Spandex gives you superpowers. Fact.

23 03 2010

It’s been a big 12 months in the life of UK derby: our first European tournament, a swathe of new leagues and new recruits, growing recognition for the sport, and  blood, sweat and tears for the hundreds of women and men working to make it happen. So when London Rollergirls announced that the Texas Rollergirls, originators of roller derby itself, were coming over to put on a bootcamp and play their travel team, London Brawling, it felt like UK derby was reaching a new level.

LRG have spent the last four years inspiring, generously assisting, and ably dominating leagues across the UK. They’ve set the bar for the sport in Europe, easily defeating their closest European rivals by margins of two and three hundred points, so whilst the rest of us have been playing catch up with LRG, we wanted to know whether they would still be playing catch up with the rest of the world. Were they finally going to get their asses kicked? This was the game with the answers.

TXRG vs LRG skateout

The Texas Rollergirls, formed in 2003 and currently sitting in third spot in the DNN power rankings, looked ready to put their mark on the game. If there were spandex rankings in derby, and there should be, these women would surely win prizes. The Hustlers went straight to business with a power lineup in the first jam, but Acute Angel was swiftly sent off for a track cut, giving London’s Sky Rockit a surprise 10 point power jam and putting the Texans on the back foot. But it wasn’t long before Molotov M Pale took 10 points and equalized. As the Hustlers took a single point to lead, only to have Brawling take one back to re-equalise, a pattern began to emerge: both teams working their defense, delivering split-second call offs, and waiting. This was a game of very few, but very crucial, opportunities – and plenty of surprises.

Sky Rockit rules

Neither side could hang onto the lead for long: when Stefanie Mainey, jamming for Brawling, was sent to the box, Molotov seized her moment to snag a 10 point lead for the Hustlers, only to have Mainey storm out in the next jam to juke her way to another 10, evening the score again at 21-21. Both sides inched forward, tussling for a few points, right up until the final jam of the period when Molotov took a trip to the box and opened up another power jam for London. Sky Rockit hopped straight through the pack on the inside line to take lead, and the Brawling defense trapped Curvette to haul the pack back and force the Hustlers’ remaining blockers to overstretch. Sky sucked up an audacious minor track cut and cruised out of the jam 10 points up, bringing the half time score to 39-30 for London.

I squeeze, you squeeze.

Both teams brought a strong defense to the second period. Texas dominated the front of the pack, with Babe Ruthless frequently forming a relentless one woman wall of doom for London’s jammers. Another power jam saw them regain the lead by one point, only to have London grab it back again, and two nail biting jams later the box was getting busy and points were tied at 55-55. Then at 57-57! Then at 61-61! Ten minutes on the clock, The Final Countdown on the PA, and dancing on the jam line: this was the greatest game of roller derby we’d seen in our lives.

The power ballads seemed to refuel the Texans, and they launched into the home straight determined to break the stalemate. Bloody Mary motored off the jam line, leaving Belle Starr to sweep in and take out Kamikaze Kitten. Mary breezed through the London defense to put the Hustlers into the lead by 4. Forced to play catch up, Brawling found themselves digging deep as their jammers’ minors caught up with them. When the Hustlers got another power jam, the London pack managed to out sprint Bloody Mary, but when Axis of Evon was sent off, Texas lost no time corralling a gazelle, allowing Acute Angel to add a further 3 points to their lead and leaving London with their jammer in the box at the start of the final play. Not content with a mere 6 point lead, the Hustlers pulled out a truly monstrous 15 point final jam and sealed the score at a decisive 84-63.

TXRG vs LRG

Verdict? Outstanding spandex. And a totally riveting game with standard setting play from both sides. We just haven’t seen a game as fast, close, and tactically demanding before. And we’ve finally seen LRG meet their match – and in the process play their best derby yet. Highlights? Two things: firstly it has to be the spandex. Secondly, you know how Mainey usually plays like it’s a pleasant stroll to the shops?

Stefanie Mainey forced to make effort in roller derby shocker!

I caught up some Texans to get their thoughts on the game. Molotov said “It would’ve been really foolish for us to come here expecting to dominate.. as a team, we went into it like we’d go into one of our home games, not knowing how it would go. It was a rough game.. they had obviously studied our nationals footage! But at the end of a week of traveling and training.. going into the game with all those crazy emotions, it was awesome.”

“I was really surprised,” said Babe Ruthless, “not that they were good, but that they were really good.. every trick we had they had it too.”

And how did London Brawling respond to their first defeat? “it was so, so awesome!” said Grievous Bodily Charm*. And how are they feeling about playing more US teams? “I was worried the tour would be intimidating” said Sky, “but now I feel like it will be really fun.” Team captain Kamikaze Kitten was typically focused: “I’ve never been so exhausted after fighting my way out of the pack,” she said “I’m determined to work harder.”

“I was so proud of everyone,” said Molotov. “All I could think was: congratulations.. I think they [LRG] are going to get a lot more teams wanting to play them.” So not just an amazing game to watch, but a validating experience for London. “It feels like we’ve always been chasing America” said May BTwisted, “and now we’re not just the little sisters anymore.”

And the reaction from the Rollerbillies? We are so getting leotards.

Thank you to Hurt Reynolds and Justice Feelgood for letting me write this up for DNN, and thanks to Teshi Tailor for triumphing over the forces of high speed action to deliver these quality shots.

* okay, possibly not in response to that exact question.





The long overdue Love Smack writeup!

27 02 2010

Eccles Cake!!In the great tradition of tardy Rollerbillies writeups, here’s the skinny on Love Smack. To kick it off, we are properly jealous of the Bombers‘ venue – a little bit chilly in February, but super spacious. There was even room for a romantic valentines balloon arch and a camper van. And all that space meant we had a wide selection of merch vendors to tempt us – including the all important cupcake stand. And not only cupcakes – bacon butties, eccles cakes, and a nice cup of tea. Oh yes, eccles cakes. Are we doing the roller derby workout challenge diet and eating cheese for breakfast? Uh, no. We’re growing enormous asses made of lard and raisins.

Bout one: Team White vs Team Black:

Lil Mischief jammingTwo B teams made up of women from teams all over the country. You could feel the excitement in the air as many of the skaters hit the track (sometimes literally) for the first time. All that training, all the hard work, and so much commitment, finally finding its expression in a momentous sweaty blur.

Having never skated together before, both sides spent the first half finding their feet, and often finding their way to the penalty box, but by half time both teams were beginning to gel. The second half began with Team Black in possession of a 24 point lead, and Team White took to the track determined to close the gap. The pace increased as the period progressed, and a combination of solid three player defensive walls and a couple of textbook jams by Team White took them to within 4 points of equalising. Team Black were forced to play hard to retain their lead, and it all got a bit exciting and shouty, but ultimately the women in Black kept it together and finished on 155 points to team White’s 145.

Bout two: Lincolnshire Bombers vs Central City: The Belles of Centrinnians made an impressive start, consistently taking lead and picking up 40 points to the Bombers’ 7 in the first eight jams. CCR’s jamming triangle of death, Hustle’her, Block Star, and Billie Whizz sliced past the Bombers’ front wall, whilst their blockers dominated in the pack and Tragic visited her wrath on the opposing jammers. The Bombers began to get into their stride as the first half progressed, picking up lead jammer with more frequency, but in the face of such assertive play they were stuck playing CCR’s game and finished the period with 30 points to the Centrinnians’ 65.

CCR v LBRG by In Depth Photos

But it’s always a different game in the second half and the Bombers came back on determined to set their own agenda. Ce Cee Slam’er, Inya Head and Minx a’matosis showed steely determination to grab lead, and with their blockers upping the energy on their hits they started raking some points back. But the Centrinnians’ jammers were tough to contain and shot out of the pack right behind the Bombers’, scoring hard on their heels and nomming into their points differential. It was a hard and pacey second period with much more competitive game play, but the Centrinnians  had a selection of tricks up their armsocks, and maintained their cool and their advantage, ending the game with 130 to the hosts’ 79.

LBRG v CCR

“Yes, but how did the girls feel about it?!”, I hear you exclaim. Well, you’re in luck because The Romsey Town Rollerbillies own Lil Mischief, Dusti Knuckles, and Phoenix in Flames skated their stripey little socks off in the first bout, and are here to bring you the action in their own words. Over to you girls…

Lil Mischief #16

“I was excited to be playing with people I’d never met before. I was also nervous about it. I worried I’d be the worst on the team and let everyone down and I worried it would be hard to get us working as a team as we wouldn’t know each other’s skate styles and strategies. The warm up was really fun and helped us get to know each other, and get a chance to try stuff out on the track. It was a pretty reasonable surface but for some reason plough stops were really tricky. Everyone was lovely – really friendly and a great laugh. It made me feel so much better.

I was still nervous as hell when the bout started. We had our skate out and I nearly forgot to wave when my name got called. At least I didn’t fall over! As I watched the first jam the excitement overtook the nerves and I couldn’t wait to get out on the track. My legs were shaking on my first lineup but I as fine once I started skating. I don’t remember much about the game – it all went so fast! At first it was hard to keep our defense together and get everyone working as a team. We were having difficulty walling up and defending and Team Black seemed to get it together really fast and soon took the lead. But as we played together we started working as a team more. By the second half we were playing much better and were narrowing the gap in the scores. We were jamming smarter and blocking better. I loved every minute! Couldn’t believe it when the final whistle blew – wish we could have had a few more minutes!”

Phoenix in Flames #177
“I was SO nervous but was lucky enough to have Dusti by my side as a team-mate and that was really reassuring. I had met a few of the girls on both teams a few weeks before, at Rainy City’s bootcamp and knowing what I was coming up against helped relieve a LOT of the anxieties I had about my own skating ability. Team Black managed to get to know a bit about each other via a Facebook group – this really helped on the day & I think contributed a lot to the team working well together.

Dusti and I lined up together on the first jam; by that point the anxieties had melted away and I was really raring to go!! I could see my family and RTRB team-mates on the front row cheering us on and desperately wanted to do them proud! The bout went by in a blur and I have NO idea how well I played, although found out that I should definitely not try jamming. Ever. What a disaster! But Dusti and I must have done something right as we played nearly every other jam and it felt amazing to work well with skaters I hardly knew. We tried really hard as a team to get the opportunity to push ourselves and try different positions and that worked really well. The two teams were put together well and we were pretty evenly matched – we had to work really hard to get our win!

The re-match (hopefully it’ll happen!) will be epic – Team White will out to prove they’re the queens of the track and we’ll be fighting so hard to keep our title! I have to say a HUGE thank you to Alma Geddon who was a brilliant captain and an even bigger thank you to all of LBRG who put this together for us – what an amazing opportunity it was for new skaters & a huge contribution to the UK derby scene!”

If you’re not already in the derby community, dear readers, this could be you! So far, the Rollerbillies have played one bout against Glasglow B, and our players have skated in our mixed side, Team East Angrier, against Stuttgart Valley Rollergirls and London Rollergirls. We’ve also guest skated for Central City and Bedfordshire Rollergirls, so we’ve got a mix of experience in the team. We’re always looking for new skaters and we’re committed to training them up right and giving them the opportunity to compete. There’s a bout out there for everyone, so what are you waiting for – come and check derby out for yourselves. Hit the I want in! page above to find out how.

Thanks again to the Bombers for a great event, and for inviting our lovely Quad Ophelia to be your lineup manager. We’re really sorry we got the writeup out so late. Photo credits: Jason Ruffel (1), In Depth Photos (2, 3, 4, 7, 8 ) Hannah ‘H’annihilation‘ Edmonds (5), Daz Wilson (6), and Adam Rhoades (9, 10).

Raarrr, Roller derby!





CARNAGE!!

11 02 2009

An unprecedented number of Rollerbillies were in London this weekend for a roller derby double bill – Clockwork Carnage: Steam Rollers vs. the Ultraviolent Femmes, followed by Referee Bootcamp and open scrimmage, yay! Once again we brought a bunch of bout virgins, and thanks to the high level of awesomeness on display we are happy to report a 100% conversion rate. We were also delighted to be joined by AWESOME SOCK MONKEY, who was hand made for us by Betty Trouble and Cherry Bomb from the Bandits. He’s (sob) going in our birthday party raffle. He was too excited to stay in the bag though – and can you blame him?

nem-n-kitty

With a place in the season final to play for, the stakes were high in this game; some of us were cheering for the Steam Rollers and some for the Ultraviolents (AWESOME SOCK MONKEY was naturally cheering for the green team). We figured this was the best way to deal with the agonising conflicts of loyalty, but nothing was going to help us cope with the tension in this bout – both sides were out for blood. The Steam Rollers started out strong, taking the lead by the end of the first period. Their presence in the centre of the pack was more like a fortress than a wall, and a source of serious frustration to the Ultraviolents’ jammers. But nobody in this game was going to give an inch without a fight – if you want to see what it looks like when someone jams like a motherf*cker and you weren’t there on Saturday, then you missed it.

jam-like-a

Pretty soon the penalties started stacking up and we were really losing track of who was getting sent off for what. The Ultraviolents were dishing out the clops and tolchoks and by the end of the second period they’d fought their way up to a tantalising score of 49-51. The crowd were in a frenzy. AWESOME SOCK MONKEY was barely coping. But the Steam Rollers weren’t going to let it go, and in the third period they managed to consistently outscore the Ultraviolents and emerged victorious on 84-64. Possibly the most exciting LRG game yet – more violence, more penalties, more jammerless jams, an exclusion – and the most stunning cupcakes we’ve ever seen. Nom nom nom.

victory2

monkey-and-cake

But that’s not all folks. Sunday was Referee Bootcamp, and our ref Captain Carnage was ready for school. Unfortunately aWeSoMe Welles has temporarily abandoned our grumpy  little island and is now somewhere in Thailand, so it was down to Carnage to get clever. We should have got him a special pencil case and some new shoes, but we didn’t and he had to make do with a spray painted ref shirt.

refs

We were psyched to get some scrimmaging in! Going to a mixed scrim can be a scary prospect, and we were super proud of our newbies who were braving their fears and playing with the big girls for the first time. There were more whistles than we knew what to do about, but we had a lot of fun. I saw weird spots before my eyes at one point, which just goes to show that roller derby is so damn good you can go blind. Luckily Nem gave me her half-eaten boost, and after that I was fine.

Captain Carnage reports “the mixed scrimmaging was brilliant, it was awesome how everyone just got on with it. I now appreciate how hard the refs job actually is! I’ve got my work cut out for me for sure. The whole weekend has made me so excited about Derby I might actually burst. *POP*”

So there you have it. We have him under observation. If he actually goes POP we’re going to be screwed.

Congratulations to the Steam Rollers and to the Ultraviolents for playing such a kick-ass game, and huge thanks to all of LRG for putting on the scrimmage and boot camp!

Many thanks to Betty and Cherry for AWESOME SOCK MONKEY, and to Ryan Hayes for the use of these super pictures. (The one of the cupcake is ours, in case you hadn’t guessed.)

If you want a chance to win FAMOUS AWESOME SOCK MONKEY you’ll need to come to our FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY (hooray!) this saturday. If you can wait a mere 24 hours, you’ll get a post on here about that too.





Squeal totally busted!

21 01 2009

When the lovely CCR girls invited us to guest at their first closed bout, Breaking the Squeal, we were a bit nervous – we wanted to do it, but we didn’t want to suck.. it was a scary poke in the comfort zone. Then we thought, hey, it’ll be like a big scrimmage with real teams, all kinds of stopwatches, and proper reffing with real penalties, it’s okay, we can do that. Comfort zone my ass, nobody will be watching. So we said yes. Then we realised CCR aren’t the kind of league to do things by halves. It wasn’t going to be just ’bout conditions’ in the sporting sense, it was going to be bout conditions in the cupcakes, programme, music, commentating – and audience – sense. Okay, a lovely non-judgmental families and friends kind of audience, but still – a least 500 of them. In those cool bleachers, all stacked up… eating cupcakes, taking photos, and watching. It was going to be an all-out production; we were impressed. And terrified. The Rollerbillies waved us off and offered us sound advice (“Jam like a motherf*ucker” – thanks Captain Carnage), and we were on our way.

signs2

It turned out to be the best possible way to bout for the first time – CCR were awesome hosts, and we got to benefit from the serious hard work they put into the event without worrying about anything other than skating, so we were pretty much spoiled rotten. And we didn’t even suck horribly, which made it even better. The audience were great, and they were loving it – CCR are bringing derby to the masses, and gaining a whole lot of fans. We bet you 50p their first open-doors bout will sell out before you can say cupcake.

So it was Team Pink vs Team Blue, with Hermaphroditie guesting for Pink and Mollie Cosh (referring to herself in the third person just this once) on Team Blue.

teams

action2

Blue started strong, getting lead in almost every jam of the first period.  They walled the front of the pack, and held the inside line for their jammers. Pink were forced to react but fought hard to make their impact on the play. Although it’s all a bit of a blur, by the third period the pack was getting feral, and Pink were really making the hits count – resulting in some crowd-pleasing ouchie wreckage. I got a crisis of loyalty when Blues came off the track saying ‘Hermaphroditie hits hard‘ – but she definitely wasn’t the only one. Team Blue racked up some penalties (guilty) and had to line up short and under pressure a few times, but weren’t deterred. Despite fighting up to dominate the front, and the impressive escalation of violence, Pink narrowed the points gap but couldn’t close it. We finished on 126-86. Go Team Blue!

action1

score

And go team CCR! Everyone involved kicked ass, running the show like a beautiful, well-oiled machine. The only interruption was the change of afterparty venue due to a murder near the pub. Seriously. Some things you just can’t plan for. We had an ace time at the relocated party, ate chips, and sold lots of our excellent new handmade badges – so now we have funds to try and outbid Twisted Mister for old pads on ebay. Superby.

Huge thanks to CCR for popping our bout cherries in such a well organised fashion – it wasn’t exactly painless, but it was a pleasure to skate with you. Thanks to Angela Momentum for getting us to Birmingham in one piece – we were stressing about being late so we made her drive crazy fast even though she was trying to eat pastries. And finally thanks to our favourite derby photographer, David James Coxsell, for the use of all these ace pictures. Apart from the one of the badges; that’s just shameless merch promotion on our part. Want some?

victory

badges214

http://www.in-depthphotos.co.uk





Want some glitter in your bearings?

5 01 2009

We decided we’d see the new year in with some new challenges. We were invited to Salon Rouge as part of their splendid hospitality team, so the challenges were… make costumes to wear, make badges with Mollie’s new badge making machine (yay!), ice cupcakes, make cute little trays for the cupcakes, wear false eyelashes (surely gluing things to your eyes is wrong?), and get us, all our supplies, and four dozen freshly iced cupcakes into a cab… then skate whist holding trays of cupcakes in semi darkness surrounded by paying guests. Easy! We love a bit of DIY, so we got our scissors, glue, cardboard, ribbon, and jumble sale leopard print fabric, spread it all over the floor, chose some making-stuff music, and set about getting our burlesque on, Blue Peter style. In no time at all, the glue was dry, our eyes luckily weren’t glued shut, and we were ready to go.

ta-da

It turned out that cupcakes aren’t in high demand right after the indulgence of xmas, and they’re even less appealing to people wearing corsets. Damnit, we thought cupcakes were never wrong! Our world was turned upside down. So the beautiful people didn’t want our cupcakes, fine; but how could they resist our roller derby? Armed with our flyers, we cast our eyes over the crowd in search of new recruits. Once they’d had done a little drinking everyone got more inclined to ask us questions, and we found ourselves talking to some ideal new rollergirls. They were intrigued; what better new year’s resolution to make than to kick some ass?

comp2

comp3

If you’re out there, flyer recipients, you know what to do. If you’re that girl who invited us to stick the flyer in your mouth on the dance floor, we mean you too. We did get some glitter in our bearings, had a few near misses involving stray feathers and beverages on the skating surfaces, and all our green stuff looked a bit brown under the red lights, but we had a superb night. Everyone looked fabulous, and the DJ played The Walkin Blues by the Jesse Powell Orchestra. Happy!

splendid-team1

Thank you so much to the Salon Rouge team for having us, and for inviting us back. What will we make for next time? You’ll have to wait and see. Thanks to Andrew Stubbs for the ace photographs, and to everyone, happy new year from the Rollerbillies!

www.myspace.com/salonrougeburlesque





Get your comment on

3 12 2008

It’s been an interesting few days on the Rollerbillies’ blog. Thanks for stopping by to check it out – we’ve enjoyed the comments, the debate, and the spiky blog stats. Free speech sure does keep life interesting; however, if you have a computer-based job it does tend to have a negative impact on your productivity.

I used to think we ought to pay real money and get a website; now I’m glad we were skint and had to get a free blog. They’re ace. If you write one, or if your league has one we don’t know about, tell us; we’d love to add you to our blogroll.

As well as tracking down some derby blogs, we’ve been adding more links for UK leagues; if we’ve managed to neglect yours then (a) get yourselves on the wikipedia list, and (b) shout and we’ll add you. And hey, why not get a blog? You can do it for free on wordpress, blogspot, livejournal, or typepad (none of whom are paying me to say this) and it’s a cakewalk compared to myspace. If you want to capture the evolution of your league, write some commentary on bouts, or if you like licking other people’s pads when they’re not looking and want to tell us about it, get it out there.

keyboard-green-speak-your-mind





The hazards of constructive criticism

29 11 2008

If you check out the comments below the last entry, you can see that one of the Dames wasn’t happy with the write up of Band of Brawlers. As one Rollerbilly to that one Dame, I figured I should respond:

I’m sorry you don’t like the blog entry for band of brawlers.

I have no doubt that bouts are hard work. This is a public blog. I’m writing as a fan. Obviously I’m not going to be aware of whatever is going on with your production team. I paid to see the event and I’m writing it up.

I’m a little shocked that you don’t think both teams playing deserve to have encouragement and support. The Dames had all their friends and families present; why shouldn’t some people in the audience cheer for the visitors?

If I’d come all the way from Germany to play, I’d like to think someone would show my team some support. We’re not actually living in wartime. I can support Germany if I choose to.

You shouldn’t be afraid of people encouraging your opposition. Every player who gets better forces others to improve, and drives the sport forward. That’s what the fans want to see, and it should be what the skaters want to see too.

As for the reffing, all I said was that from an audience point of view the bout was confusing. We’re members of the audience, we’re trying to understand the play. I didn’t say there was anything wrong with the calls or scores, I only said that there wasn’t much commentary to make them all clear.

Not every audience member is going to be a rollergirl; the rules are complicated and as the Dames point out on their blog, they do change. New versions of the rules make it even more important for you help the general public to understand what’s happening.

We definitely learned that staging a bout is a lot harder than it looks. It’s up to you whether or not you do cupcakes and how frequently you decide to bout. I stand by my review and you should stand by your event without making excuses.

Mollie