Manchester Roller Derby v Brighton Rockers preview


It seems like only a few hours ago that we were posting up a report on the Rockers last away game (Portsmouth) and now we’re just two days away from the next one. This time it will be a mixed level Brighton team taking part, with several newer skaters lining up alongside a selection of A-team stars. The venue is somewhere called Urmston – why are Northern place names so much more evocative than Southern ones? – and the opponents are Manchester Roller Derby, one of two major leagues in the area. (Brighton edged past the other, Oldham based Rainy City, in a home match at the start of the year). The game is this Saturday November 22nd at the George H Carnall leisure centre. Doors are at 2pm, with tickets priced at £7 in advance or £9 on the door, and the day also features a men’s game. See the links at the bottom of this piece for more info.

We know Manchester fairly well, having previously worked a day or two per month there. That was a few years ago and things have certainly changed, not least in terms of travel. Several airlines used to fly between Gatwick and Manchester, with the resulting competition driving the fares down to as little as £20 each way. Sadly no-one flies that route these days, so unless you’re driving (circa 4.5 hours) the alternatives are three days by coach or a fortune by train – actually, it’s about eight hours by coach, costing around £50 return on National Express. The train comes in at £101 return. Although there are no longer direct trains from Brighton to Manchester Piccadilly, the journey from London to the Northern city is now probably the fastest domestic train line in the country, taking just over two hours. Total journey time from Brighton to Manchester comes in at around 3h45. Urmston itself is quite a way out from the centre, though. A local train takes about 20 mins (change at Oxford Road) and costs £3.20, but there’s a mile to walk at the other end. The 256 bus gets you closer (Lostock Road) but takes around 50 mins from Piccadilly Gardens, just up from the station.
    The after party is back in the City Centre at the Courtyard Bar in the über studenty Oxford Road area – they do cocktails for two quid each, squee! Hotel wise, the fact that Manchester City FC have two games over four days is probably a factor in wiping out most of the affordable hotel rooms. The majority of even middling hotels in the centre are currently after an eye-watering £200-300 for a room on Saturday night, making the Britannia Sachas in the trendy Northern Quarter a comparative bargain at £109. Our one cultural tip is the Science Museum. Our pub tips include Britons Protection (hundreds of different whiskies), Peveril of the Peak (awesome exterior), The Temple (a toilet – literally!), The Grey Horse (cheap ‘n’ crafty) and the Fab Cafe (life size Doctor Who aliens and 90s indie discos). All are located along the Deansgate to Piccadilly Gardens drag, should pub crawls be your ‘thing’.

Normally we’d give you a run down of how the predictometer at Flattrackstats expects things to go, and these are usually pretty accurate, but since Brighton are fielding a mixed level team things get complicated. Manchester’s A-team CheckerBroads place 19th in UKRDA and 34th in Europe, whilst the Rockers All-Stars are ranked 10th and 28th respectively. Depending on which of the two ranking systems you use, FTS would call this as a either 84% or 58% probability of Brighton winning. The UKRDA differential of 52:33 represents something like a 208-132 away win. Using the Euro stats a 12:11 differential equates to the Rockers sneaking it 156-143. However, using the ranking data of Brighton’s old B-team Bruisers (158th in Europe) gives Manchester a 98% win probability, with a 35:11 differential suggesting a comfortable home win in the region of 210-66. This suggests a mixed level Brighton squad should end up with anywhere between a 150-point loss and 75-point win. Hmm…
    Estimating the result of the day’s other game is even harder. Manchester’s New Wheeled Order men’s team rank 20th in the world for men’s teams (6th in the UK). Opponents Team Boy Division is a mixed league team, however, put together for the day using skaters from half a dozen or so other men’s sides. There’s no way of ranking – and therefore, no way of predicting – a team like that. Generally speaking, though, established sides tend to get the better of mixed exhibition teams, so we’d expect NWO to take the win here. In a moment we’ll be hearing from Manchester Roller Derby’s GoGo Chanel about what to expect on Saturday, but first of all here’s an exclusive first interview with the Rockers’ brand new signing, Gin Atomic…



Hi Gin. Welcome to the Rockers. For anyone who doesn’t know of you, can you tell us about your background in roller derby prior to joining Brighton a couple of weeks ago?
Hello! I’ve been skating for nearly four years now. Previously I was with Croydon Roller Derby. I had no skating experience before I joined CRD but was hooked after my first session.

You were one of the most well known Croydon players – featuring on iPhone cases, calendar covers, etc. Was it difficult leaving CRD? What were the highlights of your time there?
It was really hard making the decision to leave CRD as I absolutely love those guys. The bond you build up training and bouting together over the years is insane. I have so many highlights, I don’t think we’d have enough space for them all! I’m just really excited to watch them continue on their huge upward trajectory. They’re a very strong and hard working team and I’m expecting big things from them. And I still chat to a lot of them, especially Agent Cooper as she lives down here in Brighton too.

When and why did you decide you wanted to join the Rockers? What’s the process for transferring derby leagues – we assume it’s not quite the same as football transfers with agents, wage demands, etc?
I’ve been living in Brighton for two years now. Slowly the twice weekly commute to training started to eat away at my finances and sanity. (Anyone who dreads the term ‘Rail Replacement Service’ will back me up on that!) It’s been quite a casual transfer process as I know a lot of the Rockers lovelies already. I popped a message over to one of the league directors. I imagine it was discussed a bit then I got a message back to say I was welcome whenever and let’s discuss dates. I never thought of wage demands, dammit.

Presumably you knew a lot of the Rockers prior to transferring? Has it been an easy transition? Any people in particular who have helped you settle in?
Everyone! They’re all lovely. I’ve been with Brighton ref Noise Tank for three years now, so initially met most of Brighton Rockers Roller Derby through him. I’ve guest skated at training a few times over the last couple of years and always try to make it to BRRD games and/or after parties when I can, so I’m friends with a lot of the girls that way. I think it made my first training session a little less daunting at least, and those I didn’t know have been so welcoming. I’m very good friends with a few Rockers alumni too, like Mistress, Banger and Sham who I see outside of training.

You’ll be making your Rockers debut this Saturday. Do you know much about the Manchester Roller Derby side you’re facing?
I played against Manchester when I skated with Croydon, but that was three years ago! I know they have some solid, nippy little jammers for sure. I have no clue what the outcome will be this time. I haven’t been training with Brighton for long, so all I’m focusing on at the minute is getting to know the default tactics. We have some strong skaters, so think it’ll be good fun whatever happens.

The day also features a men’s derby game. Do you follow merby at all? How would you say it compares to the women’s game?
Noise Tank used to skate for Southern Discomfort, along with a lot of Croydon refs and CRD head coach Herbie Licious, so I’ve followed them a fair bit. Noise and I have coached Eastbourne men’s side Bomb S’Quad a few times too. I do like watching men’s derby – the rules are obviously the same, but it can be a very different game to watch compared to women’s.

Finally, what are your ambitions with the Rockers and derby in general going into 2015 and beyond?

I’m hoping to make the A-team as a jammer and a blocker. I enjoy both so have my work cut out for me in trying to get track time as both. I’m looking forward to British Champs next year as I’ll hopefully get chance to skate against some teams I haven’t played before. Looking into the future, I’d love to coach. I was co-coach for Croydon’s B team Vice Squad and I really loved doing it.



Hi there. Firstly, for anyone reading this who might not be aware of MRD, can you tell us a little about your history to date?
Manchester Roller Derby were formed in March 2010 when two skaters from Rainy City Roller Girls splintered off to try and form the world’s most inclusive roller derby club. Like all leagues we’ve been through our ups and downs, training venue changes, wins and losses – but we’ve managed to pull it off and build two men’s teams, two women’s teams, plus a co-ed team that took away the trophy at the first ever co-ed British championships.

Are there any particular MRD players or tactics that fans should keep an eye out for on Saturday?
Our big crowd pleaser is the lovely Vic Tori Bee – she not only made the Team England training roster, but is also a high profile coach who has been all over the country imparting her wisdom. She’s a double threat, so you’ll probably get to see her both jamming and blocking on the day. Tactically I wouldn’t like to give too much away, but we were glued to the WFTDA Championships and spied a few tricks that we’ll be testing out for ourselves. Whether we’ll be as good as Rose City or Gotham at them we’re yet to see!

This game will be your first meeting with the Rockers. Do you know much about the Brighton league? Care to predict the result?

I’m a little biased on this one as my partner is a Brightonian, so I’ve been down to the Dolphin Centre to cheer on the Rockers and have been itching to play them for a long time. As a jammer, I fell a little bit in love with Rose Bleed the first time I saw her and I can’t wait to go up against her. It’s difficult to predict the outcome, Brighton are ranked much higher than us but they’re fielding some newer skaters and we have the home advantage. I’m hoping it will be a tight and exciting game that challenges both sides.

The day also features MRD men’s team New Wheeled Order taking on mixed Team Boy Division. How do you expect that game to go?
The NWO game should be an interesting one – they are one of the most cohesive mens’s teams I’ve seen play and it’ll be a real challenge for a mixed team to go up against them. Boy Division do have an advantage in that some of them have trained with MRD in the past and know some of their tricks. Shrooms from Southern Discomfort (a fan favourite at the recent Men’s Champs) and Fish from Barrow Infernos are regulars at MRD’s Sunday evening scrimmage. On the Manchester side I’d keep an eye on Alien Al – he’s a relative newcomer to the squad, having transferred from The Inhuman League earlier this year, but he’s making his mark on the team and is definitely one to watch.

How does men’s derby differ from women’s, and what ways has it benefited the MRD women’s teams having associated men’s sides?
MRD have always trained co-ed and our scrimmages have always been co-ed, so many of our skaters have never really known a life without that. We’ve developed together. I think NWO have adopted some of the teamwork and caution that is present in the ladies’ game. Meanwhile, the men have taught the ladies some of our fearlessness and aggression. When we skate together we don’t really see each other as members of different teams; we’re all MRD.

Can you tell us a bit about your venue. Is there much in the way of seating and vendors, is there a bar on site, etc? What can we expect from the after party?
Our home venue is George H Carnall in Urmston on the edge of Manchester. We have great tiered seating and a multitude of vendors. Our cake stall is legendary and I’d also recommend stopping by Laurie Pink’s stall – she skates for the CheckerBroads as Pinky Fingaz and you can buy miniature canvases of her paintings, sometimes even hand decorated shoes and bags. Unfortunately we’re not lucky enough to have a bar, but we do make up for it at the after party! The Courtyard is in the student area of central Manchester and boasts student prices. You can normally find masses of sweaty, smelly roller girls and boys taking over the heated, sheltered courtyard outside.

Finally, for those making a weekend of it, are there any sights or activities in the Manchester area that you recommend?
Manchester in November is one of the best times to visit, so you’re in for a treat. We have fantastic Christmas markets (avoid the big squares and wander down the side streets for shorter glühwein queues and unusual handmade gifts). Our Northern Quarter is full of trendy independent shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a place where Buddhist vegan cafes share walls with dripping burger joints – a bit like our own little Brighton!

[Photos by John Hesse & Shirlaine Forrest]




Women from Portsmouth and Brighton met in a leisure centre. You won’t BELIEVE what happened next…


The imposing pale honey majesty of the Palace’s exterior – Saint Leu stone facade and sandstone paving – glints in the late June sun as a procession of officials, reporters and observers file into the building. Close to a thousand in all, packing into the Galerie de Glaces, the Hall of Mirrors. Introductions solemnly despatched, the signatories step forward from the crowd and form a queue at the table. First the Germans, then the French, British, American and Italian representatives. One by one they approach the sheet of parchment spread out across the table in front of them, each adding a shakily scrawled signature and official seal. Just shy of 230 nights have passed since the armistice was signed at Compiègne, bringing to an end the War To End All Wars. Now this piece of limed, stretched and whited sheepskin – upon which inked names slowly dry in the draughty Versailles hall – represents the best hope for enduring peace across Europe and the World…
    Shambolic up against Awesome Wells in the star. Two packs colliding in a maelstrom of black and navy, cyan and white, combatants on both sides being grounded by a succession of hard hits, but up fast and back into the fray. Home crowd cheering as Wells takes the outside line, four whistles ringing out to end the jam. Rose Bleed and captain Emma the Condemner look at each other and sigh. 14-8. Brighton had opened well, taking single pass wins in each of the opening three skirmishes (Swann v Nina Nunchucks, Rose v RIP McMurphy, Kapow v Wells) to lead 14 nothing. The Wenches starhead trio have hit back to take the next round of battles though. Into the eighth now. Announcer Sassy McAwesome reminds us there have been no jammer penalties for either side yet. “Although I’ve probably jinxed it by saying that,” she adds, as Rose obligingly takes a penalty box star seat. Two good PJ passes for McMurphy ties the game at 22 apiece – that’s half a bottle of whisky in the roller derby drinking game.


The ever impressive Mighty Mighty Bash and Hairy Fairy hold Wells back well with their backs. Great jinking stepovers from Kapow through PRW’s defence, but a hard hit from Duchess of Crutches forces a ground-bound call from the Sussex starhead. Whooligan v Nunchucks take to the line. Both sides are putting out really strong packs today, but the initial initiative has been slipping away from the Rockers as the game (albeit still in its early stages) has progressed. Bench guru Mass Janeycide, presumably looking to shore things up, calls Brighton’s first team timeout. The Sussex side are fielding a small roster here – a prior head injury having seen Derby McGee withdrawn from the squad – with more than half of the eleven forming the jammer rotation. Those six against PRW’s band of three means that (until PJ starts confuse matters) we’ll be seeing a lot of repeated match-ups in this game. The powerful Nunchucks faces Swann then Whooligan, captain RIP goes up against Rose and Bash, and Wells takes on Kapow and Sham. Another four jams pass with everything staying super tight on the scoreboard. 33-32 to Brighton it says.
    The next one’s a biggie. Awesome Wells off early for a track cut. Kapow looking to take advantage, Bash clearing a path with the kind of offensive defence for which she’s famed – Malibash Stacie and Duchess both sent flying on the same hit. Twenty point jam. Just over ten minutes left of the period, Wenches bench Tess Of The Derby Wheels calls a TTO. Back on track a barely containable McMurphy gets lead straight from the whistle, but Bash is out seconds later and quick to close her down. Track cut call on Sham sees a power jam for Wells, but Rose (returning from the sin bin) blocks her advance nicely. Star pass to Dropkick Molly as Sham returns. The navy town navy blues holding Kapow back strongly now, with the likes of Miss Dynamighty, Halcyon Daze and Brookslide proving particularly tough in the Wenches packs. Duchess marshalling the Pompey walls well, one eye as ever bedecked in what we assume is plastic garden mesh. (There’s a bunch of goldfish in a garden pond somewhere glaring ominously at the oval hole in their cat protection shield.) Rockers maintaining the twenty point gap Kapow carved out in the 15th still. Sham on a power jam, getting knackered and battered by a tough Hampshire defence. Rose off for an accidental trip on Halcyon in the last jam of the period. Brighton lead 90-64 going into the break.


It’s a dying art. The papersmiths – their noisy machines pressing wood pulp at a rate of knots – will do for artisans like George and Albert soon enough. The brothers know it. That’s why they’re branching out, getting into leather gloves these days. Still, the original family business is not dead yet. It begins at the farm. The skin must be removed within hours of slaughter or the flesh will have started to rot and the end product won’t match the Stallards’ exacting standards. Into the lime pits (pokes) it goes, topped up with water from the Homewell, soaked in there for a week or so. Scrape off the wool, back in the pokes for a couple more weeks; split off the inner skin, more scraping, then stretch it out on a frame; chalk and soda ash to remove the last of the fat, boiling water to parch the skin; shaved and levelled, left to dry; more chalk, more ash; washed, rubbed and cut to size. Ten weeks all told to produce probably the finest parchment in all of Europe…
    There’s talk of a possible bar somewhere here in Havant Leisure Centre, but we’ve gone for the old trick of filling our shoes with bootleg rum and hiding really long straws under our clothes. We take a quick saunter around the hall, puzzled passers pondering what that squelching sound might be. Cupcakes, raffles, vendors and merch. Brief chat with the Hoodlum Fang posse who advertised in our last fanzine. Off skates Racey is personing the Brighton merch table, whilst the Wenches one is staffed by the former manager of the official Rockers pub. Small world, but then these two sides are pretty close neighbours on the UK derby map – only Eastbourne, Croydon and (Guildford based) Surrey live nearer to BN1. Kit checks starting. Back to the seats. Don the stupid hat to ensure no-one sits next to us. Realise we can’t read a single word of our notes from the first half. Take a couple of long slurps of shoe rum. Second half notes can only get worse. Wenches on the attack as the action resumes, Nina taking full advantage of a PJ start to claw back half of the 26-point deficit.


Enyo Face and Bash pegging back RIP McMurphy and the navy gang’s talisman is starting to look human (rather than superhuman) now – well, as human as you can look when you have a giant skeletal grimace painted across the lower half of your face. Brighton reasserting themselves strongly in Jam 4 as a pack of Whooligan, Hyde ‘N’ Shriek, Cake Or Death and Sham holds off Nina Nunchucks, whilst the ever sprightly Rose wheels in pass upon pass. 117-81. Dropkick Molly has replaced Awesome Wells in the Pompey rotation this half and she’s up against Swann next. Hairy Fairy and Bash pinballing Wenches pivot Duchess back and forth across the track until the frustrated PRW linehead gets sent to the box. Swann adds 23, the same Rose chalked up last jam, and with only one pass in reply the Rockers are starting to build up a commanding lead. The dudes in Brighton black are getting LJ time and again now, the Sussex side sitting on the shiny side of a 50-point gap. Rockers blockers suddenly being sent off left, right and centre, though – back block, multi player, etc. An official timeout sees Derby McGee rush twixt crowd and bench to tell the Rockers something important, possibly “try not to get sent off so much, yeah?”
    Nunchucks pitching in with a bunch of great apex jumps now, but Brighton are maintaining that 50-point differential jam by jam. Eleven minutes left as RIP picks up a penalty, Brookslide knocking Cake all over the track as Shambolic notches up some points. (This will be the ninjasome Rockers triple threat’s last game for some time as she’s joining the Rockers’ burgeoning ‘foreign legion’.) Janeycide calling for an official review over something or other. Packs trash-talking (or maybe nice-talking) on the pivot line as the zebras huddle. McMurphy starring up alongside Swann a fair bit this half. The Brighton jammer, who has often cited RIP as the player she most admires, is giving as good as she gets in these exchanges. Duchess trying to edge Kapow off in the next jam, but the plastic eyed Pompeyite gets called out for a penalty. That makes seven and she’s out of the game. Probably not long enough left now for the Wenches to miss her too much, though. Swann edges the Sussex side over 200. PRW respond with a swish move, Molly passing the star to Wells over both packs’ heads as the jam begins. Another Portsmouth star pass attempt in the next (and final) jam, but it’s deemed illegal and their captain takes a seat in the penalty box as Kapow jams in a handful to round things off at 221-159.


We text a Portsmouth friend for suggested pubs in Havant to visit before and after today’s action. The response – “Decent pubs? In Chavant? Hahaha” – is none too encouraging, so we go for the chain of last resort. J D Wetherspoon, oh how we love you. Supping on a warm Jägermeister whilst ducking the chunks of mushy peas being flung around the place by endless tables of bawling infants, we look at our notes from the game. Those muck-chucking babies can surely write more legibly than we can? We mull over exactly how wrong – and stupid and selfish – it would be for us to feel a tiny bit relieved that Sham is taking time off from the Rockers, since in our drunken scrawl ‘Sham’ and ‘Swann’ look identical, so anything we’ve attributed to one in this piece could well have actually been done by the other. We gaze across the pub, hoping for some kind of local colour to pad out the review, that being the sort of shyster thing we’d try to get away with. A display on one wall explains the local history that gave this pub, The Parchment Makers, its name. The whiteness of Hampshire chalk and cleanliness of Havant’s springs made the town’s parchment the brightest and most prized around, apparently. Even the Treaty of Versailles (28th June 1919) was written on Havant parchment, they say…
    Swann (or possibly Sham) picks up Brighton’s Best Jammer award, with Best Blocker going to Hairy Fairy and MVP to Bash. For Portsmouth, the awards land on Nina Nunchucks (Jammer), Halcyon Daze (Blocker) and Brookslide (MVP). Brighton’s margin of victory is roughly double that predicted by Flattrackstats, which is especially encouraging considering the small squad the Rockers used. The day’s other game sees Portsmouth’s B-team take on the Killa Hurtz from Chelmsford. As announcer McAwesome points out – almost as if she’s reading aloud from the preview on this very website – FTS had called this as 87% likelihood of a Wench win. Although PRW will indeed take the victory, the freshly bouting Essex side prove tough competitors. Perhaps taking after league icon McMurphy, there’s enough face paint for a Kiss convention upon Pompey’s B-team ranks; Valkyrie Pain’s silver face, Atomic Affliction’s eye stripe, Hurricane Hayes’ extra mouth and more. This trio are amongst the standout jammers for the Hampshire side, along with pacy Hel On. Fleet footed Space Hop’her and Snarley Quinn are battling hardy and hard in the Killa Hurtz star, ably assisted by Essex blockers like tough-to-pass Princess Prissy Pants and captain Clark Smash. The likes of Smash Hips, Wheelma Flintstone and A-team bench coach Tess keep things tight in defence for PRW.


The last few jams are notable for more “duty manager to customer services” tannoy announcements than we’ve ever heard – hopefully these don’t relate to the cheap Aldi rum currently leaking from our shoelace eyelets. Rakey Brakey Face puts in some great scoring passes at the end for Killa Hurtz, but the Wenches take the win 230-177. As with the A-team game, Portsmouth have done roughly half as well (points margin wise) as online predictions suggested. Saying that, online predictions are 90% computer guesswork and several PRW players had to double up to play in both games, which can’t have been easy given the physicality of the two matches. After another quick pint in the Parchment, we catch a train to Southsea, spending much of this journey removing peas from our hair (and the rest of it adding rum to our footwear). After party venue The Honest Politician is a boisterous bar in the heart of Studentsville. The staff refuse to serve us five Jägermeisters in a single glass, claiming it’s illegal. Just as we’re about to recite the entire 2003 Licensing Act at them to prove it’s not they put five single shots and empty tumbler in front of us. Strange laws in this part of the world, but hey – at least they let us in. Something various Wetherspoons near the train station will later be reluctant to do, no matter how much we insist Sketchers that smell like rotten Captain Morgan are quite the thing in Sussex these days.
    Portsmouth and Brighton are both back in action this Saturday (22nd November). The Wenches take on London Rollergirls’ third team Batter-C Power in Crystal Palace at an event that also features an LRG exhibition game (England superstar Kamikaze Kitten’s last match on home soil). Ticket details are in the link below. Meanwhile, the mighty Rockers are heading North, with a mixed A-team and newer players line-up taking on Manchester Roller Derby in Trafford, a few miles South West of the City Centre. The day also features Manchester’s men’s team in action and we’ll have a full preview up on this website super soon, including an interview with recent Rockers recruit Gin Atomic. It’s gonna be an awesome game, so get there if you can. Looking beyond this weekend, the fixtures for next year’s British Championships are due to be made public in the next few weeks – a free shot of shoe rum (like sloe gin, but infinitely more toxic) to anyone who leaks them to us before then. These are exciting times in UK derby, folks, especially for fans of the mighty Brighton Rockers. We don’t need a document signed and sealed on Havant parchment to tell us that!

[Photos by Andrew Paul Hayward – Raw Speed]






Happy Birthday BRATS. We’re two today.


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.

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 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!


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?


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 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 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.


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]