It seems like several months since we last saw a Brighton side in action on the derby track, although in truth the London tattoo show tournament was just a few weeks ago. This Saturday afternoon (13th July) the setting is probably as far removed from the urban jungle of North London as you’ll find in UK derby. Set your sat navs for half a mile south of the village of Ashby Parva (population 211) in the depths of the Leicestershire countryside. Indeed, the meandering bus journey from central Leicester takes as long as the train from London (tip: you can swerve half the bus trip by hopping a train to Narborough).
This bout sees a return meeting between the Brighton Rockers and Dolly Rockit Rollers. When these leagues faced off in a diamond jubilee themed bout at Haywards Heath last May, the Rockers A-team rolled out comfortable winners with a final score of 224-69. It’s their B-team Bruisers taking part this time out though, in what marks only their second public bout (first outside of Sussex). Given that Brighton have a much smaller roster than most leagues of a similar stature, their B-team often looks an awful lot like the A-team minus most of the jamming rotation. Whatever form the Bruisers squad of [up to] fourteen takes, many people are expecting this to be a close one.
Since last year’s match-up, the Dollies have gone through a period of transition. Talismanic Rogue Runner moved away and now destroys the best of Europe and North America in the pink and black of London Brawling, and there have been a number of other additions and subtractions of personnel. The Leicester league have certainly been keeping busy though, having fitted in an impressive total of thirteen bouts (an average of one per month) since their appearance in Sussex. We’ll gloss over the specific results – they won one and a few others were quite close – and move on to how this calendar compares to Brighton’s.
The Rockers A-team have played eight bouts since their previous meeting with the Dollies, with three of those contests being at the recent tournament in London. These eight matches resulted in four wins and four losses, with the latter being something of a new experience to the Rockers. Indeed, last year’s bout against the Dollies was the last match of a long unbeaten run that stretched right back to the Brighton league’s foundation! We should be focusing more on their B-team results here, of course, but there’s not a great deal of them to focus on, with a narrow 191-246 home defeat in March to the fast rising Portsmouth league the only open door result to speak of. The use of a squad of twenty in the London tournament will have provided useful experience for many of the non A-team Bruisers though.
So how’s it all going to play out? The only way to find out is to add a sunny Saturday in the East Midlands countryside to your diaries. Tickets are only £6 online (£7 on the door). We’ve spoken to a few folk from the Leicester and Brighton ranks about what people travelling up for the bout can expect.
“Midlands Roller Arena is a purpose-built arena for rollersports,” Dolly Rockit Orla Skew tells us. “There are bleachers, and some more tiered seating, plus lots of standing room. On bout day there is a café next door, plus we have a licensed bar selling beer, lager, cider, wine and soft drinks. The usual selection of Dolly-made cakes will be available, and our raffle this time is superb. Really, it is.”
“The best way to get to MRA is by car – entering LE17 5JD on the sat nav should get you there no problem. The arena is partway between Bitteswell and Ashby Parva itself, and on the same site as the recently closed Ashby Parva Plant Centre. We recommend coming off the M1 at Junction 20 and heading through Lutterworth. There will be signposting for the roller derby on nearby roads. There is car parking on site, with an overflow car park on the field next door, if needed, but if you can car share, please do! It’s also possible to get to Leicester by train/coach and then catch a bus (or club together and book a taxi). The Centrebus 140 bus from Leicester St Margaret’s Bus Station stand 12 goes through Ashby Parva and on to Bitteswell. If you asked to be dropped off at the Midlands Roller Arena/old Ashby Parva Plant Centre between these two villages, we’re sure the driver would oblige.”
“Doors are at 12.30 and the mixed opener should start at 1pm, featuring guest skaters from Norfolk Brawds, Oxford, Croydon, LRG rec league, Evolution Roller Derby, Lincolnshire Bombers, Nottingham Roller Derby, and Northamptonshire Roller Derby (Shoetown Slayers). The main bout against Brighton should begin at approximately 3.45pm, with an estimated end time of 5.30pm.”
Are there any particular DRR skaters we should look out for? “Look out for ALL the Dollies. That said, the ‘Skater of the Month’ features on our website are a pretty good guide of who to watch out for on track. As for tactics… now we wouldn’t give that away, would we? That said, we’ve been taking tips on the use of leopards from Sutton Impact and one to watch is Dave the invisible NSO. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!” Captain Onya Case adds: “The Dollies learn from every bout we play. In a year we’ve learned a lot. We are faster, stronger, smarter and more controlled. We’ll be playing our game and keeping focused on that.”
Bruisers bench coach Mistress Von Über Vixen tells us: “The Bruisers are very much looking forward to this bout against the Dollies. After the Rockers’ decisive win against them last summer, the rematch has been hotly anticipated. Whilst there have been some significant changes on the Dollies roster since last year, we are well aware that they have some promising up-and-comers as well as some strong, experienced veterans. Not to worry, the Bruisers have a few tricks up their sleeves. Championed by their captain Racey Slamhard, the Bruisers have been grooming some new players that are eager to show the Dollies their keen tactical minds, hard hits and effortless footwork. This will be a fabulously competitive bout and one that should not be missed!”
“Pirates Bar serves an impressive selection of rums and pirate-themed cocktails as well as your usual beers/ciders etc. It draws a largely alternative crowd, is a little bit ‘spit and sawdust’ and somewhere where we’ve not yet been barred or flashed by a Scotsman,” says Skew. “It plays host at our afterparty to rock/metal covers band .308. The last afterparty we held had the rollergirls and fans dominating the bar – yay! It’s right in the centre of Leicester (18 Pocklingtons Walk), a short walk from the train and bus stations, and on street parking does exist nearby, but is limited. There is a car park nearby on Newarke St.”
“If you have any free time in Leicester (though you’d probably have to stay over) we have the National Space Centre (Rockits, see?), The Gas Museum, and some great boutique shopping in The Lanes. There are some frankly amazing curry houses on both London Road and ‘The Golden Mile’ if you want to get a bite before the afterparty. Ask a Dolly for a recommendation.”
With Brighton’s A-team currently ranked 9th in the UK and the Dollies 24th, these two sides should be pretty evenly matched. Train travel from Brighton to Leicester (via St Pancras) is about £50 there and back if you buy advance singles for designated trains each way. Hotels are mostly £50-£60 a night, but with less than three hours journey time from Sussex you’ll probably only need to stay over if you can’t bear to leave an afterparty in progress. We’ll hopefully be putting up a bout report a few days afterwards, but since our reports are largely stylised gibberish the only way to really know what went down is to get yourself up there!
[Photo by Rebecca Cornford. Who’d probably want us to mention that if you can’t get up to the East Midlands on Saturday, you can catch the Bourne Bombshells in action at the Eastbourne Extreme open air derby tournament from 10am-6pm.]