Click on the cover image above to check out the latest issue of our Brighton Rockers fanzine. This issue came out on the 24th February 2018 for a double header of Brighton A v Toulouse B and Brighton B v Team Dragon. This one’s a World Cup Special featuring Rockers’ memories of the recent tournament in Manchester and more. If you’re after a physical copy there are a handful now in the Evening Star and Bierhaus pubs. Many thanks to all our awesomes interviewees, fab photographers and ace advertisers including Meadow Yurts, Pure Nuff Stuff, JW Lennons and more. Yay!
The mighty Brighton Rockers are in home action this Saturday (24th February) with one of the most intriguing double headers to date at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath kicking off at 2.30pm (doors at 2pm) with reduced ticket prices online. Earlier this month, almost the entire Rockers A-team (and most of the Bs and rookies) attended the Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester as spectators. The tournament featured 38 teams playing almost 100 games (as well as some exhibition matches) and the Rockers reportedly spotted loads of new tactics that they are looking forward to unleashing on Saturday…
…er, except their opponents are the Blocka Nostra B-team of Roller Derby Toulouse. Team France had an awesome World Cup, eventually finishing sixth out of the 38 teams. And how many of the French squad were from the Toulouse A-team? More than half of them (11/20) including five out of the six jammers! (Indeed, the only jammer not from Toulouse was Caen’s Dédé Froquée who Brighton have previously been on the wrong end of.) OK, so the Rockers aren’t facing those Toulouse A-team international skaters on Saturday, but they will be facing an entire B-team coached and trained by them!
As for the day’s other game, Brighton’s B-team Rockerbillies take on the Team Dragon challenge side. These two teams met here in September 2016. Whilst the ‘billies won 200-118 that day, half of the Brighton squad then were ringers from Eastbourne’s Bourne Bombshells. Both sides will be hugely changed for this encounter. Team Dragon utilise a huge roster of skaters from various leagues. Their biggest links are with the London Rollergirls network however, and alongside feisty LRG Rec Leaguers, it’s not surprising to see the odd ‘retired’ superstar pop up in their ranks… so this one really isn’t for the guessing!
Events are taking place (as ever) at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath, one of the UK’s top venues for open door roller derby. The Rockers have reduced ticket prices to £8 in advance (£9.50 on the door) for adults, with a reduced price for students and free tickets for under 12s. Haywards Heath is around 15 mins from Brighton on the choo-choo, and the venue is then seven minutes walk; turn left outside the train station and follow the signs. Doors are at 2pm, but if you arrive early there’s a decent enough pub (the Burrell Arms) opposite the station and a huge Sainsbury’s (with ATMs if you need cash) halfway between the station and venue. The after party will be back in Brighton at the Earth & Stars pub.
This looks like being one of the biggest crowds to a Rockers game in a while, so don’t delay if you haven’t yet snapped up tickets. We’re also promised merch stalls, a cake stand, a guess the sweets in the jar game, derby bingo cards, colouring competitions for the kids, and an opportunity to throw live chickens at the skaters (we might have misunderstood and/or imagined that last one). Don’t forget to pick up your free copy of our magazine Turn Left on the door – this one’s a World Cup Special, with various Rockers folks’ thoughts on attending this month’s event in Manchester.
***SPOILER ALERT – SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T LIKE READING PREDICTIONS BEFORE GAMES*** Whilst Flattrackstats include some Team Dragon results in their database, they don’t offer rankings for challenge teams, hence no prediction either. So you’ll just have to guess what will happen in the B-team game. As for the main event, the Rockers AllStars currently place 57th in Europe on 611.2 points, with Toulouse’s Blocka Nostra 70th on 597.1. Even with home advantage, the Rockers are only given 66% chance of victory. The expected differential of 36:29 works out as something like a 180-145 home win, which is super close in derby terms – so this one could go either way!
“Team France had a great World Cup and Toulouse are one of the top five leagues in Europe, so we’re expecting a tough game from their B-side. I wouldn’t like to predict anything. I always go into games expecting to lose whilst hoping to be pleasantly surprised!”
HAIRY FAIRY, BRIGHTON ROCKERS
“I personally don’t know anything about the Brighton Rockers team, although we have a couple of skaters who do, eg Chunder Woman was in Fresh Meat with Brighton. We’re not expecting it to be easy and we can’t wait to play in this challenging game.”
MICROBE, TOULOUSE BLOCKA NOSTRA
“Four B-team debuts are expected v Team Dragon. We’ve been impressed with the jamming of Cold Crush (who has joined us from Copenhagen Roller Derby) whilst Go Go Gozer, Goldiblocks and Miley Virus are great at blocking in a wall. They’re all raring to go.”
KAPOW, BRIGHTON ROCKERS
“We know the Rockerbillies will be well drilled and strong. We’ll be hitting up Eastbourne Roller Derby for some gossip about them prior to the game. The result is likely to be a coin flick really. Let’s be cocky and say we’ll edge it by ten points!”
MAMA, TEAM DRAGON
[Photos by John Hesse and Vincent Micheletti]
ROLLER DERBY TOULOUSE
TEAM DRAGON RD
Did you check out Part One of our Review of 2016 last week? Click here if not for the full story of January to June in Rockersland. We pick things up in Part Two (slightly delayed due to a bout of flu in BRATS HQ) in the seaside sunshine… The month of JULY saw one of the longest awaited match-ups in British derby. Brighton and Eastbourne have both had roller derby leagues for several years. Although the two have scrimmed with and against each other many times behind closed doors, there has never been a public game between them. All that changes on the Saturday of Eastbourne Extreme 2016 as the Brighton B-team Rockerbillies face off against Eastbourne Roller Derby’s Bourne Bombshells in the lunchtime sunshine on Ebo seafront.
These two sides narrowly missed out on meeting in the playoffs at last year’s Extreme tournament and both are much changed twelve months on. Brighton are giving a few of their 2016 Fresh Meat intake a first taste of action in front of a crowd, whilst Ebo (who are having a quiet year in terms of open door games) also have a number of new skaters in their ranks. The Rockerbillies have the better of the opening exchanges, with the likes of Mighty Mouse, Lab Wrath and Hippy Hippy Skate jamming them into a 35-14 lead. Despite the scoreline, which soon extends to 76-24, the ‘shells are getting as many lead jammer statuses as Brighton here. Track cut penalties are in abundance, however – as they would be on an outdoor surface with no perimeter wire to warn you – and these seem to be hitting the purple jammers harder.
Lily Malicious donning the Eastbourne star for the first time today. Hates jamming apparently, but her haul of fourteen marks the hosts’ best jam so far. Scoreless outings for Crash, Von Stackit and Amazing Graze follow as the Rockerbillies take a 122-48 lead into the interval. Polly Dartin and Speedy Gonzalex giving good defence for Brighton in the second half, with Smash’Er Fierce and The Philosofear both as hard-hitting as ever for Bombshells. Cruelty Spree fouling out for the ‘billies now. “You only get seven penalties in roller derby,” intones Tenacious P on the mic. “So make them good ones,” adds Mother Mercy. Smash’Er sending the entire pack (Brighton and Eastbourne) flying now. A number of high scoring jams for the impressive Mighty Mouse have made the difference here, as ‘billies bench coach Mistress celebrates a 207-142 win.
The Rockers keep things chill over the summer, with their only public outing on skates in AUGUST being in the Brighton Pride parade. Early SEPTEMBER brings a double header in Haywards Heath against two challenge teams. First up the A-team AllStars face Team No Fuss. Captain Gin Atomic gives the hosts an early lead, before a great turn in the No Fuss star from Beat’her Parker (dancing along the outside line on her toe-stops) puts the visitors 25-16 up as Brighton call a team time out. Kapow is having a really good game today, battling hard to put more points on the board for the Rockers, but the No Fuss defence – particularly Wheel Deal and Liannarchy – are super resilient. Game tied at 40-40. Beat’her off for a while being treated for an injury. LRG’s O’Malley now donning the star every other jam for No Fuss and hitting Brighton hard, but some great starhead outings for Velvet Bottom, Gin and Shambolic round off the half with Brighton 93-50 up.
Half time sees a woman angrily berating a group of fans with a ‘Kick Her In The Face’ banner. “That’s not in the spirit of the sport,” she rails. Er, apart from being the Rockers team’s pre-game chant. Beat’her is back in action in the second half. She and Liannarchy are putting in good stints in the No Fuss star, but Brighton are racking up roughly double the visitors’ points haul here. Super tough blocking from Finn McCruel as Kapow hits another nineteen without reply. Further Kapower jams follow. Janey calls a team time out with one second left on the clock. Gin spins in a few more passes in the bonus jam as the AllStars roll out 240-113 winners. Curiously there are no victory laps and slaps, with Bomb S’Quadder Chasin’ Status the only member of the crowd to line up by the track tape. Maybe the ethos of ‘No Fuss’ is contagious?
Rockerbillies v Team Dragon now, a final game for ‘billies co-captain Van Hayley before her transfer to Bristol Roller Derby. The Rockers B-team are low on numbers here, so five Bourne Bombshells have joined their ranks. Several No Fuss skaters are back on track in Dragon colours. Things start out close, but a little messy. Dragons’ Tinkahell is expelled from the game for entering the penalty box at a dangerous speed. Janarchy, Amazing Graze and Hippy (the ‘billies best jammer so far) edging Brighton into a 30 point lead, but Dragon pull it back to 95-82 at the half time whistle. The Rockerbillies start the second half with their jammer in the box and Streets Of Rage takes advantage to make it a three-point game. Solid jamming from Lab, Hippy and Speedy, together with tough blocking from Van Hayley and Dolores Diablo, sees the hosts take a 142-100 lead with half a half left. Velocity Kendal, Streets and Rumpleteaser battling hard for Dragons, but the only question now is whether Brighton will make 200 before the final whistle. A power jam from Hippy sees them do just that with the final pass of the game: 200-118.
The B-team sit out OCTOBER, whilst the A-team AllStars head off on two road trips, beginning with the Rockers’ first meeting with Welsh opposition as they take on the Tiger Bay B-team. We like Cardiff, mostly as it just seems to be one giant pub. The Wetherspoons by our hotel has THIRTY real ales on at £1.99 a pint. With Tiny Rebel, Brewdog and Waen Brewery bars in the same street, we leave this road only twice over the weekend, both times for visits to warehouses in the docklands area. The Doctor Who Experience is Sunday’s destination, whilst Saturday’s is Cardiff Central Youth Club. This is Tiger Bay’s first game in this cavernous venue, but a sudden threat of closure (Brains brewery wants to relocate to the site) means it could also be one of the last, gadnammit.
Tiger Bay’s A-team were ranked #1 in the UK Roller Derby Association on several occasions in the past few years, so their B-team is always going to be a tough proposition. The game starts off surprisingly clean, with no penalties (we think) for anyone in the first four jams. No sooner have we written this in our notebook than Cake Or Death becomes the first of a whole sequence of Rockers blockers taking a seat as the hosts rack up a 35-5 lead. Two five point passes for Gin makes things look more presentable for Brighton, but the likes of Hello Reeshi, Boba Fettish and Wild jammerise the hosts into a 102-62 half time advantage. The Rockers have been getting a reasonable number of bites of the lead jammer cherry – with Sham a particularly effective starhead today – but the Welsh packs are super hench.
Half time sees a demonstration of junior derby (Tiger Bay are probably the UK’s leading exponents of under-18s derby) as we enjoy the cheapest bar table we’ve ever encountered – £2 for a can of Guinness is practically offie prices! Those blocker penalties we mentioned come home to roost as Hairy Fairy – usually one of Brighton’s cleanest defenders – fouls out in the first jam of the second period. The announcer gets so excited by this that he blows up the PA; the remainder of the game will have a background of just music. Mighty Mouse does well in the Rockers star as the bar table runs out of Guinness and presents us with a Hobson’s Choice of shandy or Carling. The Sussex starheads are not getting much chance to take advantage of LJ status here, with the Welsh jammer almost always immediately at their back. Tiger Bay B-Bombs take it 227-147 and the Rockers retire to the thirty ales Wetherspoons.
A mere two weeks (and one day) later and the AllStars are back on the road. This time the destination is Houghton Regis, a cluster of estates outside Luton that takes longer to get to on public transport than Cardiff – waaah! Rebellion Roller Derby are the hosts and they get off to a flying start with Boris and Dew Drop Her hitting Brighton for 17 without reply. The former is Rebellion’s biggest jamming threat, whilst Mayh’Em throws down tough blocking as the likes of Skate Bush and Sham struggle to break through. 48-11. Gin and Juno running master classes in apex jumps for their respective sides. Hench hitting Bush so hard she goes back in time. Never known a half with this many official time outs. It’s a squeaky close 145-122 to the hosts at the break.
Rebellion’s bar is even cheaper than Tiger Bay’s. In that it’s free. In that there isn’t one. “A venue with no alcohol means a quiet crowd,” one Rocker solemnly predicted, but the atmosphere’s actually pretty good. Superstar performance in the star from Sham at the start of the second and suddenly it’s 151-141. Rebellion keeping ahead through the period but only by a power jam’s distance (fifteen-ish). Brighton 217-235 down with 1’15” left as Gin lines up against Boris (who is starclad every other jam now) for the umpteenth time. Apex jump. Track cut. Track cut. Apex jump. Track cut. Super tough Brighton pack. Suddenly it’s 235-226. Is there time for two passes from Gin before the jam clock ticks out? There is. Takes it 236-235 in the final second as the Rockers go wild….
…only to go somewhat less wild ten seconds later as the two points Rebellion’s jammer banked before her final penalty box visit hit the scoreboard. Brighton haven’t won by a point, they’ve LOST by a point: 236-237. Ah poo. Still, an epic game, and the day’s second match sees the surprise re-appearance of ex-Brighton and Eastbourne skater Swann, here debuting for her new team, the Kent-based Apex Predators, after a long break from derby. Speaking of taking a break, we’ll pause our Review of 2016 there. At the end of October? Are we crazy? Yes, but so are the Brighton Rockers, and their November and December were so packed full of derby (eight games in a four week period!) that they demand an instalment of their own. See you soon for Part Three of our round-up…
[PHOTOS: Eastbourne by John Hesse. Cardiff by Adam Chard. Rebellion by Daz Wilson.]
Yesterday’s double header saw battling performances as both Brighton teams took the win, the A-team Allstars defeating Team No Fuss whilst the B-team Rockerbillies (plus guests from Eastbourne’s Bombshells) triumphed over Team Dragon. We’ll have a full report on these matches, along with belated write-us of earlier games against Croydon and Eastbourne, in the next few days. Meanwhile, there will be a few copies of our fanzine from yesterday on the flyers shelf in the Evening Star from late evening today. Or simply click on the cover image above to read the online version. This issue saw Turn Left become the (tied) longest running British roller derby magazine of all time! Inside you’ll find interviews with members of all four teams, a report on the Rockers at Brighton Pride, an interview with our mysterious advertiser Mr Séamus, a roller derby I-Spy game and more. Special thanks to all our lovely interviewees, photographers, and our awesomes advermatisers including http://www.meadowyurts.co.uk/ and http://www.thewick.pub/ Yay!
This Sunday (4th September) sees the Brighton Rockers hosting an epic double header at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath. Both Rockers sides will be facing challenge teams composed of skaters from various different home leagues. The A-team AllStars are facing a super tough Team No Fuss roster, whilst the B-team Rockerbillies lock toe-stops with a very different Team Dragon squad to the one that defeated the AllStars at the Dolphin in February of last year. One aspect in which challenge teams differ from home leagues is that Flattrackstats, whilst recording (some) challenge team scores, doesn’t include them in any rankings system. As a result, their computer won’t come up with predicted win percentages or scorelines for games involving challenge sides. So we really have no idea what’s going to happen in the games. You’ll have to pop along to find out!
VENUE & AFTER PARTY INFO
Doors open at 2pm with the A-team game up first at 2.30 and the B-team battle following at around 4.30. Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 students and free for under 12s. Online sales have closed, but tickets will be available on the door. The Dolphin is about seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath station (turn left and follow the signs on lampposts) and Southern have forgotten to have any Sunday engineering works affecting the station this week yay! There’s parking at the leisure centre and a big Sainsbury’s (shuts at 4pm) between the venue and station if you need supplies. You can’t bring in your own booze, but there will be a table selling beer, wine and cider in the hall. The after party takes place at the Star pub at the bottom of Broadway, about 15 mins hike from the leisure centre (walk back past the station and hang a right).
TURN LEFT – THE ‘HISTORIC’ ISSUE 16
Sunday sees our tawdry Brighton Rockers fanzine become the (tied) longest running – in terms of issues – British roller derby magazine of all time. The only place you can pick up this (obviously historic, yeah?) sixteenth issue of Turn Left is on the door at the venue. As ever the magazine is free of charge. Inside you’ll find interviews with members of all four teams, a report on the Rockers’ Brighton Pride shenanigans, the inside story on our mysterious advertiser Mr Séamus, an ‘I-Spy at a Rockers Game’ contest, and more. Enough shameless self-publicity, what can we expect from the games themselves? We’ve no idea. Luckily, we spoke to some people who do. Here’s brief extracts from our fanzine interviews with the teams taking part…
2.30PM – BRIGHTON ROCKERS ALLSTARS v TEAM NO FUSS
Founded by former Bourne Bombshells bench coach (and most recently manager of men’s Team England) Polka Dotty, No Fuss these days includes skaters from across Sussex, Kent, Hampshire, Essex, London and far beyond. This will be the first time a No Fuss team has faced a Brighton side, at least in public. With a huge roster of skaters on their books (70+) it will be interesting to see who takes to the track for No Fuss today.
GIN ATOMIC (BRIGHTON ROCKERS)
“I also play for Team No Fuss, but I’ll be rocking the Brighton blue and black today. Looking at the No Fuss roster, it’s a beast of a squad. Look out for Mother Mercy – she’s hilarious and my favourite thug. LRG’s O’Malley is brilliant with mad skills. Evil Badger is another super solid skater. From a Rockers perspective, we’ve got old favourites and new. There’s Shambolic with her crazy fast spinny footwork, Emma the Condemner’s brilliant defense… We’ve also got some new transfers from Finland and France taking part today. Finn McCruel joined us from Helsinki Roller Derby, whilst Velvet Bottom comes from Roller Derby Rouen. Both have played derby for many years. I think they’ll quickly establish themselves as crowd favourites. I won’t make any predictions for the score. People will score points. I hope I score some of them.”
DROPKICK MOLLY (TEAM NO FUSS)
“No Fuss now have over 70 members from between ten and fifteen different leagues. We are mainly from the South but fairly spread out, and have recruited some talent from a bit further North. Today we have a very strong, although not fussy, roster. Not that we are fussed, but we’re expecting some tough derby from Brighton. I’ve come up against them a couple of times with my home team Portsmouth and they form killer walls and have awesome skaters. I’ll be watching out for our No Fuss teammates, some real double threats on track from Brighton. Gin Atomic is always one to watch.”
4.30PM – BRIGHTON ROCKERBILLIES & GUESTS v TEAM DRAGON
The day’s second game sees the Rockerbillies joined by several skaters from Eastbourne to take on Team Dragon. TD were founded by former London Rollergirls Recreational League bench coach Max Rees. Although Max has since moved to Canada, the team still has LRG rec league skaters at its score. This game is a Brighton swansong for B-team captain Van Hayley, who is transferring to Bristol Roller Derby.
THE PHILOSOFEAR (ROCKERBILLIES GUEST)
“Five Eastbourne skaters (Bullet Bomber, Hell Block H, Amazing Graze, Drag N Fly and myself) are all playing for the Rockerbillies today. We got an e-mail asking if any of us were free to skate as they were a little low on skaters. We jumped at the chance – there were about ten of us who wanted to play! In the run up to today we’ve attended their training a couple of times, so that we can be on the same page with regards to tactics. The Eastbourne skaters playing today are a mixture of blockers and jammers. Bullet Bomber is a great double threat and always one to watch. At this year’s Extreme, two Rockerbillies who impressed me were Mighty Mouse and Hippy Hippy Skate. Mighty Mouse’s jamming was fast and agile, whilst Hippy Hippy Skate is amazing at pushing walls forwards out of play – she was very hard to hold back! Max Rees who set up Team Dragon also used to bench coach the Bombshells. As a result we’ve played against them quite a few times. I’ve also played against TD before with Team No Fuss and Team Crazy Legs, though I’m not sure who is playing for the Dragons today.”
VELOCITY KENDAL (TEAM DRAGON)
“Only one of our skaters (Long Tall Scally) played for Dragon against the Rockers A-team last February. Since then we’ve recruited a whole host of new talent who will hopefully impress. Keep an eye out for Dragon’s famous cool, calm and collected style. Unusually for a challenge team, most of TD get to skate together on a semi-regular basis. Because of the nature of our derby background (mostly recreational skaters) we still face challenges when skating as a team. We don’t get to train together in packs and practice specific tactics, but we have the advantage of knowing each other on and off track, which really does help create that team feeling. We expect to be thoroughly challenged by the Rockerbillies today.”
[Photos by John Hesse]
The University of London’s Dragonology Department lies in one of the dustiest corners of Senate House. Two small rooms – one packed with drawings and photographs of fossils, the other with yellowing hardback books. All around is an overwhelming smell that can best be described as “the rotting carcasses of a long dead civilisation”. This turns out to be from a beef and tomato Pot Noodle the Department’s sole member of staff, Professor Frankentube Ocelot, is chomping on. What can the professor tell us about dragons, we wonder.
“Ghmmpt mutthy dumphtfg gruwttgd,” he says. We wait for him to finish eating before we ask again, but it turns out he was speaking Welsh. “The language of dragons,” he tells us, “or at least it was until they died out in the early 14th Century.” Wait a minute, is he saying that dragons are real? He certainly is. “What did you want to ask?” he asks.
“Well,” we begin nervously, “let’s say for example you knew some people, and those people were going to go up against some dragons, and those dragons they were up against were going to be on skates, what are good tactics to use against them?”
“Hmmm…” The professor thinks for a minute, strokes his chin – filling his beard with pungent noodles in the process – and flicks through a couple of hefty books before replying. He’s acting as if this is isn’t the strangest question he’s been asked today. “If you were battling dragons on rollerblades-”
“Quad skates,” we correct.
“-whatever. The thing about dragons is they are, generally speaking, solitary creatures. Although you might sometimes encounter three or four in formation… due to their large wing spans and so forth, they always leave a lot of space between each other. If you can somehow use that space to your advantage, pick them off one by one, that’s the way to do it. Dragons may be terrifying, but they don’t have that pack mentality. Dragons never swarm.”
He’s wrong, you know, is old noodle chin. As wrong as it’s possible to be. They do swarm. God, do they swarm. Every time one of the would-be dragon slayers in black and cyan looks like posing even the smallest of threats, a whole cluster of Dragons surrounds, corals, marshals, traps, snares, bumps and cajoles them. It’s some of the most instinctive, most reactive pack work we’ve witnessed, and is a major reason why Team Dragon sit on the fat side of an ever increasing points differential. It had started off so brightly for the Brighton Rockers. 23-7 up after the first few jams. One big jam from TD and suddenly it’s 24-23 to the visitors.
The Rockers battle back to lead 36-33. Good play from Gin Atomic up next in the star. She’s facing a full Dragon pack, with just one blocker to call upon for good chunks of the jam, but still takes it 19 points to nil. The fifth birthday girls are now on ‘all the fives’ 55 points. Chariot Sophia back in Brighton colours after a few months off and doing well. Power jam start to Kapow, but the Dragon swarm hits. She’s surrounded. No way forward. No way to get the star out from the scrum to her pivot. TD’s star pass recipient from the previous jam, Lola Vulkano, is out of the penalty box to take lead. Team Dragon regaining the initiative. 68-66 to the visitors, and that’s when they start to turn the screw. The points gap is only heading in one direction now…
“I don’t know what I was expecting,” one of the Rockers tells us at a very low-key after party, “but I wasn’t expecting that.” Nor were we. The Dragon’s core being skaters from LRG Rec League, we thought Brighton would be clear favourites here, but closer examination of the rosters during the skate outs clouds the issue somewhat. The Rockers are without probably their three best known triple threats – Shambolic is off worrying sheep in Australia, and Rose Bleed and The Mighty Mighty Bash are also absent today. Whilst 2014 transfers Swann (now captain) and Gin Atomic (vice captain making her home debut) have plugged some of the gaps, Brighton are skating short today. Only twelve Rockers on the roster, whilst the Dragons are bolstered here by a number of guest skaters. Two of them, Lisa Wright and Juicy Lucy, are from the 2014 Team England training squad; indeed, Lucy played for England in the 2011 World Cup. Then there’s Spanish WC star Lola Vulkano, along with eight foot tall Belgian international Aline Decat. The latter has travelled over from the land of waffles just for this game, so obviously isn’t about to give any less than 100%.
Announcer Polka Dotty called it right a few days ago when she told us: “You don’t put players of that quality and experience in your line-up if you aren’t going to make full use of them.” Sure enough, Lucy is an integral part of the TD jammer rotation, chasing down the Brighton starheads whenever any has the gall to take lead against her. Lola, meanwhile, is a regular feature in the pivot panty; part of the bustling, physical, fast moving defence that will have Rockers discovering new bruises throughout the week ahead. For now, Brighton need a miracle. Maybe they need a magician?
London University’s Department of Magic is proving hard to locate. Several times we encounter a door in Birkbeck College bearing that title, but as we go to turn the handle the door disappears. We end up asking for help from a passing Professor of Wicca, who utilises a cauldron, some herbs, half a bat and two teaspoons of our nose hair to make the Magic Department’s door stay put. Inside we find Abdul Cadabra, Visiting Lecturer in Paranormalcy, munching on a chow mein Super Noodles To Go. We explain the situation; endure a confusing few minutes when we’re not sure if he’s speaking Welsh, Arabic, in tongues, or with his mouth full; then listen intently as he responds to our enquiry.
“You’re looking for a way to use magic to defeat skateboarding dragons?”
“Roller skating,” we clarify, “quads not inlines, obvs.”
“Hmmm… you do know that dragons aren’t real?”
“Well, nor is magic.”
We realise we’re now standing in an empty room. We hear a hissing sound and look up. Abdul is spread-eagled across a pentangle on the ceiling. His hair seems to be made of snakes. “If dragons actually were real, what makes you think magicians could help?” he asks, climbing back down. What we thought was a pentangle was actually a skylight. What we thought were snakes were Super Noodles.
“Merlin,” we reply confidently. “He fought dragons, didn’t he? Also Gandalf.”
“Merlin is mere legend, a work of fiction,” Abdul solemnly intones, “and it was Bard the Bowman not Gandalf who defeated Smaug. Still, the idea of going into battle against rollerblading dragons intrigues me. Let me talk to my colleagues. We may be able to help.”
Hairy Fairy v Juicy Lucy – more rhyming jammer pairings in derby please – with the latter taking lead but picking up a penalty. HF battling hard to get through the Dragons pack. Lisa Wright, Dee I Why, Vulkano, Decat and Rusty Stiletto amongst the standout blockers for Team Dragon today, but there are no weak links anywhere in this draconine defence. Hairy starting the next jam in the box. Nacho Problem on a PJ start, being held up brilliantly by Hyde ‘N’ Shriek and Sophia, but she breaks through. Swann takes lead against I Eat, has to call it on the floor. Chaka Carnage, Dr Whooligan, Cake Or Death, Derby McGee and others battling hard in the Rockers packs, but these relentless TD jammers – pacy petite I Eat, bustling Van Hustling, bruisey Juicy Lucy, can’t find a rhyme for Nacho Problem – are proving as slippery as a bouncy castle made of mozzarella balls. Half time score (or a few seconds before half time, as we’ve rushed off to beat the queues at the bar) is 103-78 to the Dragons.
The Rockers have come back from far bigger midway deficits than this one, but it often involved reshuffling the line-ups and throwing in the ‘power players’ more. Many of those players – particularly the super tough Bash – aren’t playing today, so any chances of a resurgence look a whole lot trickier. We’re finding it tough going ourselves as the bar ran out of bottles of London Pride during the first game. We’ve just nabbed their last two cans of John Smith’s. From here on in it’s Bacardi Breezers all the way, God help us. Guess the Dolphin weren’t expecting today’s crowd to be quite this big – roughly double what recent Rockers games have attracted are in the packed hall today – or quite this thirsty.
Central jammer rotation for Brighton here of Swann, Kapow, Sophia, Gin and Dr Whooligan. Gin getting some of the best of the Rockers’ second half chances, but she’s often up against the hard-hitting Lucy, with the two starheads quick to chase each other down. Halfway through the second period and things are getting pretty penalty heavy for Brighton out there; indeed, it looks like Hairy Fairy may have just fouled out after seven visits to the box. Rockers are down to a squad of eleven now. By our calculations, there must be a fair few other BRRD players (Dr W and Sophia, for example) who aren’t far off joining Hairy in the bleachers.
The audience has thinned out quite a bit now. Chatting to fans in the pub by Haywards Heath station during the break between games, it seems many didn’t anticipate quite how long today’s event would last – this is, after all, the first home double header in almost two years – and have evening plans to pursue. Chaka putting in some hard hits on the ever impressive I Eat now. Score in the region of 125-219. Guess Brighton’s aim now, with mere minutes left on the clock, is to try and keep the differential down to double figures. Perhaps they need some kind of a distraction? Something to take the Dragons’ minds off the game. Something funny, perhaps? A clown, maybe?
Whilst scouring the corridors of Queen Mary College for London Uni’s Faculty of Clowning, you’ll know when you’ve found the right place. Not from the sign on the door, but from the custard pie that emerges from an unseen flap to hit you in the face a few seconds after you knock. We enter, spluttering, pulling chunks of shaving cream (not custard, apparently) from our ears and hair. Professor Hardboard Jackanory helps clean it off with a few strong squirts of water from the giant plastic flower attached to his brightly coloured jacket. “Hello,” he says, the white, black and red of his facepaint cracking slightly as he smiles. We go to shake his hand, but he’s holding a chip shop curry flavoured Golden Wonder Nation’s Noodle in it. He looks down at the plastic pot, before instinctively throwing it into our just de-custarded face.
“Ow, ow, it’s hot,” we wail as strips of sauce-sodden wheat flour drip from our nose and eyebrows.
“It is quite spicy, yes,” says Hardboard, “but you should try the inferno chilli flavour. Wowsers! Anyway, what can I do for you?”
Patiently we explain the predicament we are facing and the help we require from the professor’s faculty. “So you need some clownish tricks,” he says, “to distract these dragons on mini scooters-”
“-whatever. And you want me and my colleagues to provide them. Standing at the side of the track nearest to the dragons. Custard pies, trousers falling down, balloon animals, exploding cars, that sort of thing. To put them off. I think we can arrange that…”
“Brilliant,” we bluster. “That would be so useful. We’ve spoken to the Department of Magic and they’re going to help too.”
“Magicians? You’ve asked magicians! Oh no no no, we clowns hate magicians, with their stupid outfits and their ridiculous behaviour. We couldn’t possibly work alongside them. No way. We’ll need to hold some kind of contest before the dragons arrive. Us against the magicians. The winners help you against the dragons, the losers get lost.”
“A contest you say?” we reply. “Hmm, we’ve got an idea actually. How about an oval track with you and the magicians battling each other-”
“-on space hoppers!”
“…we were thinking, maybe, roller skates?”
Clowns v Magicians. Magicians v Clowns. A mixed opener, with a handful of slightly more experienced skaters amidst plenty who are making their public debut today. In many ways those rostered onto the clownish side of this contest have struck it lucky; they get a perfect excuse to bedeck themselves in a variety of facepainted clown visages, although none are quite as terrifying as bench coach Polka Dotty’s. To be fair, her tie is even more frightening than her face. For the magicians, the odd sparkly thing or top hat aside, fancy dress options are more limited. Still, on the other hand, it’s perhaps better to be able to tell people you were a ‘magician’ in your first game than a ‘clown’ – they might think you’re referring to the quality of your play rather than team name.
There are Rockers rookies amidst both the white clown and black magician ranks today, alongside numerous skaters from several other South East leagues. Many of these have other members of their league in attendance, cheering on their teamies. Plenty of Bourne Bombshells here on the back straight, members of Brighton’s new league the B-Town Brawlers acting as a buffer between them and a similarly purple cluster of noisy Croydon fans. At the back is a throng of typically rowdy London Rockin’ Rollers types. On track, Kent Roller Girls’ Tenacious is making an early impression in the clowns star – very speedy and points hungry, she’s arguably the most effective jammer out there today. Brighton’s Chloe Colossus and Streets Of Rage from LRG Rec League are among the other stand outs in the white star.
The Magicians’ packs are battling to contain the clownish starheads in the early stages. Valkyrie Pain is probably team black’s most powerful blocker here, and her experience with Portsmouth’s strong B-team could prove invaluable. Croydon’s Dirty Dancer, LRR’s Ginger Snaps, Brighton’s Skate Bush and Southampton’s White Lightning amongst the other tough blocking options for the Magicians. Their own jammers, such as Groundskeeper Willie (Croydon), Kickasso (LRR) and Sutherland (Brighton) are putting points on the board, but the Clowns are keeping their – red plastic – noses in front. Berry Naughty (Pompey) battling hard. Basha (Soton) and FloRideHer (LRR) teaming up for some big hits on Willie, who hops through on the inside line before being taken down. The most experienced Rocker on show, Irish Mist, helping marshal the white packs, tussling now with Bombshells Magician Von Stackit. A great spinning pass through the pack by Valkyrie sends the crowd wild. People queuing up at the penalty box now though. Games such as this are typically penalty heavy, and players from both sides, including the commanding Valkyrie, will foul out before this game is done.
Magicians’ bench coach Mistress giving the team talk as the second half begins. They’re trailing 135-90 at present, battling hard to keep the differential from expanding. “Call it, call it, call it!” a regular cry from both benches. People going down left, right and centre. Having been on wheels here once ourselves (once was enough) we know how hellishly slippy the surface is. Everyone falling small well. Magicians have pulled it back to 197-172 as they call a team timeout. The walls here (the ones made of bricks, not the ones made of blockers) are covered in baby photos of the Rockers A-team – this is, as the second game’s party hat and streamer infested skate out will remind us, the Brighton league’s fifth birthday. Geek fact: Your fifth birthday is the day you can first legally drink alcohol in the UK. That’s only at home when supervised by a parent/guardian, by the way, so don’t go rushing off down the pub quite yet, pre-schoolers. Willie gets penalised for attempting a star pass on the floor. Final jam. Sutherland calls. Clowns take the win 250-180.
Fast forward two hours. As the second game draws towards a close, we gaze over at the clowns and magicians in the crowd. All too shattered from their own contest earlier this afternoon to come to the Rockers’ rescue with exploding trousers or magic wands. Photographers in the centre track clicking their shutters as the seconds count down. One was hedging his bets here by wearing both Rockers and Team Dragon T-shirts, but it’s the latter on display now as the visiting winged beasts break the 100 point gap. 132-238. Only enough time left for one more jam. Brighton need to take seven more points than the visitors to get that differential back below a century. Gin Atomic lining up in the hometown star. Nacho jamming for the Dragons. Lead to Gin. Brighton pack working double hard to keep TD’s number 88 pegged back. First scoring pass to Gin, five points including one for passing the opposing jammer, 137-138. So close, but still over the century. Doesn’t call it as Nacho breaks out of the Sussex pack. Another pass for Gin. Nacho picking up points now too, but the Rockers defence is slowing her down.
Whistles ring out, including the long swirly one that signals the end of the match. Waiting now for the scoreboard to update. Final score coming in. 242 to Team Dragon, 145 to the Brighton Rockers. It’s possible we were the only people here that had decided we’d treat a less than triple figures gap as a victory of sorts. Indeed, several Rockers will talk at the after party about being beaten by more than a hundred. “It was only ninety-seven,” we’ll scream with increasing ferocity as the night progresses. Gin picks up best jammer for Brighton, with Hairy Fairy as best blocker and the tireless Swann as MVP. For the Dragons, I Eat picks up the starclad prize, Lisa Wright is best blocker and Lola Vulkano grabs Most Valuable Player. Awards for the opener go to Clowns’ Basha (blocker), Tenacious (jammer) and Berry Naughty (MVP), along with Magicians’ Dirty Dancer (blocker), Kickasso (jammer) and Valkyrie Pain (MVP).
The mighty Brighton Rockers’ fifth birthday then. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting that.” A tough game like that is probably exactly what the transitional Sussex squad needed. If they were expecting a friendly exhibition style game from TD, they were disavowed of that expectation fairly soon on. That the Rockers have a packed 2015 ahead is clear from the fact that they will be back at training the Monday after the game. Usually the first session after a game is replaced by a debrief in a pub, but Brighton are mere days away from kicking off their British Championships campaign. That all gets underway this coming Saturday (Feb 21st) at Newham Leisure Centre in East London, against Southend’s Seaside Sirens. They’ll likely still have some of the bruises from the Dragons game then, but will be itching to kick off Champs with a win. We’re hoping to see as many Rockers fans as possible there to cheer them on.
In preparation, we make the journey to London University’s Egham outpost, where we follow the smell of brine and the trails of seaweed to a rotten wooden door. Professor Scurvy Parsnips opens it, his eyepatch glinting as the parrot on his shoulder squawks annoyingly. The Professor waves a cutlass in one hand and a chicken Itsu Noodle Cup in the other. “Arrgh! Royal Holloway College Department of Pirate Studies, what can we be doing for ye?” he asks.
Well,” we begin, “there are these sirens, right…”
[Photos by John Hesse]
It’s been a busy few days here at BRATS HQ. In the build up to this Saturday’s festival of awesomes, we’ve been hurling loads of articles on this here website. In case you missed them, check out these three pieces:
B-TOWN BRAWLERS: We caught up with a brand new second Brighton based roller derby league to find out how they came into being and what their plans are. A potential future local rival for the Rockers? CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW HERE.
BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS: The mighty Rockers are taking part in this year’s inaugural British Champs, a national tournament featuring 72 women’s teams. We went along to the first National South Division game day to check out four of their upcoming opponents. CHECK OUT OUR REPORT HERE.
WFTDA APPRENTICE LEAGUE: A couple of weeks ago it was announced that the Rockers have been accepted on to the Apprentice Program of world governing body WFTDA, something less than twenty UK leagues have ever achieved. What does that mean though? CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE HERE.
Now we turn our attention to this weekend when Brighton celebrate their Fifth Birthday by taking on Team Dragon. This challenge side, which originated from London recreational skaters, has put together a special roster to take on the Rockers. They’ll be fielding England 2011 World Cup star Lucy, 2014 England training squad member Lisa Wright, plus Lola Vulkano (Spain) and Aline Decat (Belgium) both of whom featured for their nations in last December’s World Cup. Yowsers! We’d best write a preview then…
ALL THE INFO
The Birthday double header takes place this Saturday (7th Feb) at the Dolphin leisure centre in Haywards Heath. Doors are at 2pm, with the mixed opener at 3pm, followed by the Rockers v Dragon game at 5.35pm. Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 students and free for under-12s. There’s also a special 4 for the price of 3 deal. These tickets are selling fast – this will be the biggest crowd for a Rockers event in quite a while – and are available online until some point tomorrow (Friday 6th). Although we do expect there to be a few left on the door, you’re strongly advised to nab yours via the internet asap. You’ll find a link at the bottom of this piece.
The venue has a decent sized car park and is approximately seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station. Turn left outside the station and follow the handmade ‘roller derby’ signs. If you arrive early, the pub opposite the station (the Burrell Arms) is not too bad for a sporty bar and cheaper than most Brighton pubs. It also has a large beer garden with giant Connect 4. If you need to stock up on supplies, there’s a Sainsbury’s superstore halfway between the station and leisure centre. The centre itself is modern, and unlike many UK leisure centres, it sells booze! There used to be two bars in fact, but now there’s only one – a cafe bar in the foyer that does various bottled beers, ales, wines, etc. It probably also sells food, soft and hot drinks, for weirdos that like that sort of thing. There’s a decent break between the two games, so a run to Sainsbury’s for munchies is also an option.
Be sure to pick up a copy of our fanzine ‘Turn Left’ on the door. We had to add an extra four pages to this issue as there was so much to fit in. You’ll find previews of both games, a review of 2014, who won what in our awards for the year, a preview of Brighton’s upcoming British Champs games, and loads of interviews. There are also a few more typos than usual as our printing company’s website was on the blink, so we didn’t get to properly proof it. There’s a prize of a BRATS baseball cap for whoever can find the most mistakes.
Events in the hall finish around 7pm and the after party is at the Wick Inn. This is fairly close to both Brighton and Hove train stations; about 18 minutes walk from Brighton, 15 from Hove (yes, we walked both routes yesterday to check, we’re that nerdy), both of which are a short hop from Haywards Heath. There should be loads of buses from both stations to the pub – it’s on the corner of Palmeira Square, one of the City’s main bus thoroughfares. It’s a private party in the pub’s (swanky prohibition era themed) cocktail lounge, and there’s a good real ale selection for those who don’t want to drink something with strawberries floating in. Grab yourself a brew and reminisce about the awesome day of derby you just viewed. Liked the sport so much you fancy giving it a try yourself? The Rockers have two free taster sessions coming up on the 23rd of this month. Drop them a line at email@example.com for more details.
“The opener has seven Rockers represented in total: Irish Mist (who fans may have seen skating previously) will be taking part, as well as Sutherland, Lab Wrath, Chloe Colossus, Van Hayley, Skate Bush and Polly Darting, who are all popping their bout cherries. All the South East leagues are well represented. We have skaters from the Bourne Bombshells, Portsmouth Roller Wenches, Southampton City Rollers, Croydon Roller Derby, London Rockin’ Rollers and Kent Roller Girls, as well as some rogue representatives from Wolverhampton Honour Rollers and the Evolution Rollergirls.”
SWANN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS
“I’ve never played in a game so this is my cherry popper, but I have scrimmed a few times with lots of skaters from both teams today. I’m hoping that I learn a few things, get to practice a few new moves, not let my team or the crowd down, and escape relatively injury free. We’ve got a lot of tactics and tricks up our sleeves. Of course we have, we’re magicians!”
SKATE BUSH, ROCKERS MAGICIAN
“We normally scrim for a bit at the end of each practice, so I’ve been doing that roughly once or twice a week since my Fresh Meat course finished. This’ll be my third proper full length scrim, and even though it will be more challenging than previous rookie scrims, I’m fully expecting to score a whole bunch of points against the Magicians – and maybe knock a few over! Skate Bush has a habit of taking you by surprise, so I’m gonna get in her way and keep an eye on her as much as possible. She’s not pulling any disappearing tricks on me!”
CHLOE COLOSSUS, ROCKERS CLOWN
MAIN EVENT: BRIGHTON ROCKERS V TEAM DRAGON (5.35PM)
“Brighton are taking on a very strong roster from Team Dragon, with some familiar faces from London Rollergirls, such as Lucy who is a very nippy jammer, and Lola Vulkano who is a double threat to watch out for. I saw Aline Decat play at Eastbourne Extreme last year, and she really impressed me. I Eat is a fast and agile jammer and Rusty Stiletto can give some big hits. Brighton will have an advantage – in that the team are used to playing together – but Dragon will certainly give them a tough game. I think the score will be quite close.”
THE PHILOSOFEAR, TEAM NO FUSS
“I never care to predict the result. You just don’t know how each team is going to play on the day. Today we will play hard to win. We have a couple of our usual ‘standout’ players not playing, which should make room for some different players to take the lead, and also you may see a few new faces.”
THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BASH, BRIGHTON ROCKERS
“We are happy to have some very well respected players in the roster. It’s great to have Lisa Wright in the team; she started her derby life in the LRG Rec League, before rising to the Team England training squad. She retired last year but is back on skates for Team Dragon. She’ll be joining Lola and Lucy in bringing some big game experience to today’s team. I wouldn’t want to predict a result. Brighton are the clear favourites and they’re on home soil but we’re here to play and surprise people. We’re amped for this!”
MOTHER, TEAM DRAGON
[Photo by John Hesse]
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
TEAM DRAGON: http://teamdragonrollerderby.tumblr.com/
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/705098602921263/