BRATS Review Of 2016: PART FOUR – You VOTED, We COUNTED, They WON… the 2016 AWARDS!

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If you’ve missed the previous instalments, we’ve been summarising all the events (eleven A-team, five B-team and three special games) from an action packed 2016 in the world of the Brighton Rockers. Check out our recap of the year at these links: PART ONE (Jan-June) / PART TWO (July-Oct) / PART THREE (Nov-Dec). This fourth and final part of our Annual Review is a little different as we crack open the ballot box from the BRATS/Turn Left end of year award voting. Last year’s box only appeared at one event (and no e-mail votes were cast), whereas this year it was gobbling up voting forms at three different locations – the games v Milan and Eastbourne in Haywards Heath on Dec 3rd, the Rockers exhibition match at Brighton Corn Exchange on Dec 10th, and that evening’s Christmas after party – as well as a flurry of votes by e-mail.

There’s a shiny badge and an equally shiny certificate for each winner, so please get in touch with us to arrange delivery if you’ve won one of this year’s awards. We’ve also listed the names of past winners for each category in this rundown. Bear in mind that while the 2015 vote was conducted in the same way (voting forms in the fanzine) as the 2016 one, the 2014 awards – which also had some different categories – were selected by half a dozen drunken BRATS folks in a pub. Many thanks to the gabillions (well, going on for a hundred) of you that voted this year. Without further ado, here’s who YOU chose as your top Rockers of 2016…

OTHER OF THE YEAR – TENACIOUS P
This one’s for all those folks whose roles aren’t covered by the other award categories, ie everybody except the players, refs and NSOs. A dozen different names picked up votes here, including some surprising choices – we’re not sure exactly what impact wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin had on the Rockers’ year. Our voting form mentioned bench crew, photographers and announcers as the sort of people this category covers, and this year saw a three-way race between one of each for the gong. Tied in second place were bench coach extraordinaire Mistress and top snapper John Hesse, whilst mic wielding loudmouth (ie awesomes announcer) Tenacious P took the prize by just half a vote! And if you’re wondering how we got a half-vote, someone put “the announcers” so we split that point between Phil and co-host Charlie.
Past winners: Mass Janeycide (2015)

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OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – LASERHAMMER
Seven names picked up nods in this award for referees and NSOs. Curiously, last year’s winner Noise Tank didn’t garner a single vote (in this category at least) this time around – serves him right for moving to Japan, yeah? There was a strong showing from K-Tea, but in the end it was a two-way tussle between NSO (and A-team skater) Hippy Hippy Skate and Rockers Head Ref LaserHammer, with the latter edging ahead by a handful of votes to reclaim his crown from Noise.
Past winners: Noise Tank (2015), LaserHammer (2014)

ICON OF THE YEAR – FINN McCRUEL

The voting form lists this category as being for “the most inspiring Brighton Rocker on or off track” and fifteen different names were put forward, including players, announcers, bench crew and a ref (you got a vote here Noise!). This award largely favoured people involved in the league’s coaching set-up. Fresh Meat tenderisers Hairy Fairy and Kapow both picked up a load of support, as did last year’s winner Shambolic, but in the end it was the transfer from Finland, Finn McCruel, clinching the prize here by a single vote over Gin Atomic.
Past winners: Shambolic (2015)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – FARMERGEDDON
There were eight skaters put forward for this category, but the result was never in doubt. Farmergeddon’s rise through the Rockers ranks has been meteoric. Having only taken up the sport as part of the 2016 Fresh Meat intake, ‘geddon will be in the A-team squad the league send to a tournament in Normandy later this month. Fellen E Assault takes second place in this category, but with over 70% of the total votes cast, Farmergeddon rolls out the most convincing victor across the entire 2016 Awards… and will be looking to follow last year’s winner in becoming an established A-team AllStar.
Past winners: Speedy Gonzalex (2015)

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B-TEAMER OF THE YEAR – CRUELTY SPREE
The electorate selected a dozen names in this Best Rockerbillies Player category, with almost all of those picking up multiple votes. There were strong showings from Lab Wrath, Polly Dartin’, Fellen E Assault and Chloe Colossus, amongst others. Rookie award winner Farmergeddon finished second here, but Cruelty Spree took the win by a comfortable margin.
Past winners: Bionic Betty (2015)

BLOCKER OF THE YEAR – HAIRY FAIRY
Ten names picked up nods in the poll for Brighton’s best defensive player of the year. Hairy Fairy took the win by a handful over Finn McCruel, becoming the first player to retain their 2015 award. Cake Or Death and Irish Mist were amongst those picking up sizable voting tallies here, but the result was never really in doubt.
Past winners: Hairy Fairy (2015), Emma The Condemner (2014)

JAMMER OF THE YEAR – SHAMBOLIC
Despite being one of the main awards, this category actually saw the fewest different players voted for in the entire ballot, with just six names written in for this jamming prize and some very surprising omissions. Dr Whooligan, Mighty Mouse, Gin Atomic and Emma The Condemner picked up a few votes, but in the end around 75% of the ballot cast was split between just two people. 2014 winner Kapow has to settle for the runners-up slot here, with Shambolic taking a narrow (three votes) win.
Past winners: Skate Bush (2015), Kapow (2014)

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PLAYER OF THE YEAR – GIN ATOMIC
Moving to Japan may have reduced Noise Tank to just one vote in the entire ballot, but it doesn’t seem to have done Gin Atomic any harm. Gin joins Hairy Fairy as the only person to retain their 2015 award. It was a fairly close run thing in what (with sixteen names in the running) was the most heavily contested category of all. Cake Or Death, Finn McCruel and B-teamer Cruelty Spree picked up a fair few votes here, but in the end it was former housemate Shambolic who Gin edged out by a couple of votes to triumph.
Past winners: Gin Atomic (2015), Dr Whooligan (2014)

That rounds up the eight categories on the voting form, but (as happened last year) the fact that the company who make our winners’ badges have a minimum order of ten means we’ve rustled up a couple of bonus gongs. The first is our MOST VOTED FOR award, which goes to the person who picked up the most votes across all of the categories without actually winning any of them. Lab Wrath took this one last year, but here it’s a three-way race, with the bronze going to Cake Or Death, silver to Hippy Hippy Skate and the WINNER – KAPOW taking the gold. Where gold means a tacky badge and certificate.

Finally we have our new FRIEND OF BRATS award. Although it says 2016 on the badge and certificate, this is more a Hall Of Fame type thing for someone who has really helped BRATS out over the years. There are loads of potential names in the frame here – heck, our website and fanzine have featured interviews with well over a hundred skaters (from the Rockers and elsewhere) so far, on top of all the awesome advertisers and photographers who have contributed. Special shout outs to the amazeballs John Hesse – recently voted best photographer in a national derby poll – and our ever reliable if confused advertiser Mr Séamus (yes, he really does pay us full price for his fanzine ads, even after moving to Devon). In the end this inaugural award has to go to the person who appeared on the cover of the very first Turn Left, providing us with inordinate help re interview wrangling etc over the years, most recently sourcing tributes to Gin for Issue 17 and being the main interview in Issue 18. We’re referring of course to the well deserved WINNER – MISTRESS.

So ends our BRATS Review of 2016 (somewhat later than planned, due to that lurgy wot’s going around). The Rockers kickstart their 2017 season on the 28th & 29th of this month, when they face Caen, Amsterdam and one from Madrid, Hellfire (Nottingham) and Kallio B (Helsinki) in Normandy’s Slip It tournament. Here’s hoping they can improve on last year’s last place! If you can’t make it out to Caen for that one, the next event at Haywards Heath Dolphin sees the AllStars take on Vienna on Saturday 4th March. If 2017’s even half as action-packed as 2016 it’s gonna be a belter. Laters, yeah…

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

Happy Birthday BRATS. We’re two today.

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A domain name renewal notice has reminded us that today is our second birthday. BRATS was launched (via the medium of a songsheet) at the Brighton Rockers home game v Big Bucks on Saturday 17th November 2012. We catch up with MISTER ADAM for a summary of the two years that have followed…

Hi there.
Hello.

I’m interviewing myself here, aren’t I?
Yes, but pretend you aren’t. No-one will notice.

OK. What was the inspiration behind the Rockers Songbook that launched BRATS?
The inspiration was largely Guinness, although there was also some real ale involved. Plus Jägermeister. I’d actually seen my first Rockers game over a year earlier (home to Dublin) and had been to every open door in the meantime – a couple of home games, plus trips to Gent in Belgium, Cambridge and Dublin. I was immediately hooked by the awesomeness of the sport in general, and of the Rockers in particular. I wanted to contribute something, but not in any ‘official’ sort of way. I’m a long-time football fan, having had a season ticket (on and off) for nearly thirty years at Charlton, a middling London club. One thing that seemed to be missing from roller derby was the kind of fan culture and involvement you have at football. Sure there were fan signs, cheering and so forth at derby, but something was absent. I realised it was the chants, not just for the team but also for individual players. The Songbook was an attempt, albeit a largely futile one, to remedy that. It didn’t help that my printer was playing up on the morning of the game, so we only managed to make a few dozen badly printed copies rather than the planned 150-ish. Still, the Rockers scored what remains their highest ever points haul (357) in that game, so the chants must have worked, yeah? Humour me, folks.

What was the inspiration behind expanding from a songbook into ‘Turn Left’ – the UK’s first (and possibly only) roller derby fanzine?
It’s actually not the first as some folks did a London Rollergirls fanzine called ‘Rollerama’ a few years earlier. I’m surprised you don’t know that. The idea for the fanzine also came about exactly two years ago today. I was having pre-game boozes with some mates in the Welly pub opposite the [now sadly extinct] Shoreham roller rink. Local music legend (and I use that word very wrongly) Jimmy McGee was flicking through the songbook – insofar as it’s possible to ‘flick through’ a four page document – and matter of factly said “this is going to turn into a fanzine isn’t it?”
    It had never occurred me to do a Rockers fanzine until then. Which is actually pretty odd considering I spent much of my student years producing football fanzines. This was in the genre’s late 80s heyday and I did mags for several different clubs; the Aston Villa one was one of the best selling fanzines in the country (hitting 3,500 copies an issue). I actually did my degree in the Social History of Football, a large chunk of which was about fan culture and fanzines. So why the hell had I done a Rockers songbook rather than Rockers fanzine in the first place? D’oh! The mag seems to have been well received, and not just locally. We’ve done eight issues now, all of which can be found online at issuu.com with a few physical back issues knocking around in the Evening Star pub. In fact we’re just one issue away from being the second longest running roller derby publication in the country. Woo!

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Moving on to this website, how come most of the game reports are 5,000 words of largely nonsense. Wouldn’t 500 nicely edited AND ACTUALLY RELEVANT words be better?
Probably. Thing is I really hate the internet as a publishing medium. My background is print – cobbling together my own fanzines as a teenager, then writing for High Street video games mags, computer mags, lifestyle mags etc. I love printed publications and I can’t understand why anyone would want to read anything on a screen. Kindle books? Bollocks to that. The only benefit I can see of the web as a publishing medium is one of space. The word count of our fanzine is dictated by the font size and page count, with everything that goes in there having been cut down (good stuff lost in the process) to fit. An average issue of ‘Turn Left’ contains interviews with more than half a dozen players, features, columns, statistics etc, and the whole thing comes in at around 6,000 words. If we want more we need to add another four pages which adds £35-ish to our print bill. Unless we can find more advertising to cover (most of) that – and we can’t – the extra pages are simply not viable. On the website, however, we can happily write 6,000 words about a single jam and it doesn’t cost us a penny more. So that’s what we do. Sorry.

What have been the highlights of the first two years of BRATS?
There have been loads. Becoming the first fans’ group to be accepted as contributors to the National Museum of Roller Derby was a really big thing for us. It’s probably less of an achievement than it sounds – it just involved exchanging a couple of e-mails and sending a package to Glasgow – but we’re well chuffed about it. We’ve yet to visit the museum itself as it was moving buildings when we were in Glasgow for the Rockers game. The London Rockin’ Rollers recently did a blog piece on the museum’s touring exhibition in Northampton though, and one of the photos showed a couple of ‘Turn Left’s and a BRATS baseball cap in a display case, so we have documentary evidence that we really are in a museum. Yay!
    Other highlights include various things we’ve commissioned or made happen. In our May fanzine, which tied in with the Brighton Festival, we had a top local poet write a poem about the Rockers, together with some original art. We also commissioned renowned cartoonist Paul Stapleton to create a dress-up Laserhammer doll for the most recent issue. Oh, and a board game (ZomBN1) was launched yesterday in which we fixed it for a zombie version of Shambolic – replete in boots, pads and Rockers T-shirt – to appear as one of the characters. We suggest a house rule where she moves twice as fast as the other zombies but you have to roll 1d6 when she does and on a 1-2 she’s removed from the board. Track cut penalty, yeah?

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Has fan culture, at Brighton and in UK derby generally, developed the way you expected it to over these two years?
Sadly not. The primary thing needed for fan culture to grow is for fan numbers to grow – in fact the opposite has been happening. People aren’t exactly shouting this from the rooftops (less a case of “don’t tell the children” as “don’t tell the freshies”) but crowds are down right across UK derby. Brighton’s have roughly halved – from 400 to 200 – in the time BRATS has been in existence. We’d get paranoid about that being our fault were it not being replicated across the country. Even the top events, such as LRG’s Anarchy tournament, have gone from selling out Guildford Spectrum to hitting maybe 70% of capacity. There are a few exceptions, such as LRG v Gotham or England v America, both of which sold out in minutes, but these are very rare. There are plenty of theories as to why the support is falling, from a perception of novelty (roller derby being something to watch just once, to tick it off as an experience) to inevitable cannibalisation (the crowds are dropping because everyone’s playing rather than watching derby now).
    It’s frustrating, but if I was to suggest one thing that could reverse the trend and start building the sport the kind of fan base it deserves, it would be a national league structure. That’s exactly what is happening next year with the launch of British Championships: 70 teams in a league pyramid with a year long fixture list. That’s a world away from the current set-up of hastily arranged friendlies. A lot of derby fans work in service industry jobs (pubs, shops, restaurants etc) where it’s hard to get Saturdays off at short notice. A fixture list plotted months in advance remedies that. Also supporters will have a more concrete idea of how their team is doing, climbing or dropping the table and so forth. If Champs doesn’t ‘rescue’ UK derby as a spectator sport, I don’t know what will…

What advice would you give to anyone out there looking to set up a fan club dedicated to the roller derby league they support?
Just do it. Even if it’s another Brighton one – we’ve always said BRATS is just a placeholder until someone comes up with a better (less slapdash) group. The more the merrier. Don’t worry about logistics, there are none. Don’t expect people who offer to help out to actually do so, eg seven people said they’d contribute songs to our songbook and in the end only one did. If they do that’s wonderful, but be prepared to carry the whole thing yourself if not. Once you have a name for the group, snap up that name on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress – the toughest part of the whole thing is finding a name that is still available on all of those and as a dot.com. In the internet age perception is 95% of everything and all you need to exist as a group is a Twitter and Facebook. So now you exist and it hasn’t cost a penny. If you want a dot.com address to redirect to your WordPress that will cost maybe £25 a year.
    Write some game reports and previews, get in touch with the league and see if anyone wants to be interviewed – chances are they’ll be so chuffed at having a fan club they’ll give you everything you need (although it may take some chasing, derby folks are some of the busiest task-juggling folks on the planet). If you want to progress to a fanzine, the first thing you need is advertisers. The era of free daily newspapers and listing magazines means you’re better off giving the mag away rather than charging for it. That means sourcing enough ad revenue to cover the print bill, unless you have sneaky access to fancy printing equipment at work or whatever. We found having lots of mates who run pubs quite handy re advertising at the outset, with derby related businesses and league sponsors following in due course. As that dude in the film about baseball said: If you build it they will come.

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Is there anyone you’d like to thank here?

No. I mean: Yes, loads. People at derby leagues across the country who have responded to our requests for quotes, even for games that don’t involve them. I mentioned it can sometimes take a while to get replies from people, but conversely some folk reply to e-mails practically before we send them; the likes of Livid Doll (Leeds) and Raw Heidi (LRG) spring to mind here. Derby photographers have been fantastic (with one exception) at letting us use their pictures and getting hi-res images to us super fast. Sussex based togs John Hesse and Rebecca Cornford get pretty inundated with requests from us but are always quick and happy to respond, and there’s a couple of dozen other photographers, from across not just the UK but the continent, who have supplied us with images.
    I’ve already mentioned the importance of advertisers so big love to folk like fashionistas Dig For Victory (whose Jimmy McGee suggested us doing a fanzine in the first place), the Cornish derby duo at Meadow Yurts, awesome holemakers Punktured, leggings legends Hoodlum Fang, the Evening Star, Downlands Brewery and the cult of Mr Séamus. As for Brighton Rockers folks, whip-cracking interview wrangler Mistress has been our go-to person for much of the two years, as has the equally awesome and inimitable Racey with the likes of Dr Whooligan, Kapow and others also proving incredibly helpful contacts. So far more than twenty different Rockers players, coaches and refs have kindly provided interview responses for the fanzine and website, along with maybe double that from other (UK, US and Euro) leagues.
    We have a new feature in the fanzine next year; ‘My Derby Hero’ where a Rocker details the three or four players that most inspire them. Sports fan clubs wouldn’t exist without the awesome athletes that play the sport in question. As the most exciting sport on the planet, roller derby has more than its fair share of those. So here’s a personal ‘derby hero’ cap-doffing to the likes of Paris Rollergirls’ Hooligan, Team England and LRG (née Tiger Bay) star Kid Block, and of course to Bash and Rose and all the other legends in cyan and black. If I had to pick just one derby hero it would be Swann, who I first encountered when trying to get a documentary about the sport off the ground. She’s the first point of call when we want any kind of information about roller derby, from a rule clarification to a question about some obscure European team. She’s a walking encyclopaedia and probably the biggest derby fan out there – two Best Jammer awards in her first three Brighton games suggest she’s not a bad player either!

Finally, where the hell is the write-up of Portsmouth away? That game was like weeks ago.
I wasn’t expecting this interview to be quite so hostile. Erm, some might think we’re being slack with our website updates. In fact, this was a deliberate plan to save stuff up for… Birthday Week Bonanza! The next few days will see us putting up the Portsmouth game report, a preview of this Saturday’s away game at Manchester Roller Derby PLUS an exclusive first interview with new Rockers recruit Gin Atomic. Oh yes indeed. It’s Birthday Week Bonanza not Panickedly Catching Up On Stuff Week Whatever. No siree Bob.

[Photos by John Hesse & BRATS]

LINKS

FANZINE: http://issuu.com/turnleftmag/docs
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/brightonbrats
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/brightonbrats
WEBSITE: https://brightonbrats.com/

Roller Rumble Preview

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The late May bank holiday weekend sees an awesome UKRDA Southern Region roller derby tournament. Taking place at the Great British Tattoo Show in North London’s iconic ‘Ally Pally’ on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th May, the event marks the first appearance in a tournament of the mighty Brighton Rockers. Lining up alongside them are the fearsome London Brawl Saints, Central City Rollergirls from Birmingham, Kent Roller Girls and Bristol Roller Derby. The weekend also sees the first UK Roller Derby Association sanctioned men’s bout as Sheffield’s The Inhuman League take on the Crash Test Brummies. Whether you’ve already got your ticket (yay you!) or just want to know more, we’ve spoken to the tattoo show organisers, tournament organisers and all seven derby leagues involved to bring you this (frankly overlong) preview. Hurrah!

ALEXANDRA PALACE
Named after Queen Alexandra (sister of Queen Crystal), Ally Pally sits atop a hill in deepest North East London. There’s loads of free parking (1500 spaces) but we’ve been told you should rely on SatNav (postcode N22 7AY) rather than often misleading road signs to find the place – a friend who lives locally has several sign-followers a week turning up in his cul-de-sac wondering where the Palace is. The nearest station is the conveniently named Alexandra Palace, ten minutes walk away – it’s served by overland trains which run from King’s Cross every 15 minutes at weekends. Stupidly there are no trains back into town from this station on the Sunday due to engineering works; you’ll have to get the train one stop North (New Southgate) and change there to head back into King’s Cross. We’ve no rational explanation for this and we’re not sure First Capital Connect will have one either!
   Given the above silliness and the fact that the overland trains get very busy anyway, it might be better to travel to a nearby tube station instead. Wood Green (Piccadilly Line, 20 minutes walk) is the closest and a few other stations – Turnpike Lane and Bounds Green on the Piccadilly; Highgate and East Finchley on the Northern (Barnet/Mill Hill branch) – aren’t much further. Whilst we’d be inclined to walk from the station, the phrase “sits atop a hill” from earlier suggests a bus might be order – the W3 (ten an hour on Saturdays, six on Sundays) drops off right outside the venue and serves Wood Green and the overland.
   The event is wristbanded, so if you feel the need to tear yourself away from 18 hours of derby action and the tattoo show for any reason, readmission isn’t a problem – but the substantial size of the Ally Pally grounds (196 acres) means the urban sprawl isn’t as close as it looks. Wood Green or Muswell Hill, a mile to the East/West respectively, are the best bets for shops, restaurants and takeaways. The latter’s delights include Pizza Express, Giraffe, Waitrose, M&S, a chippy and many more. Pub options near the venue include the Gate pub by Ally Pally station (great pizza apparently), The Church (an O’Neills in Muswell Hill), Victoria Stakes (gastro pub to the South, very busy), Three Compasses (Hornsey High Street, real ale crowd) and The Maid of Muswell (to the North, mixed reviews). On a personal note, there are only two pubs in the UK called The Ranelagh; the one in Brighton is the de facto BRATS HQ and we’ve been looking for an excuse to visit its unconnected ‘twin’ in Bounds Green for a while.
   There’s also a busy but surprisingly not overpriced pub/restaurant at Ally Pally itself – called The Bar & Kitchen, it has a large outdoor seating area. Other attractions in the grounds include awesome views over London, a boating lake, a bunch of deer and pitch & putt golf. If anyone fancies a bit of skating themselves, albeit of the inferior frozen water variety, there’s a year-round indoor ice rink with sessions priced at £9 for adults (a quid less for kids). We’d put some hotel recommendations here too, but frankly there’s so much going on in London this weekend (including 80,000 German football fans over for the Champions League final) that if you can find anything for less than £100 a night more central than Croydon or Watford, snap it up!

RRA

THE GREAT BRITISH TATTOO SHOW
You won’t really need to leave the venue at all, to be honest. There are a wealth of food options – from wraps to pies and pizza to panini – and several bars. The final floorplan hadn’t been finalised at the time of writing, but we’re reliably informed that the derby track will be located at the end furthest from the organ [The Grand Willis Organ is a major feature of Ally Pally] and is a specially laid track funded via a Sport England grant. Away from the derby, there’s loads of other stuff going on, from fashion shows to burlesque, live music to graffiti artists, fire-breathers and street magic. There will also probably be some tattooing going on.
   We’ve never been to a tattoo show before, and for the benefit of others in the same boat, we asked BRATS member, Croydon Roller Derby skater and Bad Salad blogger Lily Rae for her tips: “So what can the wide-eyed, peachy-skinned newbie expect from the intimidating world of tattoo shows? Are you confused and terrified by the whole thing? Probably not. Nonetheless, here are Lily Rae’s Nine Golden Rules for tattoo shows… 1. FOOD: Tattoo shows have amazing food. Whether you’re after a kitsch cone full of popcorn or a heaving polystyrene tray of some kind of lumpy ethnic stew, tattoo cuisine is the greatest so get it in you. You’ll need a full stomach – especially if you end up getting inked.”
   “2. MERCH: One of my favourite things about tattoo shows is the merchandise. Little weirdo stalls are set up all over the place – you can buy a prosthetic leg, a t-shirt from your favourite tattoo shop, or just a nice sticker. (When I went to the Brighton Tattoo Convention I blew all my money on food in the first ten minutes and bought a nice sticker for my derby helmet with my remaining pennies – there’s a lot to be said for nice stickers.) Take a buttload of cash and BUY STUFF! A warning about stickers, though. When you choose your sticker and pay for it and stick it on your helmet, it’s there for life. It’s a big commitment. You can rip it off (if you suck), but the helmet will never really look the same. A sticker is for life. (Sound familiar?)”
   “3. DON’T STARE: You’ve heard the disapproving outraged-of-Tunbridge-Wells types bleating about how all tattooed people are show-offs and exhibitionists and want to be stared at, etcetera. It’s categorically not true. Whether someone has a full suit of tattoos or just a barcode on their bum, it’s their body and their skin. How would you feel if someone followed you around staring intently at your elbow? You’d call the police. By all means, look and admire – even POLITELY ask if you can get a closer look – but don’t stand there slack-jawed. You look weird.”
   “4. LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH: I can’t reiterate this enough. LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH. The minute you touch someone’s body without their permission, you are a first class arsehole. I used to work as a cleaner in a big glass office in Brighton. One evening, while I was hoovering and feeling murderous, a hand came out of nowhere and yanked the back of my shirt down, exposing the owl tattoo on my right shoulder. It was an overpaid dudebro with a bad beard and he was poking my back with his overpaid dudebro finger. “AWESOME TAT, MAAAN,” said the dudebro. He very nearly got a face full of Cillit Bang. Yeah, it doesn’t matter if it’s the coolest tattoo in the world. You don’t touch it without asking.”
   “5. IF YOU DON’T LIKE SOMEONE’S TATTOO, SHUT UP: While you don’t always have to feign enthusiasm at someone’s painful new skinbaby – I mean, I wouldn’t really want Bruce Forsyth’s face on my leg, but someone else does and that’s OK – it’s outright rude to tell someone if you don’t like it. Remember what that rabbit in Bambi said? “If you can’t say something nice, SHUT YOUR PIEHOLE.” I made the mistake of showing my gigantic, brand new leg tattoo to my aunt and next door neighbour – being very traditional ladies in their 50s, they told me in no uncertain terms that they thought it was horrible and I’d made an awful mistake. This inspired a huge freak-out on my part and my lovely tattoo became a source of doubt and woe for weeks until I finally snapped out of it one day and thought “screw you, it’s great.” Still. How would you feel if someone told you they didn’t like your face? You’d probably either laugh or punch them. So unless you want to be laughed at or punched, keep your negative opinions to yourself.”
   “6. IF YOU DO LIKE SOMEONE’S TATTOO, SAY SO: Nothing makes you feel more awesome than a compliment on your tattoo. Make someone’s day and tell them that you think their tattoo is beautiful. Not only do THEY feel great, but you probably get a new friend. Just remember, a compliment is “I like your cat tattoo, it’s really cute” – a compliment is NOT “nice legs, what time do they open?” 7. DON’T INTERRUPT THE ARTISTS: Imagine having to sit your GCSE Maths exam in a football stadium full of people shouting and running around – that’s how I imagine tattoo shows are for the artists. It’s a terrible idea to tap someone on the shoulder whilst they’re busy scratching ink into someone’s skin to say “WOW HOW DO YOU DO THAT IS IT HARD IT LOOKS HARD WHY ARE YOU SO ANGRY.” They’re artists. It’s nice to give them some space.”
   “8. IF YOU HAVE TATTOOS YOURSELF, GET ‘EM OUT: Very rarely do you get the opportunity to actually show off your tattoos – most of the time we have to hide them under jumpers and jeans. At a tattoo show you’re in an environment where everyone is into tattoo culture and no-one is going to fire you or judge you for having them. Make use of it. 9. DON’T MENTION KAT VON D: Kat Von Who?”
   Shelley Bond (Event Manager of tattoo show organisers Jazz Events): “I’m thrilled to be hosting the Roller Rumble tournament at this year’s Great British Tattoo Show. We have celebrated three years of Roller Derby at our sister event Tattoo Freeze in Telford and it has always been a great attraction. Bringing it to Alexandra Palace and on a much bigger scale has been a challenge and it has all been possible thanks to our work with UKRDA and Sport England. Roller Derby is thrilling to watch and with most of the teams being tattooed there is a really strong link with what we do. This year will be the very first of many Roller Rumbles to come!”

RR2

ROLLER RUMBLE
The main tournament features five teams. Assuming the seeding follows the UKRDA rankings on flattrackstats.com – and the schedule suggests that it does – these are the London Rollergirls Brawl Saints (1st seed), Central City Rollergirls (2nd), Brighton Rockers Roller Derby (3rd), Bristol Roller Derby (4th) and Kent Roller Girls (5th). There are four main tournament bouts each day, and these are of the full derby duration, ie two 30-minute periods. Teams can bring a squad of up to 20 in total to select fourteen skaters for each bout from. Given how punishing the schedule is – some teams could play up to five times over the weekend – those extra players could come in very useful! As well as the main tournament, the weekend features the first UKRDA sanctioned men’s bout on the Saturday evening. We’ll preview each bout individually below.
   Mistress Malicious (UKRDA Vice President): “All previous tournaments run by UKRDA at Tattoo Freeze, from 2011 to 2013, were one day tournaments and all have taken a different format. The Southern Regional is the first UKRDA tournament to run over two days, consisting of nine full-length games over the weekend, and is also the first tournament to host both female and male teams. We were offered the venue and timings, rather than planning and selecting a venue ourselves, so we had to select a suitable tournament bracket. The bracket is a five team seeded, double elimination bracket with consolation rounds. That means that once a team has lost twice then they are out, otherwise they continue to the next round and it will result in 1st to 5th placing. This bracket also allowed us to fit in the men’s game, which we were very excited about and particularly wanted to include.”
   “Do we have a good relationship with the tattoo show organisers? It certainly seems like it, they keep inviting us back! Yes, we have a very good relationship with Jazz Events, the organisers of Tattoo Freeze, the Great British Tattoo Show and many others. There are expected to be around 6,000 people attending the event over the weekend so that is an enormous amount of people for us to be able to showcase our wonderful sport to. Roller derby was very well received by the audience at Tattoo Freeze so we expect the Great British Tattoo Show to be an extension of that. I personally think tournaments are going to be the way forward for UKRDA. Our feedback from members has been for the development of a sanctioning system and official rankings, something we have recently been able to achieve. Tournaments and Championships will be the natural progression from that.”

BOUT BY BOUT PREVIEW

SATURDAY 25TH MAY

RR3

BOUT 1 / 11AM BRIGHTON ROCKERS v KENT ROLLER GIRLS
The mighty Brighton Rockers have the honour of opening the tournament at a considerably earlier hour than roller derby bouts normally first whistle at (indeed tomorrow gets underway even sooner – a testament to how much derby action is being packed into this weekend). The South Coast league haven’t had the best of times recently, in all honesty, having been comprehensively beaten in Glasgow and losing a number of prominent A-teamers to injury in quick succession. The addition of Central City to the tournament in place of Big Bucks has made things tougher for Brighton; as 3rd rather than 2nd seeds they’ll likely have to play more bouts than London or Central if they are to make the final. Indeed, one quite realistic sequence of results would see the Rockers having to play three bouts in a row on the Sunday. Crikey!
   They’ll certainly need to make full use of their squad in such circumstances, but despite their elite status (currently ranked 8th in the UK) the Sussex side have a fairly small roster of skaters to call upon. With recent injuries plus a few peripheral players transferring to Eastbourne in search of track time, it’s questionable whether they can put a full squad of 20 together, so this challenging tournament could be a real test of the Rockers’ stamina. One silver lining is a strong showing from several B-teamers in a recent bout with Portsmouth; hopefully this tournament will be the platform on which these players get a chance to shine.
   Kent Roller Girls are ranked 19th in the UK, making them nominally the bottom seed in this tournament. The league are based on the North Kent coast and will be looking to upset the seedings, starting with what will be a tough opener for them. The Kentish side have been making good progress over the past 18 months, climbing slowly but steadily up the rankings, and will shortly add a rec league to their established A- and B-team set-ups. They come into this bout off the back of good wins against Gloucester and Leicester B. The teams in this tournament are at a whole other level though, so Kent will have to confound expectations right across this busy weekend of derby if they are to win a medal placing that matches the gold of their boutfits.
   Hyde N Shriek (Brighton Rockers): “This is BRRD’s first ever tournament, so we’re really excited to be there. It’s going to be a great experience for us to learn more about what tournament play is like and how we need to think strategically across the various games over two days. By all accounts it’s a bit different than playing a single bout. I don’t think we can rule anyone in or out given the nature of tournaments, but LRG and Central City are likely to be our toughest games if we get through to play them. I think stamina and general fitness is going to have a lot to do with the outcomes too – it’s a pretty intense schedule. We’ve been working on our off skates training so hopefully this won’t be an issue for us.”
   “We aren’t really going into this with expectations of any outcomes to be honest; we’ve never done something like this before and we want to use the experience to learn and most importantly to enjoy ourselves. We’ve currently got a number of players out to injury going into this, both jammers and blockers, but this has meant that other players from our B-team have the opportunity to play, which is a really great experience for them that will help strengthen our league – it also means we don’t want to pile the pressure on too much. We’re looking pretty strong at training so I’m confident we can do really well. As far as rankings go – we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, we aren’t getting hung up on stuff like that.”
   Kent Roller Girls: “KRG are really up for this challenge. We have a built a team that has progressed through the European rankings and are constantly looking for opportunities to face tougher opponents, to push to become better skaters and strategists. Being ranked last means we have nothing to lose, so don’t count us out for an appearance on Sunday; it’s all down to a combination of the hours of training before and performance on the day. We’ve had some great guest trainers too – with Raw Heidi, Ballistic and Juke Boxx all working with the team over the past six months so we feel strong and prepared for the intensity of the schedule.”
   “At Tattoo Freeze earlier on this year we ranked a lot higher than expected for Sur5al, so with the advantage of a full squad and some great supporters lets see what we can do! The Brighton Rockers are a great team to be up against first. We’ve seen them play a number of times so know they have a great track record of performance, strong players and sound tactics – I guess for them we’re the unknown quantity which can only be a good thing!”

RR4

BOUT 2 / 1PM CENTRAL CITY ROLLERGIRLS v BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY
As mentioned earlier, Central City were late additions to this tournament following the withdrawal of Wycombe’s Big Bucks High Rollers. Whether having less build up time than the other four leagues is a boon or a hindrance we’ll find out over the weekend, but there’s no question that CCR’s A-team the Belles of Centrinnians are a very strong side. Currently holding 6th place in the UKRDA rankings and being one of five UK leagues in WFTDA’s [the main US-based governing body of women’s derby] new third division, the second seeds come to this tournament having arrested a run of surprise reversals by edging past the Middlesbrough Milk Rollers last month. The previous string of losses, all at last November’s Track Queens tournament in Berlin (versus Leeds, Glasgow and Auld Reekie) saw the Midlands league, a long time fixture in the top three, slip down the rankings table. They’ll be keen to put in a strong showing at Roller Rumble to make back some of that ground, and will certainly have one eye on a place in the final.
   The first obstacle Central need to clear is the Bristol Harbour Harlots. Ranked 13th in the UK (therefore fourth seeds here), Bristol have one of the largest derby set-ups in the country. Thanks to a merger with another nearby league, BRD can now boast four full intraleague rosters, alongside A- and B-teams, a rec league and merby side. Having a large pool of skaters to choose a squad of 20 from could prove handy in a bout-heavy tournament such as this. The Bristol league come to the tournament on the back of ten straight wins, including a 211-24 demolition of CCR’s B-team, and will be hoping they can keep that run going in the face of tougher opposition.
   Lethal Sizzle (CCR Centrinnians Co-Captain): “The Central City Rollergirls’ Centrinnians are thrilled to have been invited to take part in the tournament! We have played a couple of tournaments before. We have taken part in Tattoo Freeze in Telford twice, and were incredibly proud to have been invited to the first WFTDA European tournament in Berlin towards the end of last year. Our first game is against Bristol Roller Derby and the Centrinnians have not met Bristol on track before – however several skaters in our tournament squad faced the Harbour Harlots in a Slay Belles [B-team] game last year.”
   “In fact, of all the participating tournament teams, the Centrinnians have only met the Brawl Saints on track before, several years ago when both squads looked very different. This has made preparation for the tournament very interesting! Tournament schedules can be challenging, and this tournament will be no exception. There’s potential for back-to-back games and the same match-up twice! All we know is it’s going to be one hell of a weekend, and we can’t wait to get on track.”
   Black Thorn (Bristol Roller Derby League Chair): “To say the Bristol Harbour Harlots are excited to be participating in the Roller Rumble is an understatement! We have been UKRDA members since December 2012 and are honoured to be a part of their first ever regional tournament, especially as that region is the South, which is the birthplace of UK Roller Derby. We have some previous tournament experience having participated in Eastbourne Extreme and Demolition Derby last year, but a year is a long time in roller derby and we have spent that time building a really strong, cohesive team and climbing the rankings and we are keen to show what we are made of.”
“We aren’t daunted by the potentially intense schedule; the Harlots take their fitness and endurance seriously and have been working hard in preparation for this tournament. We have never met our first opponent Central City Rollergirls on the track, but we did have a pretty comprehensive win against their B-team the Slay Belles last September so we are hoping we can give their A-team a challenge. We may come into this tournament as outsiders but we have been on a winning streak over the last year or so and have caused a few upsets in that time, so underestimate us at your peril!”
   “We try not to be intimidated by more experienced teams or individual players, but a few of us are definitely ‘excited’ at the possibility of meeting Brighton’s The Mighty Mighty Bash on the track. Keep an eye out for our international star The Blizzard who definitely has tournament experience having played for Team Finland in the Blood & Thunder World Cup and featured in the Finland team that played Team USA last year. Our Antipodean jammer Ruby Whipper will be hoping to go out with a bang; she’s playing her last games for the Harlots on UK soil before returning to her homeland down under next month (and taking her husband our Bench Manager Topper Gnarly with her!).”

BOUT 3 / 3PM LONDON BRAWL SAINTS v WINNER BOUT 1
There is roller derby in the UK and then there is the London Rollergirls. To say LRG operate on a different plain to the rest of British (and indeed, European) roller derby is putting it mildly – with their A-team London Brawling edging one placing closer to the WFTDA Nationals each year (just missing out in 2012) it’s fair to say London are far and away the best roller derby league outside of North America and a beacon for the sport across Europe.
   Roller Rumble doesn’t feature London Brawling, of course – with all due respect to the other four leagues, that would be a massacre – but the LRG entrants are still the top seeds and clear favourites for the tournament. Although nominally a B-team, a glance at rankings that usually place the London Brawl Saints as the second best team in the whole of Europe, with only their A-team sisters above them, demonstrates what a challenge they are going to be for the other Roller Rumble competitors. Indeed, the way the tournament is structured, for any other team to triumph they will more than likely to have to face the star-studded London side (and their plentiful hometown support) twice rather than once over the weekend. Eek!
   London’s opening bout sees them take on the winner of the earlier Brighton v Kent match. Should that be Brighton, the contest will be a much anticipated rematch of a closed door bout from last summer. The Brawl Saints inflicted the first defeat in the Rockers’ history on that occasion, and if a rematch is anything like as close as that bout (Brighton were edged out 177-180) then we could be in for a treat. Should it be Kent facing off against LRG instead, it will be a top v bottom seeds contest that would seem on paper to be something of a mismatch – but then roller derby isn’t played on paper, wheels wouldn’t grip right if it was, so let’s not try to predict things.
   Ruby Rehab (London Brawl Saints): “The Brawl Saints are excited to represent London Rollergirls in the upcoming UKRDA Southern Region tournament. Whilst we’ve played against many teams both in the UK and Europe, this will be the first tournament we are entering with the current line-up. As London Rollergirls’ B-Team we have a constantly evolving squad which puts us at a disadvantage to a lot of other leagues in the UK but lately we have made teamwork and pack focus our priorities. We always aim to play our game on the day and are not going into the competition with any preconceived notions about who should come out on top.”
   “We are really looking forward to a possible rematch against Brighton Rockers. They have some really strong blockers, The Mighty Mighty Bash for one, coupled with some excellent jammers like Rose Bleed that make them a force to be reckoned with. Sunday has the potential to be a really long day for at least one team, and hopefully if it’s us our fitness and strength from working with the Dynamic Sports Academy will pull us through to the final game.”

RR5

BOUT 4 / 5PM LOSER BOUT 1 v LOSER BOUT 2
This match between the losers of the day’s first two contests is the first elimination bout. The losing side take 5th place in the tournament and will be the only one of the five women’s teams not to feature on the Sunday. Derby being the supportive community that it is, we’re pretty sure the unlucky side will stick around to watch the tournament play out tomorrow. While the women’s teams take a break until the morning, there’s another bout to come on this action-packed Saturday.

BOUT 5 / 7PM CRASH TEST BRUMMIES v THE INHUMAN LEAGUE
Whilst not part of the main tournament, this is arguably the most interesting bout of all; it’s certainly the most historic. Whereas in many countries (particularly the States) women’s and men’s derby are governed by separate organisations – eg WFTDA and MRDA – the UK Roller Derby Association made the decision last December to start accepting men’s teams, changing their logo to feature both female and male skaters in the process. They also have two merbyers – one from each of these two leagues, as it happens – on their board of directors. This contest marks another milestone in the history of British men’s roller derby, being the first officially UKRDA sanctioned men’s bout.
   Of the two teams, Sheffield’s The Inhuman League are the favourites and are currently ranked third (behind only London’s Southern Discomfort and top continental merby side Toulouse) in the euroderby.com table. The Crash Test Brummies, from Birmingham surprisingly enough, rank tenth and were beaten 154-243 on home soil by the Yorkshire outfit in February. Many people class the men’s variant of the sport as being “more force, less finesse” – for those who haven’t caught a merby bout before, this match amidst a sea of women’s bouts will give you a chance to make your own mind up about how the unfairer sex compare on the derby track.
   Robert Quadriguez (Crash Test Brummies): “Having seen some amazing derby from the women’s leagues at Tattoo Freeze this year, the Brummies are really proud to be representing men’s derby at The Great British Tattoo Show. We hope the weekend encourages more fans and supporters of our sport and of course more people lacing up skates and dishing out eight-wheeled punishment themselves. The Inhuman League are a great team. They play a strong game, have some really skilled players and even bought us cake for The Brummies’ first birthday. Cake aside though, this is gonna be the first UKRDA sanctioned men’s bout, so it’s fair to say both teams are gonna be skating hard to ensure that jam for jam, point for point and hit for devastating hit it’ll be a bout to remember.”
   “The fans can keep an eye out for one of our newest players Alligately #989 who will be making his debut at this bout. A lot of people who see men’s derby for the first time usually say that it’s faster and more aggressive but honestly having played a few co-ed games I would really say the only difference is that after skating for 60 minutes the girls aren’t as soggy or stanky with sweat as we are… usually. The women’s weekend tournament is really exciting as all the leagues are real heavyweights. I’m a massive fan of really close nail biting bouts with crazy amounts of lead changes so I can’t wait to see what happens. The Brummies wish all the teams the best of luck! Brummies Smash.”
   Stuntman Psyk (The Inhuman League Vice-Captain): “We were very happy to be accepted by UKRDA earlier this year and even more honoured to be invited to take part in the first ever UKRDA sanctioned bout. 2012 was a year of establishment for men’s derby, 2013 is very much about growth and this has been reflected in teams like Southern Discomfort playing in The Big O [a big roller derby tournament in Oregon] and more teams taking part in the Men’s European Roller Derby Championships. That UKRDA are now accepting men’s teams helps towards this growth of men’s derby in the UK.”
   “The Brummies are a great team. When we played them earlier this year it wasn’t an easy win by any stretch. The Brummies have a very balanced squad with nippy jammers like Rex Tangle, hard hitters such as Cagey and great all rounders like JCDC. Every time we made some room on the board in terms of points, the Brummies would come back harder and faster. We may have won the game but the Brummies left their mark, mainly in bruises. Can we beat them again? Yes, but it’s not going to be easy, the Brummies have been playing some of the best in Europe since we last played them. Then again so have we. The only certainty is this will be a great game of Roller Derby.”
   “Of our squad, keep an eye on Omar Gherd. He’s new to TIL and is one to watch. Doug Hisgrave, our captain, has done a stunning job leading us this year and is one of our best all round skaters. Beat Monkey has rubber ankles which is very useful for jamming and don’t ever look Roller Polar Bear in the eyes! Men’s derby has a reputation for being rather more gung ho, big hits, big risks and big spills. The women certainly seem to have tactics down a lot more but we’re getting there. The tactical play has dramatically improved in a lot of teams, especially since last years euros. Expect some big hits and some crazy falls. In the women’s tournament I’m stoked to be getting the chance to see London Rollergirls. They’ve done a great job setting the bar for roller derby in the UK and also waving the flag for Great Britain overseas. I’m looking forward to seeing them this weekend.”

RR6

SUNDAY 26TH MAY

BOUT 6 / 10AM WINNER BOUT 2 v WINNER BOUT 3
The holy day kicks off at an unholy hour as the two big winners from Saturday come face to face in Sunday’s first bout. If the opening day played out according to the seedings, this could mark a meeting of top seeds London and Central. Whoever features in it, this bout – the only non-elimination match of the day – could quite feasibly be a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the same teams facing off again in the final. The winners book their place in that final and a get a chance to rest their wheels for a few hours whilst awaiting an opponent.

BOUT 7 / 12PM WINNER BOUT 4 v LOSER BOUT 3
We mentioned that one team might have to play three bouts in row. If that’s to happen, this is where it would begin! The losers of this match take 4th place in the tournament. The winners just have time to give their wheels a quick wipe before heading back out there…

BOUT 8 / 2PM WINNER BOUT 7 v LOSER BOUT 6
If the tournament plays out according to the seedings – and naturally it won’t (we’re expecting at least one shock result) – then this is the point where Brighton and Central City would meet. Such a pairing, should it happen at any point, could well be the tournament’s toughest most hard fought contest as these are statistically the closest matched teams involved – less than a dozen ranking points separate them. By way of comparison, the gap between other teams ranges from 47 points to several hundred! Whoever is to feature here, the losers must make do with the 3rd place ‘bronze’ while the winners hardly have time to catch their breath before the final bout.

BOUT 9 / 4PM WINNER BOUT 6 v WINNER BOUT 8
London will be expecting to feature in this grand final. Central and Brighton will have strong hopes of featuring, and both Kent and Bristol are more than capable of springing enough surprises to get this far. The only thing we can predict for certain is a packed weekend of derby action. If you haven’t already secured your place, see the tickets link below. Tickets bought online are cheaper (£30 weekend, £22.50 Sat only, £20 Sun only) and allow you in 30 minutes before doors officially open – this is important as the derby is scheduled to kick off right at doors opening time on both days, so you’ll be well advised to get in early to ensure a good viewing position. See you in the suicide seats!

‘BOUT 10’ / 6PM THE AFTER PARTY
You won’t have far to stagger to the after party. Whilst there isn’t a tournament specific one, the tattoo show is hosting an after party at Ally Pally itself. It’s free entry and open to all. The party takes place in the Bar & Kitchen with an outdoor area offering BBQ food, booze and great views over London, whilst indoors in the Palm Court conservatory, DJ Jeff Automatic (Club NME) will be spinning the wheels of steel as the skaters’ wheels of urethane get a chance to cool down. Blimey, this has been a long preview. Sorry about that. Here are some links. Cheers.

LINKS: THE EVENT
BUY TICKETS: http://www.greatbritishtattooshow.com/tickets
ALLY PALLY: http://www.alexandrapalace.com/
TATTOO SHOW: http://www.greatbritishtattooshow.com/
AFTER PARTY: http://www.greatbritishtattooshow.com/entertainment/parties
UKRDA: http://ukrda.org.uk/
RANKINGS: http://flattrackstats.com/rankings/europe/ukrda
MEN’S RANKINGS: http://www.euroderby.org/merby/ranking.php

LINKS: THE TEAMS
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://brightonrockers.com/
KENT ROLLER GIRLS: http://kentrollergirls.com/
CENTRAL CITY ROLLERGIRLS: http://centralcityrollergirls.co.uk/
BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY: http://www.bristolrollerderby.com/
LONDON ROLLERGIRLS: http://www.londonrollergirls.com/
CRASH TEST BRUMMIES: http://www.crashtestbrummies.co.uk/
THE INHUMAN LEAGUE: http://theinhumanleague.co.uk/

LINKS: OTHER
BRATS: http://www.brightonbrats.com
BAD SALAD: http://www.badsalad.wordpress.com

[Huge thanks to everyone who contributed words, photos or logos to this article.]

Glasgow v Brighton bout report

ImageThe second period has barely started. With a little under 27 minutes left on the clock Glasgow lead 164-73, having dominated from the outset. We’re currently at the start of what will turn out to be a lengthy pause in the on-track action. Brighton’s Shambolic, usually a gap-finding ninja jamming machine – today neutered like the rest of the Rockers jammer rotation by a solid wall of yellow and black – has spun out and into the second corner suicide seats. She’s clearly hurt.

The refs and NSOs form a human chain to shield her from the crowd while she’s being treated, as is the derby way. The guy behind us solemnly informs his credulous wife that – as with marshals surrounding a downed horse at the Grand National – this is because she’s about to be shot. (Hey, he’s a mate of Sham’s brother, he can probably get away with saying something like that – we wouldn’t dare.)

She’s not being shot, of course. Nor is she being shot up. Despite repeated offers she will turn down all painkillers, whether here on the track in the 20 minute delay quite skilfully blagged through by GRD’s announcers, in the ambulance or during the two hour wait to be seen at A&E. She’s refusing the painkillers because she wants to get drunk at the afterparty she and her torn knee ligament will resurface at. Not just tough. Derby tough.

Just as Sham didn’t want any painkillers, nor would the Rockers in general, which is why this report won’t contain any. We’ll forego the tramadol of “several in the Rockers squad were poorly going into the bout” and sidestep the codeine of “Brighton have deliberately picked tougher opponents this year and Glasgow are higher in the rankings”. Most of all, we’ll swerve the morphine of “the bout was much closer than the scoreline suggests” – that mewlingly obvious white lie the Rockers themselves have prescribed in bout reports where they’ve been on the other end of results such as this.

No, we’ll shun such literary analgesics because they would do justice to neither team nor accurately reflect what happened here in this university sports hall. What happened was that Brighton weren’t just defeated – no, the Rockers were destroyed. They were demolished, dismantled, dismembered and some other words beginning with D we’ll have thought of in a few paragraphs’ time.

Often when watching a derby bout there’s one particular player on the other team who makes you slightly anxious, fearful even, when you see it’s them lining up for the next jam in the star panty. Not today. Today there wasn’t one individual like that. Today it was everyone wearing the star for Glasgow – be it Lawless, Prawn, Hazard or whoever – we feared. From ten minutes in and 50 points down, it was clear to the Rockers’ travelling support that there would be no let-up in the relentless waves of scoring passes from the women in black and gold.

As for the GRD pack, whilst perhaps lacking on paper the more obvious physical presence of some derby leagues, the truism “it doesn’t matter if you’re only 120 pounds if 115 of them are pure muscle” swiftly became apparent. Even the Rockers’ England international The Mighty Mighty Bash, whose physicality has swept opposing blockers aside so often in the past, was – one late first half power jam (Brighton’s only glimmer of hope) aside – largely nullified. For the rest of the Rockers rotation, the Glasgow wall might as well have been made of granite.

The Scottish pack wasn’t just about defence though. Time and again, one of their blockers would run at the back of the Brighton pack a split second before the Glasgow jammer arrived, not just disrupting the Rockers pack physically, but mentally too – the blocker run false flagging itself as the jammer, pulling the Brighton defence to the wrong part of the track, creating the space. There’s a certain arrogance in a Lead Jammer not calling it even when their opposite number has started making scoring passes (that whole “yeah, I’ll let you get a few points because I know how strong my pack is and I’ll get round twice for every once you do” thing), and whilst we’ve seen this at past Rockers bouts, it’s usually been from Brighton themselves. Not this time.

The final score was 309-111, but when you start talking differentials like that the actual numbers don’t really matter to anyone except those who compile the rankings. The harsh fact is Brighton were destroyed, demolished, disrupted, dismantled, dismembered, discombobulated, devoured, decimated and… and…

And you know what… good.

Around a year ago we closed a bout report for a local listings magazine thus: “The Brighton Rockers have learned a lot in the two years since roller derby first washed up on the Sussex shoreline. The only thing they’ve yet to learn is how to lose.” Whilst that first loss was recorded a few months later, the nature of it – behind closed doors by a three point margin against one of the top teams in Europe – meant it didn’t quite feel like one. This weekend’s very public very heavy defeat certainly feels like one. Yep, the Rockers have learned how to lose (it largely involves Jägermeister, apparently). Why is that a good thing? Because a fear of failing is worse than failing itself, a fear of falling is worse than falling itself. It’s done, they got beat, it’s happened, it’s out of the way, now they can move on.

All those other derby leagues out there (tough teams from the uppermost reaches of the UKRDA rankings) who are due to face Brighton in the remainder of this year should look at this result. They should look at it and be filled not with confidence but with fear. Because the cage has been rattled, the rock turned over and the scorpion has its tail up. Today the Brighton Rockers learned how to lose. Tomorrow they remember how to win.

[Photograph by Dave McAleavy of boutday.com]

We has a T-shirt shop (for some reason)!

We has a T-shirt shop (for some reason)!

We don’t actually expect anyone to buy anything from it, you understand, but having a T-shirt shop was one of the things on our To Do checklist after sorting this website, Facebook and Twitter etc. So now we has one, with the tiniest of mark-ups (about a quid per item, which would go towards the printing costs of our fanzine). So if anyone gets drunk enough to fancy some shonky BRATS merch just click on the photo above. Now we must go and pack for a super-early start to head up to Glasgow for the weekend’s Rockers bout – yay can’t wait! We keep thinking there was some info re the bout we meant to find out before setting off, though… oh well, we’re sure it’ll come to us at some point.

Glasgow v Brighton roller derby road trip

Image

It’s almost precisely a week from now – Saturday, around noon – and we’re sat in a pub in Glasgow, excitedly anticipating the imminent Brighton Rockers away bout. Then things start to unravel. We haven’t exactly planned things with military (or even civilian) precision, you see.

“Do we know even where the bout venue is?” one of our number asks, peering confusedly at an A-Z of Gloucester they picked up at the airport in a mistaken rush.

“It says the bout is 12.30 to 4pm on the website,” offers the BRAT with a smartphone. “It’s not going to be a three and a half hour bout though, is it? No matter how many people Sham inadvertently injures.”

“We must have time for another pint or two, or at least a few more Jägers each,” says a muffled slurring voice from under the table.

“If only we knew the actual start time. And the location. And the nearest pub or supermarket to it,” says the person looking at the map of Gloucester.

“I wish there was somewhere I could look at photos of roller derby tomorrow whilst eating vegan chilli and cakes,” says a passer-by, for some reason.

“If only we’d found all this stuff out in advance,” say I, banging my head repeatedly on the table to create a sound almost as annoying as a Simple Minds record.

“Actually you did,” says a random barperson who has turned up at our table to collect shot glasses – the bar has run out apparently. “You spoke to people at Glasgow Roller Derby and elsewhere and compiled all this information for the benefit of yourselves and other Rockers fans,” the barperson adds, “and you put it all on your website at brightonbrats.com… [our overly familiar barserve looks at their watch] …almost exactly a week ago. Last Saturday. Around noon.”

As our new ‘friend’ staggers to the bar, weighed under with tiny glasses, we look at each other and laugh like cabbages. As if we would ever be organised enough to do something like that. Still, this place has free WiFi, and the BRAT with a smartphone has a smartphone, so there’s no harm in finding out just how wrong said barperson is, yeah…

BOUT VENUE: ARC SPORTS CENTRE

The most chilling words in the first issue of our Rockers fanzine were those of Glasgow’s Rogue Runner saying “we play in a sports hall, so no bar unfortunately”. Aaagh! Most sports halls have bars of some description, but not Glasgow – indeed we understand the entire university campus the venue is based in (Glasgow Caledonian University) has no bars. The only other ‘dry’ derby venue we’ve encountered is the one in Dublin – we just need to learn that the Munich and Prague derby venues are dry too for all our preconceptions about Europe’s boozing capitals to be crushed!

All is not lost for non-boozers though. The venue is located on Cowcaddens Road, right across from the main bus station, and there are plenty of handy places nearby. GRD’s Fever tells us: “Drinks and snacks (cakes/biscuits/crisps) will be available at the bout and there is a Sainsbury’s opposite Buchanan Bus Station (2 min walk from the venue) for sandwiches you can bring in, or visit Sauchiehall Street (5 min walk) for Starbucks, EAT, Pret a Manger etc. There’s also a Walkabout nearby on Renfield Street (5 min walk) for anyone wanting a pub pre-bout.”

[NB Walkabout-phobic real ale types might be happier in The Pot Still (Hope Street), Horseshoe Bar (Drury Street) or even the Counting House Wetherspoons (George Square) – none of these are more than 10 minutes from the venue, such is the beauty of the Arc’s central location and Glasgow’s Manhattanite grid street system.]

As regards when you’ll need to drink up by to make first whistle, it’s an earlier start than we were expecting: “Skate outs scheduled to start at 1pm with first whistle 1.10pm.”

http://www.gcu.ac.uk/arc/

http://thepotstill.co.uk/

http://www.horseshoebar.co.uk/

AFTERPARTY: FLYING DUCK & MORE

It seems there are three stages of afterparty for GRD (maybe to make up for the dry venue!). We very much approve of the multi-stage afterparty concept as Fever outlines it: “After the final whistle we all head directly to Pinto’s on Queen Street for discounted Mexican food happiness. They are used to post-bout sweatiness. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the venue and folk will chum yous there [direct/walk you to it].”

“Then people can either go home and get changed, depending how fancy they are, or head straight to the afterparty which will be at the Flying Duck, Renfield Street (5 min walk from the venue, about a 10-15 min walk from Pinto). After that we’ll probably head to the Cathouse Rock Club on Union Street for extra dancing. That’s a bit further down the town, but still in the city centre and walkable in about 15 mins.”

“It’s all dead central so anyone staying in the City Centre or West End should have no problems. Nearest/easiest tube station for the venue, Pinto’s and afterparty is all Buchanan Street.”

http://www.pintomexican.com/

http://www.flyingduckclub.com/

http://www.cathouse.co.uk/

FOOD & DRINK: ELSEWHERE

Glasgow is as you’d expect for a big city (of comparable size to Amsterdam, Lisbon or Dublin) full of places to eat and drink. The grid system in the centre makes navigation easy, but can somewhat hide the best places away on side streets as in New York. The leafier posher yet conversely studentier West End (the other side of the ring road, but still only about 20 minutes walk from the centre) is for many the more favoured area for booze and food. Glasgow born and bred BRATS member Jimmy McGee recommends “anywhere around Byers Road (Hillhead tube) – the pubs are all good for a drink, and the restaurants are cheaper than the centre and good quality.”

One particular place we’ll stick our neck out and recommend cafe wise in the West End is Cafe Phoenix. Located on studenty Woodlands Road, it’s much closer to the centre than the aforementioned Byers Road. Cafe Phoenix is derby player run and is currently home to the first exhibition of GRD photographer Dave McAleavy’s pictures – the exhibition runs until the end of April and features pictures not just of the Glasgow league but from bouts across Europe and the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup. The cafe – which offers meat and vegan fare alongside coffee and cakes – is also a second-hand bookshop (hey, that makes it more Brighton than even Brighton is!) and they have promised us that “all derby players get a 10% discount, so tell people to ask for that when they come in”. Now we just need to work out which Rockers players to disguise ourselves as to take advantage of that offer ourselves. Any ideas?

http://www.facebook.com/cafephoenixltd

OTHER THINGS TO DO

It certainly hasn’t passed us by that the National Museum of Roller Derby is based in Glasgow. Still in an early incarnation, the first five derby leagues who became ‘affiliates’ (supplying bout programmes and posters etc) to the museum include the Brighton Rockers, alongside London Rockin’ Rollers and the leagues from Glasgow, Edinburgh (Auld Reekie) and Aberdeen (Granite City). The two UK-wide derby magazines – Lead Jammer and Inside Line – are also affiliates.

In summary, an awesome repository of printed material we rather fancied a look at. Unfortunately at present the Museum is in the process of moving (alongside its host Glasgow Women’s Library) to a new location where it will have a more permanent home, and is seemingly boxed away in the meantime. We’ve been trying to gain ‘tour party’ access to the archives over the GRD v BRRD weekend, but with no joy. At the very least, if you happen to walk past the current GWL location (Berkeley Street) please doff your cap in the knowledge that somewhere in their basement there’s a mini-history of the Rockers awaiting its new home.

Other museums are open. Even on Sunday. And free. As Jimmy McGee mentioned in our fanzine preview. He also recommended wandering round Glasgow Uni and Kelvingrove Park (both West End and “beautiful”) and a trip to the Barras (Glasgow Barrowlands) flea market on Sunday. GRD’s Rogue Runner recommended a trip further afield for fresh air seekers: “Loch Lomond is always good.” We know of a few BRATS types who are already incorporating a side trip to Edinburgh – 45 minutes up the road/rail – but we’d advise other travelling Rockers fans to stick with enjoying Glasgow itself this time out. If reliable web sites are to believed we’ll have a whole other weekend to experience Edinburgh in late October – cheers!

http://www.nmrd.org.uk/

“No, nothing.”

We look up. The BRAT with the smartphone has finally connected to our half-arsed website in the pub in Glasgow almost exactly a week from now – Saturday, around noon.

“Nothing at all about the bout venue or start time or pubs or anything to do with this Glasgow trip at all,” they whimper. “There’s only two blog posts, one’s about a stupid T-shirt shop and the other is a link to the fanzine online. Nothing in between.”

Oh well. No loss. We’d all expected as much. As if WE could have done any sort of practical bout preview. Pah!

The barperson from earlier scampers up to us. “Did you remember to press ‘publish’?”

“Huh?”

“When YOU [the person is now pointing at me] finished typing up that Glasgow preview for your tawdry brightonbrats.com website – almost exactly a week ago, Saturday around noon – did you remember to press ‘publish’?”

“Ah…”

*click*