Roller Rumble Report


1875: The Victorian Era is in full swing. London lies at the heart of a sprawling British Empire and is the uncontested capital of world trade. Its streets teem with horse-drawn carriages and urchin beggars; men wear suits, whether wealthy merchants or inhabitants of squalid slums; women wear dresses that reach down to the ground, and have few legal rights. The capital’s skyline, viewed from the slopes of Alexandra Park, is awash with sooty air and huge coal-belching chimneys. This is the view that greets those visiting a temporary outdoor roller skating rink (the UK’s first) that opens in the grounds of Alexandra Palace in May 1875.
    Far beneath the high arched roof from which behang munificent swathes of white fabric, past a rose window famed throughout the empire, one might be surprised at the sight that greets one’s eyes. A sight as if from another world such that one might find in the fanciful writings of Monsieur Verne, but here as real as the marmalade upon your correspondent’s breakfast scone. Across a tiled sea as white as finest ivory and more than a hundred feet across, there strides two of what can only be described as armies. Yet these are armies of women, but armies they clearly are, dressed not as one might reasonably expect a woman of this time to be dressed, but as if for war. Bearing the clothing of a circus strongman and the armour of a gladiator, one has scarce time to take in their outlandish apparel before being accosted still further by footwear in colours that surely exist nowhere but upon the far distant flora of Mr Livingstone’s travels, footwear that bears itself even more incredible to rational minds by its attachment to wheels of similar hue.
    It is not just the uniforms upon these womenfolk as does mystify, but so too the names emblazoned upon their shoulders, names as one should find attached to a circus performer or magician, yet so perfectly in keeping with the appearance of these eight-wheeled warrior women. The Mighty Mighty Bash, says one, Chaka Carnage, Demi Lition, yet more one could scarcely conceive. A gentleman beside me – at least your correspondent assumes a gentleman, but such is the covering of this body in enough tattoos to supply an entire navy that one knows not if man or beast lies beneath – opines that the army in brazen gold hail from the Medway lands of the late Mr Dickens and points beyond, whereas the troops of devlish black have arrived not from the flaming pits of Hell but from Brighton, where one must assume they have partaken too oft of the seawater so as to be rendered superhuman.
    The army of gold, the man-beast attests, are expected to be as lambs to the slaughter in this conflict. This assertion proves somewhat incorrect, as while the Sussex regiment is to triumph, ’tis no easy victory. Or so man-beast informs your correspondent later as I vacate the fainting couch, adding something about Gels Bells and Ann I Hilate being particularly good jam makers – ’tis reassuring that despite their bewildering appearance, these women retain a mastery of Mrs Beeton’s domestic arts. Regrettably, one cannot report upon the battle with any authority of one’s own cognisance, since mere seconds after its commencement, upon realising one was witnessing things that no man of honour should see, your writer repaired upon his laudanum bottle and spent two hours hence conversing with demons later identified as an item of shrubbery.
    Brighton Rockers 207 – Kent Roller Girls 120


1901: The Queen’s death in January brings the Victorian Era to an end, although its phobias and prejudices abide – the early years of the new century see a fear of paganism and ‘other gods’ abound. Ownership of Alexandra Palace is transferred to Haringey Council, bringing the building into public ownership for the first time – a true ‘People’s Palace’. When Ally Pally reopens on 13th May there is now a permanent indoor roller skating rink, replacing what was the Concert Hall. The London Star reports that: “A magnificent skating rink has been laid down in the conservatory, with a polished maple floor of 130ft by 92ft. The skates to be used are of the new pneumatic ball-bearing type.”
    This floor is not polished, much less made of maple, and although the exact nature of its material is hard to determine, it is certainly made for speed as the relentless circling trains of wheeled worshipers seem only too eager to demonstrate. At first the exact nature of this ceremony is hard to fathom. There are clearly two different groups, female of form, upon this strange floor – one group clad in naval blue hail, I am informed, from the rum dens and gutter halls of Bristol; the other, in bathing suits of soot black, are from the currently uncathedralled city of Birmingham – it’s fitting their home has no such church of our Lord, as it is surely not our Biblical God to whom devotees are beholden in this ritual?
    At each corner of the area of worship stands a small black box, from which spill out sounds that would curdle the souls of lesser men; relentless drumming, as if of crazed jungle shamans, bestrides musical caterwauling only Satan himself could enjoy. Adding to this aural battering are two devlish preachers, intoning words of Babel into small black devices they hold before them. It is clear that this ritual, a violent maelstrom of rolling races and battered bodies, is a competitive one. Guardians clad in zebra skin sound whistles and temporarily expel those whose movements displease the gods. A glowing curtain set at one corner keeps track in numbers of which of the two groups of acolytes (Birmingham’s Central City tribe or Bristol’s troupe of Harlots) has pleased the gods the most with their feverish physical invocations. Yet, one must but ask, which god or gods is this ceremony exalting? The answer to this is surely the name emblazoned upon the backs of the grey-clad disciples tallying on ledgers the worshippers’ venerations. This fearful spectacle is it seems an offering of sanctification in praise of the great god Nso.
    To one side of the temple floor, a woman hawks a religious tract entitled Lead Jammer (jammed where? molten lead or solid metal? one dares not ask). We prevail upon her for some explanation as to the violent dancing dedications to a godless god we are witnessing. She explains that the Bristol tribe are thought less proficient in such invocations and are expected to ‘lose’ – yet, halfway gone, ’tis they who lead on the glowing tally sheet, 103 invocations to 82. The Central City congregation must worship harder and faster lest they face being condemned to eternity in the scorching pits of hellfire by the vengeful Nso. Afeared of such a prospect, the Birmingham tribe raise their venerations, utilising the height of Woo-Ha to find clear space and dance past the Bristol brethren, the physicality of Bunny Massacre to disrupt their rivals’ invocations.
    Bristol worshipper Black Thorn renders rival devotees to the floor; Tinchy tussles, Terror hustles, Blizzard bustles, Bunny muscles. Viv La France is banished from the temple, but Central now have greater numbers on the tally of veneration, holding favour with Nso but not by so large a margin. The final period of invocation commences and Bristol have an outside chance of claiming Nso’s favour, yet a Birmingham pilgrim is smitten and all worshippers take a knee to pray for her as the ceremony comes to a swift end. Nso clearly appreciates the port city congregation’s supplications, nonetheless… though they are defeated, the jaws of Valhalla must be patient. Bristol will return to dance with the devil once more upon this day.
    Central City Rollergirls 218 – Bristol Roller Derby 204


1914: The world is at war. Harrowing tracts from the trenches by poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon tell of the horrors of conflict. Back in London, Alexandra Palace is requisitioned by the military, initially for housing Belgian refugees. Although the Ally Pally skating rink is allowed to remain open for a few weeks, soon the whole building and a surrounding area of parkland are closed to the public and ringed with barbed wire. The Palace becomes an internment camp housing up to 3,000 prisoners of war.

Racey Slam Hard – Rocker – once of London ranks;
now flaunting taunting – Traitor – ‘cross her bouting pants.
At first held back; lost and bossed
by London’s lines of steel.
By mid first half, she’s found a path,
there’s fire beneath her wheels.
The Mighty Mighty Bash – she swiftly joins the charge;
Cockneys stumble, crash… to Bash’s bump and barge.

These Brighton troops, yes expected,
to be bullied and deflected
by London’s eight-wheeled army (Europe’s superpower).
But Sussex won’t surrender, and
put Brawl Saints through the blender
across the first half-hour.
[Losing aye, but not by much; still so spry, still in touch.]

To war once more, Rebelle De Jour
leading Saints’ attack
as London aces with increasing paces
set Brighton on the rack.
Back block, track cut, holding… Major.
To penalty seats Rockers no stranger.
Fleet foot springing, starred surprises;
the more time spent, more London rises.
The Missyle run, Vulkano guns;
Frey-hem, slay ’em, Brighton stunned.

Racey chases, Rockers tire;
though sterling work from Sophia.
Still London’s troops are worldly tough,
Brighton Blitzed by stronger stuff.
Sussex still have heads held high;
Goliath triumphed, but damn good try.
When the boutlefield clears of smoke,
the Saints are out of sight.
Though victorious not vainglorious,
for they know it’s been a fight.

London Brawl Saints 223 – Brighton Rockers 101


1922: With the war long over, the Government continues to use the requisitioned Alexandra Palace, taking advantage of its rent-free nature to house civil service offices. The building is finally returned to the public in a dilapidated state in 1922. After refurbishment, it will reopen the following year. The restored roller skating rink is ‘an immediate success’.
Buck Milligan looks up from his newspaper, flatulates loudly and sighs deeply.
– Ah no, you’re not going to try and pastiche Ulysses, are ye? You’ve never even read beyond the first page.
Damn him. Damn his cheek. Damn his cheeks. All four of them and the fetid air that passes between. There is bouting to be watched.
Kent, the weakest of the five combatants, if one would believe a mathematician. Bristol, the weakest but one, if one would believe him for a second time. By the final whistle it looks like a cakewalk, but for now the only cake here is the one I just planted in Milligan’s overly loquacious physog.
– You haven’t even spelled my name right, it’s Mulligan not Milligan, splutters Milligan through chunks of lemon drizzle.
Amo amas amat et cetera
Chatham versus Bristol. Two punch drunk covens born of navvy towns. Opposite coasts meeting in the middle to do battle beneath the stained glass of a more stained capital. Power jam one way. Power jam the other. Milk stout. Nice. Ruby Whipper in the penalty box. Bristol pack strong. Hold off the Kent jammer. Should I get a tattoo? Feel like I’m the only person here without one. Acid Trip has the best derby helmet ever. Black Thorn bossing it for Bristol, but Kent keeping in touch. 28-28. Wait… skate. Great rate. Straight. Use gait. Lay bait. Collate pack, inflate back, deflate gaps. Bristol starting to pull away now. Ten points clear. Twenty. Now thirty. Wonder if UKRDA buy the NSO clipboards in bulk. Wholesale probably. Retail savings for bulk hardly worth it. Power jam Kent. Power jam Bristol. Half time 128-77 to the Somerset side. Is it Somerset or Gloucestershire? Was Avon but didn’t they abolish that? Unitary authority, I know, but county names are more evocative. Lived there a while. Southville. Bedminster. Good cider. Full of Welsh folk. I wonder if that Pie & A Pint place behind the scoreboard does anything veggie?
    There once was a sports team from Kent
    Who in rankings sought to make an ascent
    Ambition clear as crystal
    Yet up against Bristol
    Whose pack it’s rare to circumvent
Cheese and onion pasty how predictable have a look at the vendors Roller Bootique has nice things that you can hang skates over your shoulders with wonder what the they’re called Skate Attack a hive of London Rockin’ Rollers some in full kit and skates not in the tournament but that’s good PR here’s a place selling skate bags I like the multicoloured animal print one there’s T-shirts everywhere Inkabilly and Queens Of The Sin Bin find the Brighton Rockers merch bit Canadian lady blue hair selling tattoos the ones you stick on with a wet sponge one of those might help me blend in oh the second half’s started Bristol have racked up another 20 points starting to dominate now Tattooed Terror very strong Kent out muscled Bristol picking up power jams and pulling away another 20 with no reply will the golden girls make it to triple figures hope so come on Kent differential really racking up now though and Bristol sure to climb in the rankings this weekend that’s good blocking from Demi Lition and Marty McSuperfly but they don’t have the numbers nippy jamming from The Blizzard can’t see the scoreboard from here my glass is empty better get another milk stout at the final whistle ugh I shouldn’t have had that pasty Kent gave it a go but bow out in fifth place.
Bristol Roller Derby 272 – Kent Roller Girls 107


1941: With the world at war once more, the Palace is again used to house refugees. The intention is to keep its most popular attraction – the skating rink – open to the public, but structural issues with the rink’s north wall forces an eighteen month closure from November 1941. A few months after the rink reopens a flying bomb severely damages the building and brings a halt to all indoor attractions.
    “Sacre bleu!” exclaimed Hercule, twisting at the curled up ends of his moustache, “these are not mademoiselles.”
    As ever, the great detective was spot on in his deductions, for this was the weekend’s sole male contest. One team of brutes from Yorkshire, the other band of barbarians from Birmingham. As a sequence of shrill whistles echoed round the hall, bringing the match to a close, Hercule glanced at the scoreboard. Whilst there hadn’t strictly speaking been a murder, there had at the very least been a moderate battering, Yorkshire’s Inhuman League having slain the Crash Test Brummies by a margin topping 100 points.
    People had been flying off the track in all directions. Very much about brute force was this battle, something of a sledgehammer approach compared to the women’s bouts. Hercule decided to get to the bottom of this beating. His investigation, he was sure, would unearth the person or persons responsible.
    Earlier in the day, he had heard over the Tannoy that Brummie IllBilly had a reputation for being thrown out of games, sometimes even before the completion of the first half. Had such an occurrence played a part in Crash Test’s fate? Not on this occasion, despite a string of transgressions and repeat visits to the penalty chairs early in the match. The Brummies actually fared quite well, Hercule recalled. Ben Hurrt put a lot of Crash Test points on the board and a lot of Inhuman bums on the floor, and the Midlands outfit had matched the Yorkshiremen almost point for point in the second period.
    It was in the first half that the damage was done. Did TIL’s guttural pre-match caveman chanting intimidate the Brummies? Probably not, thought Hercule, though it intimidated him. Inhuman newcomer Omar Gherd was perhaps the best skater on the track, not just fast and fleeting in the chase for points, but capable of upending an opposing pack one by one with body checks. A real flying bomb. Beat Monkey too had put the Brummies to the sword, tap dancing at speed through the smallest gaps in the rival pack, as had others. Birmingham’s fate was not just the work of one individual. Or was it?
    What of UKRDA? Hercule had not heard tell of this organisation before. Was it perhaps a secret society like SMERSH or SPECTRE, the plaything of an arch villain, manipulating roller derby results and other world events whilst stroking a cat in a missile base hidden inside a volcano? Hercule soon discovered that it wasn’t that, but was instead the organisation that oversees the sport of derby in the UK. The recently completed match was UKRDA’s first ever sanctioned men’s bout. (An embarrassed Hercule also realised that he had momentarily confused himself with James Bond, a character who hadn’t even been created yet.)
    Upon consulting the historical archives for more clues, Hercule realised that these two teams had met a few months previously. The result on that occasion had been very similar. Clearly therefore no crime had taken place, this was just the natural order of things – at least for the moment.
    “Tres bien. That is so,” said Hercule to himself for some reason, before relocating to the bar, where he sat smiling smugly for several minutes before departing the arena.
    The Inhuman League 247 – Crash Test Brummies 135


1957: Post war austerity leads to Alexandra Palace being largely left to rot. The building becomes virtually derelict, with only the BBC studio and transmitter in the South East corner remaining in constant use. In 1954 the train line that runs right to the roller rink entrance is closed for good. Three years later, the building is restored and the skating rink is again one of its most popular features.
    It’s quite a machine. They say it was first put together in a body shop out Whitechapel way ’bout seven years ago. They’ve been adding to it ever since, bringing together new parts not just from all over London, but from throughout the UK and points beyond. Honing, refining, tweaking every element for maximum speed, maximum torque; manoeuvrability, handling, turning, gliding; knowing when to jump the lights and when to put the brakes on.
    They call this machine the LRG and it comes in many models: from the Model A, called the Brawling, which is the envy of Europe and so adept at taking on the long established American machines; to the so called ‘Recreational’ Model whose idea of recreation seems to be turning up 25-30 strong and scrimmaging the life out of newer British machines. The model on display here is the Model B, called the Brawl Saint. It doesn’t have the miles on the clock or all of the refinements and advanced features of the Model A, but you’d underestimate it at your peril.
    Sure, occasionally another machine can take on the LRG Model B and shake it up a little, make it work some… but, sure as night follows day, the Brawl Saint will eventually shift up a gear or two and cross the line first. That’s if you’re lucky. Most times anyone who dares to challenge the LRG Model B won’t even be in a race as such. All they’ll have to look forward to is a faceful of track dust and a beating in the hundreds. Unfortunately for the CCR machine, the Centrinnian, that’s what’s happening here in Sunday’s first wheel screeching contest.
    The LRG machine hogs the road. CCR try to overtake but they’re picking up tickets every time they do, swerving off the track or hitting the London machine in violation of the rules of the road. There should be five in each of these vehicles, but many times the Centrinnian only has two, three at the wheel. The LRG dashboard reads 66 as CCR’s is still on a fat zero. London like lightning, Central clamped. Centrinnians finally putting up some points, but few and far between. Half time and the LRG has a 166-9 lead.
    The Centrinnians sure as heck ain’t gonna let their heads drop, though. You learn a lot in a race like this, even if it’s just how to lose gracefully. Get a few more points on the board, try to make it more acceptable, everyone knows what the LRG machine is like. CCR team captain Agent Dana Scurry leads from the front, Verry Cherry and Tenacity trying to push through, Woo-Ha and Bunny looking for the turbo button, but LRG are in a class of their own. Lady Go-Go, Sophia Ann Loathing, Ruby Rehab, Goregasm, Oates and others toying with the Birmingham vehicle. The result of this race was never really in doubt, and CCR will be glad to see the back of the London Model B. If only for a short while.
    London Brawl Saints 388 – Central City Rollergirls 43


1967: “The roller-skating rink, opened by the Trustees sixty years before, was one of the few features of the Palace to enjoy continuous success, but it was now showing signs of age and declining popularity. A new surface and modern skates led to smoother skating and reduction of noise; improved décor and amplification of music made the rink attractive and skating again became a very popular recreation, especially among young people. The new surface brought problems of balancing the needs of speed skaters, now concentrated in the Palace with the closing of other rinks, with those of recreational, dance and figure skaters. This was solved by constructing a special speed skating asphalt track in the Palm Court.” (R Carrington, Alexandra Park and Palace: A History, 1975)
    These referee dudes are bumming me out, man. They’re like hey you can’t do that, we’re the voice of the authorities yeah, representatives of The Man, pigs in zebras’ clothing. Sending Hairy Fairy to the naughty seats, letting the Bristol badasses rack up some power jams. Superpower jams. Cake or Death cut out now too. Don’t sweat it, zebra feds, hang loose, let these Brighton dudettes have a bit of free expression, yeah? Cake back on track for half a second then haulin’ ass back to the cells. Brighton bogarting the sin bin. Bristol scoring points in a righteous manner, their jammers laying patches right across the track. Zebra feds calling someone for tripping – hey square, maybe you should try it some time, open your mind, straight. 80-18 to Bristol now. Tryin’ to shine it on.
    Brighton on the make now, getting lead but Bristol solid, Brighton tooling. Jams getting called without scoring. Black Thorn truckin’, drawing designs all over the track, racking up numbers, she’s The Most. Brighton still getting bugged out to the penalty box regular. Zebra feds starting to hit on Bristol now too though, pack down to just two as Bash puts up some points. The seasiders fightin’ back. Jammers swapping over in the naughty seats, back and forth for a few seconds jailtime each. Bristol not wanting to let the differential slip, climbing it up now, hep to the lead. It’s Black Thorn again laying some nifty scratch. Half time and the team from the Wild West will be jazzed by a scoreline of 139-76. Let’s see if Brighton can clean it up and avoid the heavy fedding in the second half.
    Wooah, hell no, the refs are wiggin’ out at the penalty potpourri. Players wiping out left, right and centre. Sin bin fuller than Lyndon Johnson’s war chest. Power jam. Power jam. Power jam. Hip play from Chariot Sophia, but these Bristol cats are strong even when down in numbers. Stripey thread cops laying down the law again. What’s your bag, man? The Westerners are really shaking it as Delta Strike calls off a jam to tie her shoelace. The kibosh is being put on many Brighton jams, but they’ve closed the gap to around 40 points with half a half to go. Mother Trucker laying down some choice blocking, Whooligan too. Rose Bleed sitting this bout out, offering gnarly advice from the crowd as she chills her wheels
    There’s still a chance as Janeycide and Fondeo start putting boss tough Bash in to jam virtually every other line-up. Brighton could still turn this ship around, but no, it’s a heavy drag but the feds ain’t gonna let it happen. They’re raisin’ the funk now, going all padiddle and padunkle on the Rockers, giving Bash two minutes jailtime instead of one. Now the feds are freakin’ out for real. Instead of sending Rockers to the penalty seats, they’re crashing them out altogether, makin’ ’em sit in the corner in their socks. First Sophia, then Bash. Enough with the expulsions, zebra feds. There’s nothing left on the clock now as a wicked strong Bristol side score the upset. Rockers take fourth, Harbour Harlots keep on truckin’.
    Bristol Roller Derby 251 – Brighton Rockers 175


1974: Just shy of a century since roller skating arrived in these grounds, the rink closes due to the dangerous state of the roof. It will not reopen this time. Claims are made that the vibrations caused by the skating are what has caused the damage to the roof. Whilst plans to restore the Palace are drawn up – these include an outdoor (as per 1875) rather than indoor roller skating rink – the necessary funds are unavailable.
    We’ve got the M.O. here, Guv, this is a blag we’ve already seen. Yesterday, the Central City gang took out the Bristol firm 218-204. Though Bristol took the fall, they also took right liberties, they wuz supposed to just roll over, bosh, and lose by a hundred or two. Turns out they had Central in their bin for much of the match. Even had the lead at half time, Black Thorn had her dabs all over it. Central ain’t gonna like that. Question is, did they blag it? Was it a one off? Have a butchers at this rematch, me old China, we’ll find out soon enough.
    History repeating. Dot on the card. Don’t look like it from the get go. 15-0 to Central, maybe yesterday’s result was moody. 45-2, getting in shtuck, the CCR crew have ’em sussed. No, just a tick, Guv, Bristol are having a dig back now. Wrecknician and Blizzard buncing points, Delta Strike, Tattooed Terror scarpering round too. Black Thorn busts out a shedload, spinning her scotches, working her plates, and suddenly the Harbour Harlots firm are givin’ it large over Central, fitting them up for a fall. It’s 125-82 to the BRD mob at half time. That’s a meatier gap than they had last time out, when Central pegged them back late on. Can they hang on in there this time and finish top dog?
    Second half under starters orders and they’re off. Determination on their boats, Bristol are keeping it kosher, they’ve got the strength on the CCR firm. No, just a tick, Guv. Power jams bringing Central in from the cold. Tinchy Strider and Viv La France writing cheques and cashing them all over the Bristol pack. Robinson and Knuckle Dust’Her trying to keep it tight, telling Central to get off their manor, but Central have fire in their daisies now, giving out legals all over the gaff. 159-159. What a ding dong this one is. Can’t put anyone in the frame for doing a job on the other firm at this stage.
    Six minutes left and Holy Moly, the Birmingham mob are cooking on Calor now. Bang. Bang. Bang. Hitting holes in the Bristol firm from all over the gaff, showing it lemon, dubbing them up. Centrinnians taking Bristol to school, but the Harlots are still in the chase. The ticker’s almost ticked out though, check the kettle, time out Bristol, less than a minute left in the pot. Give it one last shufty round and we’ve done our biscuits. BRD gave it buckets, but Central squeaked out the result again. Third place for Bristol, a second face-off with the much feared London mob for CCR. Can they steal the gold?
    Central City Rollergirls 195 – Bristol Roller Derby 172


1990: On the 10th July 1980, a huge fire – one of many in Alexandra Palace’s chequered history (the original 1873 Palace burnt down sixteen days after opening) – will cause severe damage to most of the building. The restoration process takes a decade. In 1990 skating returns to Ally Pally, but in a different location and of a different format – the frozen water variety. A continuance of the long history of ‘skating’ at the Palace is widely referenced in the planning application for this ice rink, which is still going strong.
    We’ve been here before. The day’s competition ends as it began with top seeds the London Brawl Saints taking on Birmingham’s Centrinnians. CCR will be hoping things don’t go the way of the earlier contest, but given how methodical LRG teams are (eg they have a specially choreographed skate-out routine for this final) there’s slim chance of that. Think the London side might take it easier on Central this time round? Think again. The Brawl Saints know that every point matters when it comes to rankings and more. This is a London team who challenge a decision on an opposing player crossing the penalty box line when they themselves are hundreds in the lead with mere seconds left on the clock. Rule one of LRG Club: No let-up, ever.
    Both teams are wearing different uniforms compared to this morning’s encounter. Central rather than London are now sporting black boutfits, whilst the Brawl Saints have reverted to LRG’s iconic electric pink kit, often voted the best in world derby. Indeed, rumours abound that the London organisation keep a retinue of golden unicorns who hand (er, foot) stitch their teams new boutfits from kryptonite and mermaid tears before every bout. Whilst that might be over-egging the scale of LRG’s imperial omelette, it’s certainly true that they’ve employed someone today to stand at the opposite corner to their dugout solely to help the refs out.
                        “Pack is HERE.”
    Any wafer-thin hopes Central might have had of upsetting the apple cart fly out of the window in a flurry of mixed metaphors as London break the hundred point mark with CCR stuck on four. Indeed London – who have had the benefit of more than four hours rest between bouts, compared to a scarce few minutes for Central – go to town even more this second time around. CCR give it a go, but the Saints are too strong; their pack marshalled with military precision, their jammers as fast and furious as anything yet created. 184-22 at half time, 411-56 by the end. A powerhouse performance.
    Hugs and hand slaps between the teams complete, the Brawl Saints skate over to the main stage in the tattoo show itself, where they are presented with the inaugural Roller Rumble trophy. A few Saints take to practising their knee drops and derby stops on the catwalk. It’s been a packed weekend of derby action with pluses and minuses for every competing league (mostly just pluses for London and Bristol, to be fair). Here’s to many more UKRDA Southern Region Tournaments to come. Just try and get LRG to send Batter C Power instead next year, yeah – give the rest at least a chance!

FINAL: London Brawl Saints 411 – Central City Rollergirls 56


2013: Alexandra Park celebrates its 150th anniversary and roller skating returns to the great building in its midst. Over the late May bank holiday weekend, as part of the first Great British Tattoo Show to take place in the Palace, a special track is laid for an historic tournament. This is the UK Roller Derby Association’s first regional tournament and also features the first ever UKRDA sanctioned men’s bout. The tournament runs over two days (May 25th & 26th) and nine bouts. London Brawl Saints take the trophy as the clatter of quad wheels returns to a venue that has been at the heart of British roller skating for many generations. As skaters and spectators turn to their iPhones and Galaxys to photograph the scoreboard and update Twitter, it’s hard to fathom that the first roller skating rink in these grounds opened a few months before the telephone was even invented. If modern roller derby can remain even half as enduring as skating in general, these are the very early years of a long history to come.

@RollerRumble omg wt a trnmnt every1 cn tk smthng gd away frm it th event itslf demnstrtd lkly futr drctn of snctnd drby in the uk #ukrdaFTW

@LRGBrawlSaints did whts expctd of 1st seed dmntd + dstryd tho BTN gv thm 1st hlf scare elswhr they wr clinicl + difrnt lg #vdeservedwinners

@CentralCity found brstl a tuff nut 2 crk bth tms but did wt 2nd seeds shd do + md it to th fnl + can pt disapntng trk qns bhnd thm #onwards

@BrightonRockers were only lg who lst to a lwr seed but can tk much cmfrt frm giving LRG suprstrs a rl tst esp in th 1st hlf #goodexperience

@BristolRollerDrby were th big winnrs of th wkend doin far btr thn prdctd in evry bout + gainin a lot of rnkng pnts in th procs #awesometeam

@KentRollerGirls altho they lost both of their bouts the difrntls wr far smaller thn expctd + dmnstrt th real ptntl tht this lg hv #nexttime

@CrashTestBrummies @InhumanLeague hd th hnr of plyng in the 1st ukrda snctnd mens bt + hlpd raise th prfl of mrby in th procs #historymakers

@AlexandraPalace exctly 112 yrs 13 days aftr she was 1st hm 2 a sktng trk she stl hs big role 2 play in rlrsktng in th uk #rollerrumble2014+

STAR PICKS (solely based on our frankly hazy recollection of events)
TOP THREE ROCKERS: 1 Chariot Sophia, 2 The Mighty Mighty Bash, 3 Racey Slam Hard // TOP TEN OTHERS: 1 Black Thorn, 2 Rebelle De Jour, 3 Lola Vulkano, 4 Tinchy Slider, 5 Tattooed Terror, 6 Gels Bells, 7 Viv La France, 8 The Blizzard, 9 Missyle Elliot, 10 Demi Lition // TOP THREE MERBY: 1 Omar Gherd, 2 Ben Hurrt, 3 Beat Monkey

[Photos by Rebecca Cornford. 1875 etching from Harper’s Weekly.]

Roller Rumble Preview


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

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


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


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




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


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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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




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