The imposing pale honey majesty of the Palace’s exterior – Saint Leu stone facade and sandstone paving – glints in the late June sun as a procession of officials, reporters and observers file into the building. Close to a thousand in all, packing into the Galerie de Glaces, the Hall of Mirrors. Introductions solemnly despatched, the signatories step forward from the crowd and form a queue at the table. First the Germans, then the French, British, American and Italian representatives. One by one they approach the sheet of parchment spread out across the table in front of them, each adding a shakily scrawled signature and official seal. Just shy of 230 nights have passed since the armistice was signed at Compiègne, bringing to an end the War To End All Wars. Now this piece of limed, stretched and whited sheepskin – upon which inked names slowly dry in the draughty Versailles hall – represents the best hope for enduring peace across Europe and the World…
Shambolic up against Awesome Wells in the star. Two packs colliding in a maelstrom of black and navy, cyan and white, combatants on both sides being grounded by a succession of hard hits, but up fast and back into the fray. Home crowd cheering as Wells takes the outside line, four whistles ringing out to end the jam. Rose Bleed and captain Emma the Condemner look at each other and sigh. 14-8. Brighton had opened well, taking single pass wins in each of the opening three skirmishes (Swann v Nina Nunchucks, Rose v RIP McMurphy, Kapow v Wells) to lead 14 nothing. The Wenches starhead trio have hit back to take the next round of battles though. Into the eighth now. Announcer Sassy McAwesome reminds us there have been no jammer penalties for either side yet. “Although I’ve probably jinxed it by saying that,” she adds, as Rose obligingly takes a penalty box star seat. Two good PJ passes for McMurphy ties the game at 22 apiece – that’s half a bottle of whisky in the roller derby drinking game.
The ever impressive Mighty Mighty Bash and Hairy Fairy hold Wells back well with their backs. Great jinking stepovers from Kapow through PRW’s defence, but a hard hit from Duchess of Crutches forces a ground-bound call from the Sussex starhead. Whooligan v Nunchucks take to the line. Both sides are putting out really strong packs today, but the initial initiative has been slipping away from the Rockers as the game (albeit still in its early stages) has progressed. Bench guru Mass Janeycide, presumably looking to shore things up, calls Brighton’s first team timeout. The Sussex side are fielding a small roster here – a prior head injury having seen Derby McGee withdrawn from the squad – with more than half of the eleven forming the jammer rotation. Those six against PRW’s band of three means that (until PJ starts confuse matters) we’ll be seeing a lot of repeated match-ups in this game. The powerful Nunchucks faces Swann then Whooligan, captain RIP goes up against Rose and Bash, and Wells takes on Kapow and Sham. Another four jams pass with everything staying super tight on the scoreboard. 33-32 to Brighton it says.
The next one’s a biggie. Awesome Wells off early for a track cut. Kapow looking to take advantage, Bash clearing a path with the kind of offensive defence for which she’s famed – Malibash Stacie and Duchess both sent flying on the same hit. Twenty point jam. Just over ten minutes left of the period, Wenches bench Tess Of The Derby Wheels calls a TTO. Back on track a barely containable McMurphy gets lead straight from the whistle, but Bash is out seconds later and quick to close her down. Track cut call on Sham sees a power jam for Wells, but Rose (returning from the sin bin) blocks her advance nicely. Star pass to Dropkick Molly as Sham returns. The navy town navy blues holding Kapow back strongly now, with the likes of Miss Dynamighty, Halcyon Daze and Brookslide proving particularly tough in the Wenches packs. Duchess marshalling the Pompey walls well, one eye as ever bedecked in what we assume is plastic garden mesh. (There’s a bunch of goldfish in a garden pond somewhere glaring ominously at the oval hole in their cat protection shield.) Rockers maintaining the twenty point gap Kapow carved out in the 15th still. Sham on a power jam, getting knackered and battered by a tough Hampshire defence. Rose off for an accidental trip on Halcyon in the last jam of the period. Brighton lead 90-64 going into the break.
It’s a dying art. The papersmiths – their noisy machines pressing wood pulp at a rate of knots – will do for artisans like George and Albert soon enough. The brothers know it. That’s why they’re branching out, getting into leather gloves these days. Still, the original family business is not dead yet. It begins at the farm. The skin must be removed within hours of slaughter or the flesh will have started to rot and the end product won’t match the Stallards’ exacting standards. Into the lime pits (pokes) it goes, topped up with water from the Homewell, soaked in there for a week or so. Scrape off the wool, back in the pokes for a couple more weeks; split off the inner skin, more scraping, then stretch it out on a frame; chalk and soda ash to remove the last of the fat, boiling water to parch the skin; shaved and levelled, left to dry; more chalk, more ash; washed, rubbed and cut to size. Ten weeks all told to produce probably the finest parchment in all of Europe…
There’s talk of a possible bar somewhere here in Havant Leisure Centre, but we’ve gone for the old trick of filling our shoes with bootleg rum and hiding really long straws under our clothes. We take a quick saunter around the hall, puzzled passers pondering what that squelching sound might be. Cupcakes, raffles, vendors and merch. Brief chat with the Hoodlum Fang posse who advertised in our last fanzine. Off skates Racey is personing the Brighton merch table, whilst the Wenches one is staffed by the former manager of the official Rockers pub. Small world, but then these two sides are pretty close neighbours on the UK derby map – only Eastbourne, Croydon and (Guildford based) Surrey live nearer to BN1. Kit checks starting. Back to the seats. Don the stupid hat to ensure no-one sits next to us. Realise we can’t read a single word of our notes from the first half. Take a couple of long slurps of shoe rum. Second half notes can only get worse. Wenches on the attack as the action resumes, Nina taking full advantage of a PJ start to claw back half of the 26-point deficit.
Enyo Face and Bash pegging back RIP McMurphy and the navy gang’s talisman is starting to look human (rather than superhuman) now – well, as human as you can look when you have a giant skeletal grimace painted across the lower half of your face. Brighton reasserting themselves strongly in Jam 4 as a pack of Whooligan, Hyde ‘N’ Shriek, Cake Or Death and Sham holds off Nina Nunchucks, whilst the ever sprightly Rose wheels in pass upon pass. 117-81. Dropkick Molly has replaced Awesome Wells in the Pompey rotation this half and she’s up against Swann next. Hairy Fairy and Bash pinballing Wenches pivot Duchess back and forth across the track until the frustrated PRW linehead gets sent to the box. Swann adds 23, the same Rose chalked up last jam, and with only one pass in reply the Rockers are starting to build up a commanding lead. The dudes in Brighton black are getting LJ time and again now, the Sussex side sitting on the shiny side of a 50-point gap. Rockers blockers suddenly being sent off left, right and centre, though – back block, multi player, etc. An official timeout sees Derby McGee rush twixt crowd and bench to tell the Rockers something important, possibly “try not to get sent off so much, yeah?”
Nunchucks pitching in with a bunch of great apex jumps now, but Brighton are maintaining that 50-point differential jam by jam. Eleven minutes left as RIP picks up a penalty, Brookslide knocking Cake all over the track as Shambolic notches up some points. (This will be the ninjasome Rockers triple threat’s last game for some time as she’s joining the Rockers’ burgeoning ‘foreign legion’.) Janeycide calling for an official review over something or other. Packs trash-talking (or maybe nice-talking) on the pivot line as the zebras huddle. McMurphy starring up alongside Swann a fair bit this half. The Brighton jammer, who has often cited RIP as the player she most admires, is giving as good as she gets in these exchanges. Duchess trying to edge Kapow off in the next jam, but the plastic eyed Pompeyite gets called out for a penalty. That makes seven and she’s out of the game. Probably not long enough left now for the Wenches to miss her too much, though. Swann edges the Sussex side over 200. PRW respond with a swish move, Molly passing the star to Wells over both packs’ heads as the jam begins. Another Portsmouth star pass attempt in the next (and final) jam, but it’s deemed illegal and their captain takes a seat in the penalty box as Kapow jams in a handful to round things off at 221-159.
We text a Portsmouth friend for suggested pubs in Havant to visit before and after today’s action. The response – “Decent pubs? In Chavant? Hahaha” – is none too encouraging, so we go for the chain of last resort. J D Wetherspoon, oh how we love you. Supping on a warm Jägermeister whilst ducking the chunks of mushy peas being flung around the place by endless tables of bawling infants, we look at our notes from the game. Those muck-chucking babies can surely write more legibly than we can? We mull over exactly how wrong – and stupid and selfish – it would be for us to feel a tiny bit relieved that Sham is taking time off from the Rockers, since in our drunken scrawl ‘Sham’ and ‘Swann’ look identical, so anything we’ve attributed to one in this piece could well have actually been done by the other. We gaze across the pub, hoping for some kind of local colour to pad out the review, that being the sort of shyster thing we’d try to get away with. A display on one wall explains the local history that gave this pub, The Parchment Makers, its name. The whiteness of Hampshire chalk and cleanliness of Havant’s springs made the town’s parchment the brightest and most prized around, apparently. Even the Treaty of Versailles (28th June 1919) was written on Havant parchment, they say…
Swann (or possibly Sham) picks up Brighton’s Best Jammer award, with Best Blocker going to Hairy Fairy and MVP to Bash. For Portsmouth, the awards land on Nina Nunchucks (Jammer), Halcyon Daze (Blocker) and Brookslide (MVP). Brighton’s margin of victory is roughly double that predicted by Flattrackstats, which is especially encouraging considering the small squad the Rockers used. The day’s other game sees Portsmouth’s B-team take on the Killa Hurtz from Chelmsford. As announcer McAwesome points out – almost as if she’s reading aloud from the preview on this very website – FTS had called this as 87% likelihood of a Wench win. Although PRW will indeed take the victory, the freshly bouting Essex side prove tough competitors. Perhaps taking after league icon McMurphy, there’s enough face paint for a Kiss convention upon Pompey’s B-team ranks; Valkyrie Pain’s silver face, Atomic Affliction’s eye stripe, Hurricane Hayes’ extra mouth and more. This trio are amongst the standout jammers for the Hampshire side, along with pacy Hel On. Fleet footed Space Hop’her and Snarley Quinn are battling hardy and hard in the Killa Hurtz star, ably assisted by Essex blockers like tough-to-pass Princess Prissy Pants and captain Clark Smash. The likes of Smash Hips, Wheelma Flintstone and A-team bench coach Tess keep things tight in defence for PRW.
The last few jams are notable for more “duty manager to customer services” tannoy announcements than we’ve ever heard – hopefully these don’t relate to the cheap Aldi rum currently leaking from our shoelace eyelets. Rakey Brakey Face puts in some great scoring passes at the end for Killa Hurtz, but the Wenches take the win 230-177. As with the A-team game, Portsmouth have done roughly half as well (points margin wise) as online predictions suggested. Saying that, online predictions are 90% computer guesswork and several PRW players had to double up to play in both games, which can’t have been easy given the physicality of the two matches. After another quick pint in the Parchment, we catch a train to Southsea, spending much of this journey removing peas from our hair (and the rest of it adding rum to our footwear). After party venue The Honest Politician is a boisterous bar in the heart of Studentsville. The staff refuse to serve us five Jägermeisters in a single glass, claiming it’s illegal. Just as we’re about to recite the entire 2003 Licensing Act at them to prove it’s not they put five single shots and empty tumbler in front of us. Strange laws in this part of the world, but hey – at least they let us in. Something various Wetherspoons near the train station will later be reluctant to do, no matter how much we insist Sketchers that smell like rotten Captain Morgan are quite the thing in Sussex these days.
Portsmouth and Brighton are both back in action this Saturday (22nd November). The Wenches take on London Rollergirls’ third team Batter-C Power in Crystal Palace at an event that also features an LRG exhibition game (England superstar Kamikaze Kitten’s last match on home soil). Ticket details are in the link below. Meanwhile, the mighty Rockers are heading North, with a mixed A-team and newer players line-up taking on Manchester Roller Derby in Trafford, a few miles South West of the City Centre. The day also features Manchester’s men’s team in action and we’ll have a full preview up on this website super soon, including an interview with recent Rockers recruit Gin Atomic. It’s gonna be an awesome game, so get there if you can. Looking beyond this weekend, the fixtures for next year’s British Championships are due to be made public in the next few weeks – a free shot of shoe rum (like sloe gin, but infinitely more toxic) to anyone who leaks them to us before then. These are exciting times in UK derby, folks, especially for fans of the mighty Brighton Rockers. We don’t need a document signed and sealed on Havant parchment to tell us that!
[Photos by Andrew Paul Hayward – Raw Speed]
MANCHESTER V BRIGHTON
LONDON v PORTSMOUTH
BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS 2015