1875: The Victorian Era is in full swing. London lies at the heart of a sprawling British Empire and is the uncontested capital of world trade. Its streets teem with horse-drawn carriages and urchin beggars; men wear suits, whether wealthy merchants or inhabitants of squalid slums; women wear dresses that reach down to the ground, and have few legal rights. The capital’s skyline, viewed from the slopes of Alexandra Park, is awash with sooty air and huge coal-belching chimneys. This is the view that greets those visiting a temporary outdoor roller skating rink (the UK’s first) that opens in the grounds of Alexandra Palace in May 1875.
Far beneath the high arched roof from which behang munificent swathes of white fabric, past a rose window famed throughout the empire, one might be surprised at the sight that greets one’s eyes. A sight as if from another world such that one might find in the fanciful writings of Monsieur Verne, but here as real as the marmalade upon your correspondent’s breakfast scone. Across a tiled sea as white as finest ivory and more than a hundred feet across, there strides two of what can only be described as armies. Yet these are armies of women, but armies they clearly are, dressed not as one might reasonably expect a woman of this time to be dressed, but as if for war. Bearing the clothing of a circus strongman and the armour of a gladiator, one has scarce time to take in their outlandish apparel before being accosted still further by footwear in colours that surely exist nowhere but upon the far distant flora of Mr Livingstone’s travels, footwear that bears itself even more incredible to rational minds by its attachment to wheels of similar hue.
It is not just the uniforms upon these womenfolk as does mystify, but so too the names emblazoned upon their shoulders, names as one should find attached to a circus performer or magician, yet so perfectly in keeping with the appearance of these eight-wheeled warrior women. The Mighty Mighty Bash, says one, Chaka Carnage, Demi Lition, yet more one could scarcely conceive. A gentleman beside me – at least your correspondent assumes a gentleman, but such is the covering of this body in enough tattoos to supply an entire navy that one knows not if man or beast lies beneath – opines that the army in brazen gold hail from the Medway lands of the late Mr Dickens and points beyond, whereas the troops of devlish black have arrived not from the flaming pits of Hell but from Brighton, where one must assume they have partaken too oft of the seawater so as to be rendered superhuman.
The army of gold, the man-beast attests, are expected to be as lambs to the slaughter in this conflict. This assertion proves somewhat incorrect, as while the Sussex regiment is to triumph, ’tis no easy victory. Or so man-beast informs your correspondent later as I vacate the fainting couch, adding something about Gels Bells and Ann I Hilate being particularly good jam makers – ’tis reassuring that despite their bewildering appearance, these women retain a mastery of Mrs Beeton’s domestic arts. Regrettably, one cannot report upon the battle with any authority of one’s own cognisance, since mere seconds after its commencement, upon realising one was witnessing things that no man of honour should see, your writer repaired upon his laudanum bottle and spent two hours hence conversing with demons later identified as an item of shrubbery.
Brighton Rockers 207 – Kent Roller Girls 120
1901: The Queen’s death in January brings the Victorian Era to an end, although its phobias and prejudices abide – the early years of the new century see a fear of paganism and ‘other gods’ abound. Ownership of Alexandra Palace is transferred to Haringey Council, bringing the building into public ownership for the first time – a true ‘People’s Palace’. When Ally Pally reopens on 13th May there is now a permanent indoor roller skating rink, replacing what was the Concert Hall. The London Star reports that: “A magnificent skating rink has been laid down in the conservatory, with a polished maple floor of 130ft by 92ft. The skates to be used are of the new pneumatic ball-bearing type.”
This floor is not polished, much less made of maple, and although the exact nature of its material is hard to determine, it is certainly made for speed as the relentless circling trains of wheeled worshipers seem only too eager to demonstrate. At first the exact nature of this ceremony is hard to fathom. There are clearly two different groups, female of form, upon this strange floor – one group clad in naval blue hail, I am informed, from the rum dens and gutter halls of Bristol; the other, in bathing suits of soot black, are from the currently uncathedralled city of Birmingham – it’s fitting their home has no such church of our Lord, as it is surely not our Biblical God to whom devotees are beholden in this ritual?
At each corner of the area of worship stands a small black box, from which spill out sounds that would curdle the souls of lesser men; relentless drumming, as if of crazed jungle shamans, bestrides musical caterwauling only Satan himself could enjoy. Adding to this aural battering are two devlish preachers, intoning words of Babel into small black devices they hold before them. It is clear that this ritual, a violent maelstrom of rolling races and battered bodies, is a competitive one. Guardians clad in zebra skin sound whistles and temporarily expel those whose movements displease the gods. A glowing curtain set at one corner keeps track in numbers of which of the two groups of acolytes (Birmingham’s Central City tribe or Bristol’s troupe of Harlots) has pleased the gods the most with their feverish physical invocations. Yet, one must but ask, which god or gods is this ceremony exalting? The answer to this is surely the name emblazoned upon the backs of the grey-clad disciples tallying on ledgers the worshippers’ venerations. This fearful spectacle is it seems an offering of sanctification in praise of the great god Nso.
To one side of the temple floor, a woman hawks a religious tract entitled Lead Jammer (jammed where? molten lead or solid metal? one dares not ask). We prevail upon her for some explanation as to the violent dancing dedications to a godless god we are witnessing. She explains that the Bristol tribe are thought less proficient in such invocations and are expected to ‘lose’ – yet, halfway gone, ’tis they who lead on the glowing tally sheet, 103 invocations to 82. The Central City congregation must worship harder and faster lest they face being condemned to eternity in the scorching pits of hellfire by the vengeful Nso. Afeared of such a prospect, the Birmingham tribe raise their venerations, utilising the height of Woo-Ha to find clear space and dance past the Bristol brethren, the physicality of Bunny Massacre to disrupt their rivals’ invocations.
Bristol worshipper Black Thorn renders rival devotees to the floor; Tinchy tussles, Terror hustles, Blizzard bustles, Bunny muscles. Viv La France is banished from the temple, but Central now have greater numbers on the tally of veneration, holding favour with Nso but not by so large a margin. The final period of invocation commences and Bristol have an outside chance of claiming Nso’s favour, yet a Birmingham pilgrim is smitten and all worshippers take a knee to pray for her as the ceremony comes to a swift end. Nso clearly appreciates the port city congregation’s supplications, nonetheless… though they are defeated, the jaws of Valhalla must be patient. Bristol will return to dance with the devil once more upon this day.
Central City Rollergirls 218 – Bristol Roller Derby 204
1914: The world is at war. Harrowing tracts from the trenches by poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon tell of the horrors of conflict. Back in London, Alexandra Palace is requisitioned by the military, initially for housing Belgian refugees. Although the Ally Pally skating rink is allowed to remain open for a few weeks, soon the whole building and a surrounding area of parkland are closed to the public and ringed with barbed wire. The Palace becomes an internment camp housing up to 3,000 prisoners of war.
Racey Slam Hard – Rocker – once of London ranks;
now flaunting taunting – Traitor – ‘cross her bouting pants.
At first held back; lost and bossed
by London’s lines of steel.
By mid first half, she’s found a path,
there’s fire beneath her wheels.
The Mighty Mighty Bash – she swiftly joins the charge;
Cockneys stumble, crash… to Bash’s bump and barge.
These Brighton troops, yes expected,
to be bullied and deflected
by London’s eight-wheeled army (Europe’s superpower).
But Sussex won’t surrender, and
put Brawl Saints through the blender
across the first half-hour.
[Losing aye, but not by much; still so spry, still in touch.]
To war once more, Rebelle De Jour
leading Saints’ attack
as London aces with increasing paces
set Brighton on the rack.
Back block, track cut, holding… Major.
To penalty seats Rockers no stranger.
Fleet foot springing, starred surprises;
the more time spent, more London rises.
The Missyle run, Vulkano guns;
Frey-hem, slay ‘em, Brighton stunned.
Racey chases, Rockers tire;
though sterling work from Sophia.
Still London’s troops are worldly tough,
Brighton Blitzed by stronger stuff.
Sussex still have heads held high;
Goliath triumphed, but damn good try.
When the boutlefield clears of smoke,
the Saints are out of sight.
Though victorious not vainglorious,
for they know it’s been a fight.
London Brawl Saints 223 – Brighton Rockers 101
1922: With the war long over, the Government continues to use the requisitioned Alexandra Palace, taking advantage of its rent-free nature to house civil service offices. The building is finally returned to the public in a dilapidated state in 1922. After refurbishment, it will reopen the following year. The restored roller skating rink is ‘an immediate success’.
Buck Milligan looks up from his newspaper, flatulates loudly and sighs deeply.
– Ah no, you’re not going to try and pastiche Ulysses, are ye? You’ve never even read beyond the first page.
Damn him. Damn his cheek. Damn his cheeks. All four of them and the fetid air that passes between. There is bouting to be watched.
Kent, the weakest of the five combatants, if one would believe a mathematician. Bristol, the weakest but one, if one would believe him for a second time. By the final whistle it looks like a cakewalk, but for now the only cake here is the one I just planted in Milligan’s overly loquacious physog.
– You haven’t even spelled my name right, it’s Mulligan not Milligan, splutters Milligan through chunks of lemon drizzle.
Amo amas amat et cetera
Chatham versus Bristol. Two punch drunk covens born of navvy towns. Opposite coasts meeting in the middle to do battle beneath the stained glass of a more stained capital. Power jam one way. Power jam the other. Milk stout. Nice. Ruby Whipper in the penalty box. Bristol pack strong. Hold off the Kent jammer. Should I get a tattoo? Feel like I’m the only person here without one. Acid Trip has the best derby helmet ever. Black Thorn bossing it for Bristol, but Kent keeping in touch. 28-28. Wait… skate. Great rate. Straight. Use gait. Lay bait. Collate pack, inflate back, deflate gaps. Bristol starting to pull away now. Ten points clear. Twenty. Now thirty. Wonder if UKRDA buy the NSO clipboards in bulk. Wholesale probably. Retail savings for bulk hardly worth it. Power jam Kent. Power jam Bristol. Half time 128-77 to the Somerset side. Is it Somerset or Gloucestershire? Was Avon but didn’t they abolish that? Unitary authority, I know, but county names are more evocative. Lived there a while. Southville. Bedminster. Good cider. Full of Welsh folk. I wonder if that Pie & A Pint place behind the scoreboard does anything veggie?
There once was a sports team from Kent
Who in rankings sought to make an ascent
Ambition clear as crystal
Yet up against Bristol
Whose pack it’s rare to circumvent
Cheese and onion pasty how predictable have a look at the vendors Roller Bootique has nice things that you can hang skates over your shoulders with wonder what the they’re called Skate Attack a hive of London Rockin’ Rollers some in full kit and skates not in the tournament but that’s good PR here’s a place selling skate bags I like the multicoloured animal print one there’s T-shirts everywhere Inkabilly and Queens Of The Sin Bin find the Brighton Rockers merch bit Canadian lady blue hair selling tattoos the ones you stick on with a wet sponge one of those might help me blend in oh the second half’s started Bristol have racked up another 20 points starting to dominate now Tattooed Terror very strong Kent out muscled Bristol picking up power jams and pulling away another 20 with no reply will the golden girls make it to triple figures hope so come on Kent differential really racking up now though and Bristol sure to climb in the rankings this weekend that’s good blocking from Demi Lition and Marty McSuperfly but they don’t have the numbers nippy jamming from The Blizzard can’t see the scoreboard from here my glass is empty better get another milk stout at the final whistle ugh I shouldn’t have had that pasty Kent gave it a go but bow out in fifth place.
Bristol Roller Derby 272 – Kent Roller Girls 107
1941: With the world at war once more, the Palace is again used to house refugees. The intention is to keep its most popular attraction – the skating rink – open to the public, but structural issues with the rink’s north wall forces an eighteen month closure from November 1941. A few months after the rink reopens a flying bomb severely damages the building and brings a halt to all indoor attractions.
“Sacre bleu!” exclaimed Hercule, twisting at the curled up ends of his moustache, “these are not mademoiselles.”
As ever, the great detective was spot on in his deductions, for this was the weekend’s sole male contest. One team of brutes from Yorkshire, the other band of barbarians from Birmingham. As a sequence of shrill whistles echoed round the hall, bringing the match to a close, Hercule glanced at the scoreboard. Whilst there hadn’t strictly speaking been a murder, there had at the very least been a moderate battering, Yorkshire’s Inhuman League having slain the Crash Test Brummies by a margin topping 100 points.
People had been flying off the track in all directions. Very much about brute force was this battle, something of a sledgehammer approach compared to the women’s bouts. Hercule decided to get to the bottom of this beating. His investigation, he was sure, would unearth the person or persons responsible.
Earlier in the day, he had heard over the Tannoy that Brummie IllBilly had a reputation for being thrown out of games, sometimes even before the completion of the first half. Had such an occurrence played a part in Crash Test’s fate? Not on this occasion, despite a string of transgressions and repeat visits to the penalty chairs early in the match. The Brummies actually fared quite well, Hercule recalled. Ben Hurrt put a lot of Crash Test points on the board and a lot of Inhuman bums on the floor, and the Midlands outfit had matched the Yorkshiremen almost point for point in the second period.
It was in the first half that the damage was done. Did TIL’s guttural pre-match caveman chanting intimidate the Brummies? Probably not, thought Hercule, though it intimidated him. Inhuman newcomer Omar Gherd was perhaps the best skater on the track, not just fast and fleeting in the chase for points, but capable of upending an opposing pack one by one with body checks. A real flying bomb. Beat Monkey too had put the Brummies to the sword, tap dancing at speed through the smallest gaps in the rival pack, as had others. Birmingham’s fate was not just the work of one individual. Or was it?
What of UKRDA? Hercule had not heard tell of this organisation before. Was it perhaps a secret society like SMERSH or SPECTRE, the plaything of an arch villain, manipulating roller derby results and other world events whilst stroking a cat in a missile base hidden inside a volcano? Hercule soon discovered that it wasn’t that, but was instead the organisation that oversees the sport of derby in the UK. The recently completed match was UKRDA’s first ever sanctioned men’s bout. (An embarrassed Hercule also realised that he had momentarily confused himself with James Bond, a character who hadn’t even been created yet.)
Upon consulting the historical archives for more clues, Hercule realised that these two teams had met a few months previously. The result on that occasion had been very similar. Clearly therefore no crime had taken place, this was just the natural order of things – at least for the moment.
“Tres bien. That is so,” said Hercule to himself for some reason, before relocating to the bar, where he sat smiling smugly for several minutes before departing the arena.
The Inhuman League 247 – Crash Test Brummies 135
1957: Post war austerity leads to Alexandra Palace being largely left to rot. The building becomes virtually derelict, with only the BBC studio and transmitter in the South East corner remaining in constant use. In 1954 the train line that runs right to the roller rink entrance is closed for good. Three years later, the building is restored and the skating rink is again one of its most popular features.
It’s quite a machine. They say it was first put together in a body shop out Whitechapel way ’bout seven years ago. They’ve been adding to it ever since, bringing together new parts not just from all over London, but from throughout the UK and points beyond. Honing, refining, tweaking every element for maximum speed, maximum torque; manoeuvrability, handling, turning, gliding; knowing when to jump the lights and when to put the brakes on.
They call this machine the LRG and it comes in many models: from the Model A, called the Brawling, which is the envy of Europe and so adept at taking on the long established American machines; to the so called ‘Recreational’ Model whose idea of recreation seems to be turning up 25-30 strong and scrimmaging the life out of newer British machines. The model on display here is the Model B, called the Brawl Saint. It doesn’t have the miles on the clock or all of the refinements and advanced features of the Model A, but you’d underestimate it at your peril.
Sure, occasionally another machine can take on the LRG Model B and shake it up a little, make it work some… but, sure as night follows day, the Brawl Saint will eventually shift up a gear or two and cross the line first. That’s if you’re lucky. Most times anyone who dares to challenge the LRG Model B won’t even be in a race as such. All they’ll have to look forward to is a faceful of track dust and a beating in the hundreds. Unfortunately for the CCR machine, the Centrinnian, that’s what’s happening here in Sunday’s first wheel screeching contest.
The LRG machine hogs the road. CCR try to overtake but they’re picking up tickets every time they do, swerving off the track or hitting the London machine in violation of the rules of the road. There should be five in each of these vehicles, but many times the Centrinnian only has two, three at the wheel. The LRG dashboard reads 66 as CCR’s is still on a fat zero. London like lightning, Central clamped. Centrinnians finally putting up some points, but few and far between. Half time and the LRG has a 166-9 lead.
The Centrinnians sure as heck ain’t gonna let their heads drop, though. You learn a lot in a race like this, even if it’s just how to lose gracefully. Get a few more points on the board, try to make it more acceptable, everyone knows what the LRG machine is like. CCR team captain Agent Dana Scurry leads from the front, Verry Cherry and Tenacity trying to push through, Woo-Ha and Bunny looking for the turbo button, but LRG are in a class of their own. Lady Go-Go, Sophia Ann Loathing, Ruby Rehab, Goregasm, Oates and others toying with the Birmingham vehicle. The result of this race was never really in doubt, and CCR will be glad to see the back of the London Model B. If only for a short while.
London Brawl Saints 388 – Central City Rollergirls 43
1967: “The roller-skating rink, opened by the Trustees sixty years before, was one of the few features of the Palace to enjoy continuous success, but it was now showing signs of age and declining popularity. A new surface and modern skates led to smoother skating and reduction of noise; improved décor and amplification of music made the rink attractive and skating again became a very popular recreation, especially among young people. The new surface brought problems of balancing the needs of speed skaters, now concentrated in the Palace with the closing of other rinks, with those of recreational, dance and figure skaters. This was solved by constructing a special speed skating asphalt track in the Palm Court.” (R Carrington, Alexandra Park and Palace: A History, 1975)
These referee dudes are bumming me out, man. They’re like hey you can’t do that, we’re the voice of the authorities yeah, representatives of The Man, pigs in zebras’ clothing. Sending Hairy Fairy to the naughty seats, letting the Bristol badasses rack up some power jams. Superpower jams. Cake or Death cut out now too. Don’t sweat it, zebra feds, hang loose, let these Brighton dudettes have a bit of free expression, yeah? Cake back on track for half a second then haulin’ ass back to the cells. Brighton bogarting the sin bin. Bristol scoring points in a righteous manner, their jammers laying patches right across the track. Zebra feds calling someone for tripping – hey square, maybe you should try it some time, open your mind, straight. 80-18 to Bristol now. Tryin’ to shine it on.
Brighton on the make now, getting lead but Bristol solid, Brighton tooling. Jams getting called without scoring. Black Thorn truckin’, drawing designs all over the track, racking up numbers, she’s The Most. Brighton still getting bugged out to the penalty box regular. Zebra feds starting to hit on Bristol now too though, pack down to just two as Bash puts up some points. The seasiders fightin’ back. Jammers swapping over in the naughty seats, back and forth for a few seconds jailtime each. Bristol not wanting to let the differential slip, climbing it up now, hep to the lead. It’s Black Thorn again laying some nifty scratch. Half time and the team from the Wild West will be jazzed by a scoreline of 139-76. Let’s see if Brighton can clean it up and avoid the heavy fedding in the second half.
Wooah, hell no, the refs are wiggin’ out at the penalty potpourri. Players wiping out left, right and centre. Sin bin fuller than Lyndon Johnson’s war chest. Power jam. Power jam. Power jam. Hip play from Chariot Sophia, but these Bristol cats are strong even when down in numbers. Stripey thread cops laying down the law again. What’s your bag, man? The Westerners are really shaking it as Delta Strike calls off a jam to tie her shoelace. The kibosh is being put on many Brighton jams, but they’ve closed the gap to around 40 points with half a half to go. Mother Trucker laying down some choice blocking, Whooligan too. Rose Bleed sitting this bout out, offering gnarly advice from the crowd as she chills her wheels
There’s still a chance as Janeycide and Fondeo start putting boss tough Bash in to jam virtually every other line-up. Brighton could still turn this ship around, but no, it’s a heavy drag but the feds ain’t gonna let it happen. They’re raisin’ the funk now, going all padiddle and padunkle on the Rockers, giving Bash two minutes jailtime instead of one. Now the feds are freakin’ out for real. Instead of sending Rockers to the penalty seats, they’re crashing them out altogether, makin’ ‘em sit in the corner in their socks. First Sophia, then Bash. Enough with the expulsions, zebra feds. There’s nothing left on the clock now as a wicked strong Bristol side score the upset. Rockers take fourth, Harbour Harlots keep on truckin’.
Bristol Roller Derby 251 – Brighton Rockers 175
1974: Just shy of a century since roller skating arrived in these grounds, the rink closes due to the dangerous state of the roof. It will not reopen this time. Claims are made that the vibrations caused by the skating are what has caused the damage to the roof. Whilst plans to restore the Palace are drawn up – these include an outdoor (as per 1875) rather than indoor roller skating rink – the necessary funds are unavailable.
We’ve got the M.O. here, Guv, this is a blag we’ve already seen. Yesterday, the Central City gang took out the Bristol firm 218-204. Though Bristol took the fall, they also took right liberties, they wuz supposed to just roll over, bosh, and lose by a hundred or two. Turns out they had Central in their bin for much of the match. Even had the lead at half time, Black Thorn had her dabs all over it. Central ain’t gonna like that. Question is, did they blag it? Was it a one off? Have a butchers at this rematch, me old China, we’ll find out soon enough.
History repeating. Dot on the card. Don’t look like it from the get go. 15-0 to Central, maybe yesterday’s result was moody. 45-2, getting in shtuck, the CCR crew have ‘em sussed. No, just a tick, Guv, Bristol are having a dig back now. Wrecknician and Blizzard buncing points, Delta Strike, Tattooed Terror scarpering round too. Black Thorn busts out a shedload, spinning her scotches, working her plates, and suddenly the Harbour Harlots firm are givin’ it large over Central, fitting them up for a fall. It’s 125-82 to the BRD mob at half time. That’s a meatier gap than they had last time out, when Central pegged them back late on. Can they hang on in there this time and finish top dog?
Second half under starters orders and they’re off. Determination on their boats, Bristol are keeping it kosher, they’ve got the strength on the CCR firm. No, just a tick, Guv. Power jams bringing Central in from the cold. Tinchy Strider and Viv La France writing cheques and cashing them all over the Bristol pack. Robinson and Knuckle Dust’Her trying to keep it tight, telling Central to get off their manor, but Central have fire in their daisies now, giving out legals all over the gaff. 159-159. What a ding dong this one is. Can’t put anyone in the frame for doing a job on the other firm at this stage.
Six minutes left and Holy Moly, the Birmingham mob are cooking on Calor now. Bang. Bang. Bang. Hitting holes in the Bristol firm from all over the gaff, showing it lemon, dubbing them up. Centrinnians taking Bristol to school, but the Harlots are still in the chase. The ticker’s almost ticked out though, check the kettle, time out Bristol, less than a minute left in the pot. Give it one last shufty round and we’ve done our biscuits. BRD gave it buckets, but Central squeaked out the result again. Third place for Bristol, a second face-off with the much feared London mob for CCR. Can they steal the gold?
Central City Rollergirls 195 – Bristol Roller Derby 172
1990: On the 10th July 1980, a huge fire – one of many in Alexandra Palace’s chequered history (the original 1873 Palace burnt down sixteen days after opening) – will cause severe damage to most of the building. The restoration process takes a decade. In 1990 skating returns to Ally Pally, but in a different location and of a different format – the frozen water variety. A continuance of the long history of ‘skating’ at the Palace is widely referenced in the planning application for this ice rink, which is still going strong.
We’ve been here before. The day’s competition ends as it began with top seeds the London Brawl Saints taking on Birmingham’s Centrinnians. CCR will be hoping things don’t go the way of the earlier contest, but given how methodical LRG teams are (eg they have a specially choreographed skate-out routine for this final) there’s slim chance of that. Think the London side might take it easier on Central this time round? Think again. The Brawl Saints know that every point matters when it comes to rankings and more. This is a London team who challenge a decision on an opposing player crossing the penalty box line when they themselves are hundreds in the lead with mere seconds left on the clock. Rule one of LRG Club: No let-up, ever.
Both teams are wearing different uniforms compared to this morning’s encounter. Central rather than London are now sporting black boutfits, whilst the Brawl Saints have reverted to LRG’s iconic electric pink kit, often voted the best in world derby. Indeed, rumours abound that the London organisation keep a retinue of golden unicorns who hand (er, foot) stitch their teams new boutfits from kryptonite and mermaid tears before every bout. Whilst that might be over-egging the scale of LRG’s imperial omelette, it’s certainly true that they’ve employed someone today to stand at the opposite corner to their dugout solely to help the refs out.
“Pack is HERE.”
Any wafer-thin hopes Central might have had of upsetting the apple cart fly out of the window in a flurry of mixed metaphors as London break the hundred point mark with CCR stuck on four. Indeed London – who have had the benefit of more than four hours rest between bouts, compared to a scarce few minutes for Central – go to town even more this second time around. CCR give it a go, but the Saints are too strong; their pack marshalled with military precision, their jammers as fast and furious as anything yet created. 184-22 at half time, 411-56 by the end. A powerhouse performance.
Hugs and hand slaps between the teams complete, the Brawl Saints skate over to the main stage in the tattoo show itself, where they are presented with the inaugural Roller Rumble trophy. A few Saints take to practising their knee drops and derby stops on the catwalk. It’s been a packed weekend of derby action with pluses and minuses for every competing league (mostly just pluses for London and Bristol, to be fair). Here’s to many more UKRDA Southern Region Tournaments to come. Just try and get LRG to send Batter C Power instead next year, yeah – give the rest at least a chance!
FINAL: London Brawl Saints 411 – Central City Rollergirls 56
2013: Alexandra Park celebrates its 150th anniversary and roller skating returns to the great building in its midst. Over the late May bank holiday weekend, as part of the first Great British Tattoo Show to take place in the Palace, a special track is laid for an historic tournament. This is the UK Roller Derby Association’s first regional tournament and also features the first ever UKRDA sanctioned men’s bout. The tournament runs over two days (May 25th & 26th) and nine bouts. London Brawl Saints take the trophy as the clatter of quad wheels returns to a venue that has been at the heart of British roller skating for many generations. As skaters and spectators turn to their iPhones and Galaxys to photograph the scoreboard and update Twitter, it’s hard to fathom that the first roller skating rink in these grounds opened a few months before the telephone was even invented. If modern roller derby can remain even half as enduring as skating in general, these are the very early years of a long history to come.
@RollerRumble omg wt a trnmnt every1 cn tk smthng gd away frm it th event itslf demnstrtd lkly futr drctn of snctnd drby in the uk #ukrdaFTW
@LRGBrawlSaints did whts expctd of 1st seed dmntd + dstryd tho BTN gv thm 1st hlf scare elswhr they wr clinicl + difrnt lg #vdeservedwinners
@CentralCity found brstl a tuff nut 2 crk bth tms but did wt 2nd seeds shd do + md it to th fnl + can pt disapntng trk qns bhnd thm #onwards
@BrightonRockers were only lg who lst to a lwr seed but can tk much cmfrt frm giving LRG suprstrs a rl tst esp in th 1st hlf #goodexperience
@BristolRollerDrby were th big winnrs of th wkend doin far btr thn prdctd in evry bout + gainin a lot of rnkng pnts in th procs #awesometeam
@KentRollerGirls altho they lost both of their bouts the difrntls wr far smaller thn expctd + dmnstrt th real ptntl tht this lg hv #nexttime
@CrashTestBrummies @InhumanLeague hd th hnr of plyng in the 1st ukrda snctnd mens bt + hlpd raise th prfl of mrby in th procs #historymakers
@AlexandraPalace exctly 112 yrs 13 days aftr she was 1st hm 2 a sktng trk she stl hs big role 2 play in rlrsktng in th uk #rollerrumble2014+
STAR PICKS (solely based on our frankly hazy recollection of events)
TOP THREE ROCKERS: 1 Chariot Sophia, 2 The Mighty Mighty Bash, 3 Racey Slam Hard // TOP TEN OTHERS: 1 Black Thorn, 2 Rebelle De Jour, 3 Lola Vulkano, 4 Tinchy Slider, 5 Tattooed Terror, 6 Gels Bells, 7 Viv La France, 8 The Blizzard, 9 Missyle Elliot, 10 Demi Lition // TOP THREE MERBY: 1 Omar Gherd, 2 Ben Hurrt, 3 Beat Monkey
[Photos by Rebecca Cornford. 1875 etching from Harper's Weekly.]