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.”
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.”
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?
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!
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’?”
“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’?”