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.
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