with UHC sometime last winter, I’ve been a part of a number of really interesting projects with them. ExtInked was something they have been talking about for a long time and the idea always really appealed to me. I think it’s a really great thing to be a part of, people have learned so much about which animals are endangered and hopefully will think about why that is, and what can be done about it. For me, I try to make a lot of environmental decisions in my life and feel extremely passionate about the use of animals and our finite natural resources for human gain.

Wildlife conservation and the environment are extremely important, in our relatively short time on this earth we have managed to destroy so much. Positive and big things are happening from the ground up. There is a fast growing environmental movement, but the important decisions need to be made from the top, which, unfortunately is not happening nearly enough.


It seems easier for leaders of governments and corporations to pretend they are doing something, rather than making an important change, that could make a really big difference.

Ext Inked was a great way to be involved in one of the most creative bottom-up environmental actions I know of, I now have a species permanently on my body, which throughout my life no doubt, hundreds of people will ask about, and I will be able to tell them the information I learned about that particular species, the project, the movement, and, in my case, the RSPB and other organisations helping to protect birds in the UK.

Which animal did you get? Tell me about the tattoo!

I went for the Black Grouse; I love birds, so for me it had to be a bird. The black grouse is found in the north of England, much of Wales and Scotland. I think to me, it was important to get something that I would be likely to come into contact with, I love golden eagles and leatherback turtles, but I’ve never seen either unfortunately! I don’t think it really matters too much which species I had tattooed though, as it’s more about the project and the issues as a whole than one particular species.

Photograph by Jai Redman

Tell me about the experience! What happened when you went to Manchester?

We went along on the last day around lunch time, which was bit quieter than when I visited on the Thursday night. I was quite pleased about that as all the tattooing happened much like a tattoo convention. There were barriers up at the front, and a stage with the three tattooists from Ink vs. Steel in Leeds, tattooing live in front of whoever was there to watch. As it was my first tattoo, and I didn’t know how much it would hurt, I was a bit nervous about being watched!

I thought I was being tattooed at 1 o clock, but somebody was running late, and I was early, so they switched our places, I didn’t really have any time to feel too nervous, before I knew it I was laid face down, being tattooed. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt, because it did, but the mix of the atmosphere, and the rush of adrenaline you get puts you in a really strange place. I just laid their trying to work out how much it hurt and which bit he was doing, it was actually a pretty good feeling! Having had the tattoo a couple of days now, the pain seems totally insignificant.


Your girlfriend was part of the project too wasn’t she?

My girlfriend Sally got involved too; she got the Rampion Bellflower on her inner arm. She has a lot of tattoos already, so I think she probably had a different experience to me, although she was still a bit nervous. She was really excited to be a part of the project and has already done some good work telling people about the project and spreading the word! Sally is a very creative person, but isn’t able to be too involved in art, so I think it’s great that she really connected with this project and was really receptive to the ideas artists had on conservation.

What about the future? How do you think you’ll feel about the tattoo in 20 years time?

In twenty years time I have no idea how I will feel about the tattoo, but the more I live, the more I learn, and the more I learn, the more passionate I become.

Climate change and human activity is affecting our wildlife, and that’s only going to get worse unless we act quickly and dramatically. If we act now, while we still have a bit of a chance, I will be able to look at my tattoo and think, I’m glad we did something, and If not, I don’t think anybody will see it because my leg will probably be under water!

Photography by Tom Bing


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