New In (B-)Town: Introducing the Brawlers…

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We begin a week of daily website updates in the run up to the Brighton Rockers game on the 7th with a look at another league entirely. Yep, it seems the mighty Rockers are no longer the only show in town, with the arrival in Brighton of a second roller derby league. The B-Town Brawlers describe themselves as Europe’s first gender-inclusive derby side, and we caught up with co-founder FINN THE HUMAN for a few words about this new league…

Hi there. Firstly, can you explain how the B-Town Brawlers came into being?
The Brawlers came about with a Facebook conversation between me and my friend Jak, when we decided that Brighton needed a men’s team. I realised as a transgender person that I didn’t feel comfortable in an exclusively female or male league and recognised that there was a humungous need for gender-inclusive roller derby by talking to the trans and queer communities. All the existing UK roller derby leagues defined gender in some way, shape or form, whether that is talking about a ‘women’s’, ‘men’s’ or ‘co-ed’ league (co-ed is defined as both male and female).
    This can really suck for people who are transgender, non-binary, agender or intersex; who do not define as either male or female, as they have to choose to be in either a male or a female league (or be a male or female in a co-ed league) under UKRDA rules. They aren’t allowed to just be themselves: non-binary. Gender inclusivity is a huge part of the Brawlers’ ethos. We don’t discriminate entry to the league based on gender and you can be any gender to join. In cahoots with my partner Elly and Jak, the concept of setting up a derby league on this basis steamrollered very quickly and we found lots and lots of dedicated people who made it grow.

Do you have many links to the Brighton Rockers or the three (women’s, men’s, juniors) Eastbourne leagues? Are you going to be a ‘rival’ team to them?
We’re very close to the Eastbourne leagues who have been extremely supportive, and also our Brighton big sister league who have also been great. Both have offered to lend us skaters and officials, and offered holy advice. I guess we’re kind of like the Rockers’ queer little sibling and Ebo’s younger cousin! We currently have skaters who originate from the Eastbourne leagues, the Rockers and Cambridge. As to being rivals, even though some of our pre-Fresh Meat skaters are incredible, I think it will be quite a long time before we’re rivaling anyone! Also, if the Rockers end up being a WFTDA league, the chances are that we wouldn’t be able to bout them in any official capacity anyway.

Exactly how inclusive are the Brawlers? What aims and ambitions do the league have?

We currently have an age limit of 18+, but there have been talks of a gender-inclusive youth league in the pipeline, so watch this space! We don’t discriminate against people on their age, build, skating ability or disabilities and we have people from all walks of life involved in skating and non-skating roles. We aim to be as inclusive and as accessible as possible, shown in our motto that we “Never leave a person behind”. This has made our practices somewhere really positive to be.
    We also have a safer spaces policy that protects the members of our league, which many leagues don’t feel the need to do. This means that people in the league are much better protected against discrimination, which can unfortunately still happen in the derby world. We have a really tight-knit support group and welfare team too, who work really hard to make our league members feel safe and represented. Aside from that we have campaigns and fundraising groups who are trying to make roller derby a more inclusive sport. With fundraising, we’re trying to raise money for people in the community to afford skating sessions and kit; people who may not otherwise be able to enjoy the mental health benefits of sport.
    Our league has skyrocketed in a matter of a couple of months. We now have over 50 people involved in skating and non-skating roles, and that number is increasing daily. Our Fresh Meat programme starts this weekend and we’re really excited about that – we have so much planned! Our long term aims are to create a space for people who are trans and non-binary as well as cisgender in the greatest sport on Earth. We’d ideally like to see our success repeated across the country. We’re also looking to challenge the current UKRDA rules on gender inclusivity, and to perhaps even create a different roller derby governing body entirely – one which is gender-inclusive.

MORE INFO
The B-Town Brawlers kick off their first Fresh Meat programme tomorrow, Sunday 1st Feb. You can contact them at Btownbrawlersrollerderby@gmail.com. We’ll have more on this exciting new league in the next issue of the BRATS fanzine Turn Left. Pick up your free copy at the Brighton Rockers v Team Dragon game in Haywards Heath next Saturday (7th Feb).
BRAWLERS FB PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/btownbrawlers

From Rainy February to Gin in November: BRATS 2014 Review of the Year

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2014 begins, as many years do, in January. The Rockers traditionally don’t play their first competitive game of the year until the league’s anniversary in mid Feb, so the first few weeks are focused on getting back to full fighting strength after the festive break. The year’s training regime sees the Brighton side link up for the first time with CrossFit Connect, who have put together a roller derby specific cross-training programme for the league. These sessions supplement 2014’s more nomadic and changeable than usual training schedule. With the Rockers’ regular venue, GYSO in Shoreham, closing its doors on January 3rd, training will be split between Hove’s King Alfred and the smaller Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre.

Somewhat surprisingly, none of the Rockers on the longlist for Team England (Bash, Sham and Sophia) make the final cut for the World Cup squad. There’s no time to wallow in this as things are hectic in February. The league’s first Fresh Meat programme of the year kicks off on the 2nd and the Sussex side celebrate their fourth birthday on the 14th. The following day sees Great Manchester’s Rainy City as the opponents as Brighton take to the track in Haywards Heath for the year’s first open door game. The Northern side rank five places above the Rockers going into the game, but a battling performance in an epic match sees the Sussex league take a narrow victory. (REPORT) Meanwhile, BRATS become the first fans group accepted as contributors to the National Museum of Roller Derby – check out our fanzines and shizz there next time you’re in Glasgow. (NMRD)

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After the nerve-wracking comeback against Rainy, there’s an even narrower Brighton home victory four weeks later on March 15th against Paris Rollergirls. With much of the UK derby community’s attention focused on Birmingham, where the inaugural Men’s World Cup is taking place, the Rockers are nearly 100 points behind at half time in Haywards. The Sussex skaters won’t give up though, and the final few jams see them edge past their French opponents to take it by four points. Yowser! (REPORT) As if this isn’t enough excitement for the month, two teams of Rockers face off against each other in the Warrior Run, a punishing obstacle race, on the 30th, raising over £700 for the league in the process. A quieter April sees no public events, but the Rockers use the opportunity to commence their second Fresh Meat programme of the year.

May is Festival Month in Brighton. The Rockers get into the swing of things by taking part in the Fringe City event that kicks it all off, before taking to the track against Middlesbrough Milk Rollers a week later (10th). We persuade William Hill to take bets on the event – the first time anyone has taken bets on UK derby – and the 2-5 odds they give on an MMR victory prove prescient as the visitors (then the highest ranked English league in the UKRDA) become the first team to ever beat Brighton at home. (REPORT) As five members of February’s Fresh Meat programme pass the skills test necessary to become fully fledged Rockers, the league celebrates by taking a mixed level team across the water on June 7th, taking on Switchblade RollerGrrrls in Lille. It’s a tough challenge in tropical conditions for Brighton’s small mixed squad, but there’s not much in it scorewise. (REPORT)

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Later in the month, the league hold an open session for those interested in derby as part of the TakePART Sport initiative. There’s another home game for the A-team All-Stars on July 26th as they take on near neighbours Croydon at the Dolphin. The rankings website predictions are expecting a comfortable Rockers win here, but the visitors play tight and tough to keep down Brighton’s margin of victory. (REPORT) The game marks the retirement of Rockers legend Mistress and also sees the launch a huge new range of league merch, with multiple T-shirt designs, badges, bottle openers and more. (T-SHIRT SHOP) Aside from Shambolic’s fundraising piercathon at league sponsors Punktured – and the small matter of captain Racey’s wedding – the Brighton skaters take things fairly easy in August. As do we at BRATS… shamefully it takes us nearly two months to post our report on the Croydon game. Oops!

The Rockers All-Stars play an unprecedented sixth home game in a row (including one in November of the previous year) on the 20th September. The opponents are Bristol Roller Derby, the only lower ranked side to have ever beaten the Rockers A-team. That was in a UKRDA tournament at London’s Alexandra Palace in May ’13 and it looks like the two sides will be making a habit of meeting in UKRDA competition – Bristol will be Brighton’s first opponents in the 2015 British Championships. The two sides’ 2014 meeting is tipped to go Brighton’s way, but turns out to be a tougher battle than expected. (REPORT) The one win apiece record sets things up nicely for the leagues’ February 2015 meeting. In BRATS news, we decide we don’t like our fanzine font any more and perform what we grandly call a ‘redesign’ for the Bristol issue. (FANZINE ARCHIVE) The month also sees the release of a short documentary about the Brighton league. (PIVOT BLOCK JAM)

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October sees us initiate the most ill-judged contest ever. A photograph of BRATS member Maki sporting one of our baseball caps in Reykjavik encourages us to ask fans to send photos of themselves wearing one as far away from Brighton as possible, with the winner getting… er, a BRATS baseball cap. The rest of the year sees Maki and another member, Mr Dean, trying to outdo each distance-wise. Back on home soil, the Rockers realise an away game is long overdue and make the short trip along the cost on the 25th to take on Portsmouth Roller Wenches. It’s another close but well fought victory for the Brighton league. (REPORT) Moving into November, the Rockers blag their second big name signing of the year. Former Eastbourne head coach and captain Swann joined over the summer, and this month sees the arrival of one of Croydon’s most iconic skaters, Gin Atomic. The South Londoners receive Rockers ref Banger as part of the transfer fee.

Gin has barely trained with the Rockers when she’s thrown into action, with the league sending a small mixed level squad up North to play Manchester Roller Derby on the 22nd. (REPORT) As with the Lille trip, the result might not be the one Brighton wanted, but the opportunity to give some newer skaters gaming experience could prove invaluable. Especially as the Rockers – who have never really had that big a roster – will need to select a 20-woman squad for British Champs. BRATS celebrate our second birthday by shamelessly interviewing ourselves. (BIRFDAY) We also fix it for a new board game to feature a zombie version of Sham in her Rockers kit as one of its figures. (ZOMBN1) The year comes to an end, as most years do, in December, which is pretty quiet. Keep an eye on this website for our 2014 Awards, plus a look ahead to the Rockers’ much anticipated 2015 National League South campaign. Yay!

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ROCKERS 2014 OPEN DOOR RESULTS
15th Feb: Rockers All-Stars 174 v Rainy City 163
15th March: Rockers All-Stars 178 v Paris Rollergirls 174
10th May: Rockers All-Stars 123 v Middlesbrough 230
7th June: Switchblade RollerGrrrls 171 v Rockers mixed level 136
26th July: Rockers All-Stars 163 v Croydon RD 151
20th Sept: Rockers All-Stars 277 v Bristol Roller Derby 209
25th Oct: Portsmouth Roller Wenches 159 v Rockers All-Stars 221
22nd Nov: Manchester RD 243 v Rockers mixed level 115

ROCKERS 2015 BRITISH CHAMPS FIXTURES
Note: British Champs released the incorrect fixtures/venues online.
The ones we carried here previously were wrong. These are correct.

21st Feb v Seaside Sirens (in East London)
21st Mar v Bristol Roller Derby (in Southend)
9th May v Royal Windsor Roller Girls (in Bristol)
11th July v Portsmouth Roller Wenches (Haywards Heath)
8th Aug v London Rockin’ Rollers (Venue TBA)

[Photos by John Hesse]

LINKS
BRIGHTON ROCKERS
BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS