General Election 2015: What will the candidates do for Roller Derby?

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So apparently there’s a General Election next week (Thursday 7th May). People are saying it’s going to be the closest – therefore most exciting – in decades. The media report that various issues are of concern to the voter on the doorstep; the economy, the NHS, housing, immigration, pensions and welfare, the EU, taxation, HS2, the environment, etc. But here at the BBCD, there’s only one issue that really concerns *us* and that’s roller derby. We flicked through the main parties’ manifestos online and were shocked to discover no mention of the sport in any of them. We can’t possibly vote unless we know what the candidates are going to do for roller derby. Our next step was pretty obvious. We’d have to ask them ourselves.

STEP 1. SELECTING THE SEATS
There are 650 constituencies in the general election, with a total of 3,971 candidates. We realised finding contact details for all of these would take us the rest of the year, by which time the election would be long over, so instead we decided to keep things local. We teamed up with Brighton Rockers fans group BRATS [who are also running this article] to target those seats in Sussex with a roller derby presence; places that are home to leagues, current or former venues, known skaters and coaches, etc. We settled on a total of twelve constituencies; all three in the Brighton & Hove unitary authority area, all five in the East Sussex county council area, plus four of the eight West Sussex seats. Although this means we haven’t covered the parts of West Sussex furthest from Brighton and Eastbourne (eg Chichester, Littlehampton, Horsham, Crawley), we do cover Worthing, Arundel and Mid Sussex – constituencies that include the county’s main open door derby venue in Haywards Heath, together with the site of the Rockers’ previous training/bouting venue in Shoreham.

STEP 2. CONTACTING THE CANDIDATES
These twelve seats contain a total of 70 general election candidates. We searched out their e-mail addresses via party websites, local media online and YourNextMP.com. Between Thursday 16th and Sunday 19th April, we sent an identical e-mail (explaining a bit about roller derby and outlining some of the issues that concern derby folk) to 69 of these candidates. We couldn’t find an e-mail address for the Monster Raving Loony in Mid Sussex – even though he’s their party secretary! – but we found his home address and popped a printout in the post instead. We ran the text of our e-mail past individuals from all five Sussex derby leagues (Brighton Rockers, B-Town Brawlers, Bourne Bombshells, Bomb S’Quad, New Bournes) together with other well known local derby figures. We included most of the additions/changes that people suggested, although some were left out in the interests of keeping the e-mail relatively short and easily understandable. (For example, we use the term LGBT rather than the better term LGBTQI to avoid confusing the less diversity aware candidates.) You can read the e-mail in full further down this article.

STEP 3. REAPING THE RESPONSES
Election candidates are busy people and our enquiry was somewhat obscure (not everyone’s a roller derby fan, amazing though that may sound) so we weren’t expecting a huge number of replies. We decided that those people who didn’t respond at all – the vast majority – we wouldn’t chase up with follow on e-mails; partly as we felt it was down to them to show their interest by responding in the first place, and mostly because we’re really lazy. In cases where we received an Auto Reply (acknowledging receipt of our e-mail) but no actual reply, we *did* send a follow on e-mail a week after the first. This explained that our original e-mail included input from derby folk from all over Sussex, rather than just an individual, and pointed out there are roller derby players and fans in *every* constituency. (We wrote this since most of the auto replies asked for our address and stated that those who lived in the candidate’s constituency were more likely to get a reply.) By the time April 28th, our deadline for replies, arrived we had received responses from eleven of the 70 candidates. This was a little disappointing; we had been hoping for 15-20. The response rate by constituency and political party was somewhat varied, and in many ways quite different to what we might have been expecting. UPDATE: A twelfth reply (Labour, Brighton Kemptown) arrived after the deadline, but has now been added below.

TOTAL RESPONSE RATE: 17.1% (12/70)

RESPONSE RATE BY PARTY
60.0% independent candidates (3/5)
50.0% Socialist Party of Great Britain (1/2)
25.0% Conservative Party (3/12)
18.2% Green Party (2/11)
16.7% Liberal Democrats (2/12)
8.3% Labour Party (1/12)
0.0% UK Independence Party (0/12), Official Monster Raving Loony Party (0/2), National Health Action Party (0/1), Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (0/1)

RESPONSE RATE BY CONSTITUENCY
71.4% Brighton Kemptown (5/7)
25.0% Bexhill & Battle (1/4)
20.0% Hastings & Rye (1/5)
16.7% East Worthing & Shoreham (1/6), Eastbourne (1/6)
14.3% Brighton Pavilion (1/7), Mid Sussex (1/7)
12.5% Hove (1/8)
0.0% Arundel & South Downs (0/5), Lewes (0/5), Wealden (0/5), Worthing West (0/5)

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THE E-MAIL THAT WE SENT
“Hello. We run various websites about the sport of roller derby in Sussex. We’re asking all the general election candidates in constituencies close to local teams for reasons why roller derby players/fans should vote for them. These replies will be published on one or more of our websites in the run up to the election. If you (your candidate) have any particular reply/statement on this issue, we’d very much like include it. Our deadline would be 28th April to allow time for us to collate and post replies in advance of polling day. Below is some information about the sport and the issues that concern participants. Many thanks.
    ABOUT ROLLER DERBY: Described as the world’s fastest growing sport, roller derby is somewhat unique in that most of the teams (circa 80%) are women only, although men’s teams, co-ed teams and junior teams (for ages 11-17) are all on the rise. The sport is full contact and played on roller skates, with two teams of five overtaking and/or blocking each other on a oval track. Modern roller derby originated in Texas in 2001 and reached the UK in 2006 (England now rank #2 in the world after the USA). It’s only since the last general election that the sport has taken off in this region, with the first public game in Sussex taking place in August 2011. It has grown hugely since then. There are currently two roller derby sides in Brighton (one women’s with A and B-teams; one gender inclusive) and three in Eastbourne (women’s, men’s, juniors), as well as other ‘challenge sides’ with local involvement. The Brighton Rockers regularly rank in the Top Ten in the UK and attract sell out crowds. Eastbourne’s Bombshells host Europe’s only outdoor tournament every summer. Sussex residents also play for teams outside the county, eg Croydon and Portsmouth. By best estimates there are several thousand people in Sussex now involved in the sport as players, coaches, officials and fans. It’s niche but growing fast!
    THE ISSUES THAT MATTER: Topics that are of particular concern to roller derby folk (the first two of these are probably more local council than national issues) include: (1) Indoor leisure facilities – finding suitable space to train and put on events in Sussex is difficult. Although the Dolphin in Haywards Heath is becoming an established venue for even national roller skating events, elsewhere halls of sufficient size with a suitable surface that allow skating can be hard to come by. (2) Outdoor skating surfaces (for summer fitness work etc). Although Eastbourne’s prom is good for skating, most other Sussex towns have little in the way of lengthy, smooth, safe-from-traffic areas to skate on. (3) Healthcare – most people involved in derby are not from sporty backgrounds, and the sport provides great health/fitness benefits. Injuries are fairly common, however, so good public healthcare provision is a concern. (4) Diversity – roller derby is a traditionally women-led sport whose participants regularly show support for issues such as gender equality, LGBT rights, inclusivity and mental health awareness. (5) Economics – obviously an issue for all groups in society. From a specifically roller derby perspective, the sport (with its amateur status and equipment and travel costs etc) is an expensive pastime, with many Sussex derby folk spending several thousand pounds a year taking part in and following the sport. A healthy economy/employment are important, as are any initiatives that might help open up the sport to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
    We look forward to hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need anything clarified.”

THE REPLIES WE RECEIVED
Please note that the candidates in most cases will have nothing but our e-mail to go on with regard to what roller derby is. In some cases they may have misinterpreted derby as a sport played outdoors, or on rollerblades rather than quads. This is probably our fault for being fairly low on detail (to keep the length down) in our e-mail. ALSO PLEASE NOTE: ALL REPLIES ARE THE VIEWS OF THE CANDIDATE CONCERNED AND NOT OF THIS WEBSITE.

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1. ARUNDEL & SOUTH DOWNS
No replies received from: Peter Grace (UKIP), Nick Herbert (Conservative), Shweta Kapadia (Lib Dem), Isabel Thurston (Green), Christopher Wellbelove (Labour)

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2. BEXHILL & BATTLE
No replies from: Geoffrey Bastin (UKIP), Huw Merriman (Conservative), Michelle Thew (Labour)

Rachel Sadler, Liberal Democrats: “Thank you for your email. Roller derby is certainly an impressive sport, and I’d like to congratulate you for being involved. Regarding your points, here are my answers…
    1. Indoor facilities: Have you tried local church halls?
    2. Outdoor facilities: There is unfortunately no easy short-term solution to this. Have you tried contacting your local councillor(s) regarding making outdoor spaces safer?
    3. Healthcare: Lib Dems want the NHS to flourish as a well-funded public service. That’s why we’re providing the additional £8bn the NHS needs between 2015 and 2020, fully funded.
    4. Diversity: Equality’s vital to the Lib Dems; we want everybody to have opportunities, regardless of their gender, race and sexuality. We were also the architects of same-sex marriage. Regarding mental health, we’ve vowed to provide additional funding, as we want there to be parity between mental health and physical health.
    5. Economics: I appreciate that roller derby has a cost. Lib Dems will be helping by increasing the lowest income tax threshold to £12,500 by 2020.”

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3. BRIGHTON KEMPTOWN
No replies from: Ian Buchanan (UKIP), Davy Jones (Green), Nancy Platts (Labour)

Paul Chandler, Liberal Democrats: “Thanks for letting me know about Roller Derby. Many of the issues you raise are really a matter for the local council rather than parliament, but if elected I would love to come to one of your events and discuss how I could help you.”

Simon Kirby, Conservative Party: “Thank you for your email. I was very interested to read about the success of roller derby in Sussex and I hope to see the continued growth of the sport. I am pleased to see the Brighton Rockers is one of the Top 10 teams in the UK.
    I am very keen to promote sport and to encourage people to participate in physical exercise, with the many health and social benefits this can bring. Team sports can have a particularly positive effect, offering an environment for people to meet and helping people, particularly the young, build important skills.
    I also care deeply about the issue of equality. Brighton Kemptown is a very diverse place and I worked very hard to ensure the passage of the Same Sex Marriage Act 2013. Since then, I pushed to allow civil partners to convert their partnership to marriage. During the last parliament I was the Private Secretary to the Minister of Sport so I have taken a close interest in supporting sporting organisations. One of the issues that I took a particular interest in was greater equality in sport, for instance by tackling homophobic abuse.
    A real focus of the Department was on increasing female participation in sport and whilst welcome progress has been made in some areas, it is clear that there is still much more to be done and Roller Derby is clearly leading the way on this. I hope this information is helpful.”

Nancy Platts, Labour Party:
“Thank you for your email about roller derby in Sussex which sounds like a lot fun. I personally am a keen runner and enjoy running between 5k and 10k by the sea three or four times a week as well as walking on the South Downs. I feel very lucky to live in Brighton and have found this inspirational in my running. I think that keeping fit is important for physical and mental health as well as bringing together people from different backgrounds.
    I am keen to encourage participation in sport for everyone but in particular I want to see more women taking part in sport and greater access to sport for people living on low incomes. Labour will place exercise at the centre of public health policy with a new ambition to get more people physically active. We will look at how we can better support local communities to have the opportunity to use sporting facilities outside of school hours and term time.”

Jacqueline Shodeke, Socialist Party of Great Britain: “Hi. I’m just standing for socialism and not making promises on any subject because we’re not running the sort of campaign where parties say “Vote for us and we’ll do this or that for you”. So all I can say is that amateur sport is good, and that in a socialist society all sports will be amateur, since it will be a society without money and its corrupting influence on everything including sport.”

Matt Taylor, Independent: “It’s an absolute delight hearing from you and about the sport of Roller Derby. Like ‘non-binary people’, of whom I had not heard the term used before being asked to sign their pledge; I had no knowledge of Roller Derby, and am eternally grateful for you enlightening me. I live in sight of the new Amex football stadium which has lengthy, smooth, safe-from-traffic areas to skate on. Myself, daughter and son would love to get skating and I’m looking forward to taking them to a Roller Derby game.
    As well as an independent parliamentary candidate, I’m also the editor of Guerrilla Democracy News and have 300 plus subscribers on my YouTube channel, on which I post numerous broadcasts and trailers. Whether I’m elected or not, I’m really fortunate to have heard from you, because Roller Derby is the kind of sport I’d like to watch, play and get involved in promoting to a wider audience. As an MP, you can be assured I’ll promote Roller Derby with the same vigour and passion.
    The central message I need to get across is that, if you were to put me in a political box, I’ll be a liberal conservative with green fingers! Think of me as the Son of Simon Kirby, who shares the central principles of conservatism (family values, hard work, big reward, low taxes, less interference from state, Christian values) but who’s less nasty. Never forget Simon Kirby is implicated in the Katrina Taylor murder cover-up, austerity, taking us to war and fraud on a massive scale which is costing the economy billions yearly.
    I cannot stress enough to your readers the severity of the situation. It’s as if the demon is staring us in the face and the next move he makes is when he opens his mouth and gobbles our Democracy away. TTIP is my tipping point. Taylor’s Tipping Point, or more commonly known as The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Secret talks between the USA and EU, which threaten to do away with democracy as we know it.
    NHS is central to my concerns too. I want to see a more natural health service in which a doctor prescribes a change of job, diet and four litres extra water a day, rather than the pharmaceutical drugs of multi-national corporations which are proven to kill us, not heal us like they claim. Chemotherapy kills and it costs £40-50K per treatment. Growing cannabis is free and it cures cancer and a variety of other serious diseases and ailments. In health I turn to the Facebook group NaturallyBetterMultiversity.
    Sustainable Housing: Using Michael Reynolds inspired Earthships as the blueprint to solve our housing crisis by building thousands of Earthships on brown fill and green belt land (www.earthships.com). Moai Tidal Energy: The only alternative to fracking and oil. Capturing energy from around our island from the seas rather than raping our ancient and rolling hills and fields.
    I stand for honesty and integrity in public office and it’s time our politicians tell us the truth. I’ve got loads more to say; King Arthur II, aliens, police corruption, Sussex Police Crime Commissioner elections. I’m the UK’s most controversial parliamentary candidate. Our nation is facing its darkest hour; now is the time to believe King Arthur II was born one Christmas Day 503AD and died in Kentucky USA in 566AD. We have a well recorded ancient British history waiting to be rediscovered.
    REVOLUTION NOW. More to follow at sosparty.co.uk and I hope you vote Independent on Independence Day 7th of May.”

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4. BRIGHTON PAVILION
No replies from: Chris Bowers (Lib Dem), Nigel Carter (UKIP), Clarence Mitchell (Conservative), Howard Pilott (Socialist Party GB), Purna Sen (Labour), Nick Yeomans (Independent)

Caroline Lucas, Green Party: “Roller Derby looks a lot of fun and a great team sport, and it’s fantastic to see so many women involved. With Government funding to local authorities being slashed so deeply (by 40% between 2010-16) our public services are increasingly vulnerable, and I’m doing all I can to prevent cuts from adversely affecting community services and sports.
    But my opponents are fond of asking what ‘one Green MP’ can actually do. I think I’ve been able to show exactly what one MP can do if they really want to. As an unwhipped MP, my position wouldn’t be decided for me by a party official – I’m able to freely fight the corner of my constituents; they feed into every speech, every vote. And while I work very effectively across parties, which is really crucial to making stuff happen, I’m also able to hold them to account, press them to be bolder and more progressive and push Labour, in particular, to be the Party we really need it to be – on everything from the cost of living, to education, the NHS and public services.
    Central to my politics is a commitment to social and climate justice. And at a time when we have four parties which seem to be buying into the same narratives on issues like immigration, welfare and the NHS, we need a strong, clear and independent Green voice in Parliament now, perhaps, more than ever.
    Take the Independent Living Fund – a life source for nearly 18,000 disabled people with high-support needs. The Government is cutting it, and no other Party has opposed that. Time and again the Green voice has been the only real opposition in Parliament, the only alternative narrative – from challenging austerity cuts, to fighting for a truly public and protected NHS, public services in public hands, improved housing rights, tackling tax cheats.
    I was humbled to be named MP of the Year 2014 for my work with minority and disadvantaged communities, and delighted that Pinknews also named me its MP of the Year. People are the heart of my politics, and I’m so proud to serve a city where time and again we see diversity, justice and equality not just tolerated – but celebrated.”

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5. EAST WORTHING & SHOREHAM
No replies from: Mike Glennon (UKIP), Tim Loughton (Conservative), Tim Macpherson (Labour), Bob Smytherman (Lib Dem), Carl Walker (National Health Action)

James Doyle, Green Party: “Thanks for your email. I’ve got to admit, this is probably the most specific request I’ve had, and I don’t think flipping through the Green Manifesto is going to help me find much on roller derby!
    More seriously, I appreciate what you say about roller derby both in terms of health, and in promoting gender equality and diversity issues. Although roller derby has been low on my radar, I certainly think that it fits with my, and my party’s, general ethos in promoting opportunities for people to look after themselves, participate in the community around them, and look after their bodies. And skates are a great way to get around Worthing too!
    Access to facilities is a problem for many sporting groups, and I understand your problems. We have a pretty good prom (in terms of straightness and width) in Worthing, but it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of surface quality – I know because I own a pair of roller blades, albeit only for going in (mostly) straight lines. As I’m a councillor in Worthing, and my patch includes a big chunk of the prom, I’d be very happy post-election to meet with someone to discuss what could be done to improve it to a standard necessary for roller blading. I’d also be happy to talk about access to Worthing’s leisure facilities.”

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6. EASTBOURNE
No replies from: Caroline Ansell (Conservative), Andrew Durling (Green), Nigel Jones (UKIP), Jake Lambert (Labour), Stephen Lloyd (Lib Dem)

Paul Howard, Independent: “I can’t say I’ve given much thought to roller derby, possibly because of my own abject lack of ability on skates (blades or rollers)! The most compelling part of your pitch is the health benefit that derives from all sports including yours. It concerns me that the NHS is really the National Illness Service with little investment in healthy living.
    I have more chance of becoming a competent skater than an MP so there’s not much point my promising you much; however, I genuinely wish you every success with your venture.”

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7. HASTINGS & RYE
No replies from: Jake Bowers (Green), Andrew Michael (UKIP), Sarah Owen (Labour), Nick Perry (Lib Dem)

Amber Rudd, Conservative Party: “Thank you for your email regarding Roller Derby in Sussex. I can assure you that both myself and the Government want to ensure that everyone has the chance to participate in a diverse and interesting range of sports and activities. The great outdoors is hugely important for tourism and the country’s economic well-being.
    Outdoor sport and recreation are key not only to our personal well-being but to the nation as a whole. We are hugely privileged in the South East and especially Hastings in that we have access to a number of large open spaces and a fantastic promenade. You may also be aware that work is being undertaken to transform the White Rock Baths into a £1 million world-class BMX and skateboard arena, I am sure you will agree that these are exciting plans!
    I am very much aware of the positive impact that sport can have on everybody. Aside from the obvious health benefits it helps boost self-esteem and confidence and I firmly believe that there is a sport out there for everyone. The Government and the National Lottery are investing more than £1 billion over four years to help more people enjoy sport, and to develop sporting talent.
    I am greatly encouraged by the number of women participating in Roller Derby and I know that the Government is absolutely committed to supporting women in sport. I wish your team, your players and all those participating in Roller Derby all the very best in their activities.”

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8. HOVE
No replies from: Jenny Barnard-Langston (Independent), Dame Dixon (Loony), Christopher Hawtree (Green), Dave Hill (TUSC), Peter Kyle (Labour), Peter Lambell (Lib Dem), Kevin Smith (UKIP)

Graham Cox, Conservative Party: “Thank you for your enlightening email. I am a keen local sports supporter, having been secretary of Brighton and Hove Cricket Club for many years (and a season ticket holder at the Albion).
    However I have to confess that my knowledge of roller derby is very limited. Funnily enough my stepfather was a roller skating instructor at (I think from the stories he used to tell) Richmond Ice Rink in London when roller skating first became popular before the war. I confess though I did not know of the popularity of roller derby here in Brighton and Hove until receiving your email.
    It strikes me that the timing is right as I am campaigning for the replacement of the worn out King Alfred Leisure Centre on the seafront and at last progress is being made. It is essential that the new KA includes a facility for staging team events/sports such as this so I will pass this on to local colleagues who are currently involved in the tender process at this time.
    If I am fortunate enough to be elected the MP for Hove and Portslade then I would very much like to visit you to learn more and do what I can to support in a practical way.”

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9. LEWES
No replies from: Norman Baker (Lib Dem), Maria Caulfield (Conservative), Ray Finch (UKIP), Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Labour), Alfie Stirling (Green)

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10. MID SUSSEX
No replies from: Toby Brothers (UKIP), Daisy Cooper (Lib Dem), Miranda Diboll (Green), Greg Mountain (Labour), Nicholas Soames (Conservative), Baron Von Thunderclap (Loony)

Beki Adam, Independent: “Thank you for your unusual email. Most of the issues which you have listed as of importance to Roller Derby players are covered on my website and for obvious reasons of time, I ask that you and your colleagues look there to better understand where our values meet – and where they diverge. Having spent many years in meditation, I might reasonably claim to have a deeper understanding of mental health issues than many people. I have written an explanation of why I’m not signing the transgender pledge – it’s on my voteADAM.info blog from April. I’d be interested to know your thoughts, and am more than happy to meet a group of players to discuss this and your other issues if I am elected.
    As your MP, I would have the funds to employ a team of researchers, run a staffed constituency office, and more time to discuss issues of importance with my constituents. I would be able to meet with concerned groups and individuals in a way which is not possible before the election. MPs will have over £150,000/year – on top of their salaries – to pay for staff and offices next parliament. I would ensure that means an open door opportunity for Mid Sussex voters to share ideas and concerns. I plan to facilitate regular debates on topical issues, and utilize technology to share these widely. It’s good that you are such a physically active group. Wishing you all the best in health and well-being.”

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11. WEALDEN
No replies from: Solomon Curtis (Labour), Nusrat Ghani (Conservative), Giles Goodall (Lib Dem), Peter Griffiths (UKIP), Mark J Smith (Green)

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12. WORTHING WEST
No replies from: David Aherne (Green), Peter Bottomley (Conservative), Tim Cross (UKIP), Jim Deen (Labour), Hazel Thorpe (Lib Dem)

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SUMMARY
So which reply impressed you most? Will it change the way you vote? It would of course have been good to have received more responses. Hopefully by the next general election in 2020, roller derby will be so well established that candidates will be falling over themselves to reply to our e-mails. On the (admittedly very remote) chance you want to know what the main parties are promising on issues other than derby, you can check out their manifestos below:

CONSERVATIVE PARTY
https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/manifesto2015/ConservativeManifesto2015.pdf

GREEN PARTY
https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/manifesto/Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto.pdf

LABOUR PARTY
http://b.3cdn.net/labouruk/e1d45da42456423b8c_vwm6brbvb.pdf

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
http://www.libdems.org.uk/complete-manifesto

UK INDEPENDENCE PARTY
http://issuu.com/ukip/docs/theukipmanifesto2015?e=16718137/12380620

Bombshells v Hell’s Belles: Heartland Series SE Day 3

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We were promised a storm. News reports all week have reiterated the severe weather warning in place for the whole country today, speculating with frothy pens as to what kind of Biblical deluge we can expect. “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies,” warned the Express. “Rivers and seas boiling, forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes…” suggested the Mirror, while the Daily Mail goes for the surprisingly subdued (for the Mail): “The dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!” In the end – here in Haywards Heath at least – it was a little bit rainy for a couple of hours this morning, but is now scorchingly hot and sunny. So much so that most of the doorways to the Dolphin leisure centre’s sports hall are wide open, framing the breeze-hungry Bombshells standing within them as silhouettes against the ferocious daylight beyond. It’s what the closing scene of Close Encounters would have looked like if the aliens played derby.

Whilst the promised hurricane force winds haven’t materialised, there is a blowout in progress. That’s the phrase used to describe high differential sporting contests, which in derby terms means a game where one team racks up in hundreds what the other does in tens. The Milton Keynes Concrete Cows, needing only a win to go top of the Heartland Series South East division, have 82 points after just four jams. Their Bedfordshire Rollergirls opponents – the division’s underest of underdogs, rankings wise – have yet to score. MK’s core jammer rotation of Terrorizinya, Magic Beanz, Huni Basher and Rollin’ Sin are proving too strong. They’re juking and swooping through and around the walls of purple, as BRG’s own jammers make repeated visits to the penalty box. Cherry Bomb is wearing the Bedford star several jams in a row now, having bought a season ticket for the sin bin, with MK starheads calling when she stands to keep her in play. She’s BRG’s top jamming threat on paper, but finding things hard going here, with a solid Betty Knox one-wall amongst the defensive tactics drawing out “Purple Double Zero” ref calls.

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With Bettie Trubble needing treatment, the already numerically disadvantaged BRG squad are at further risk of tiring faster than the Cows’ full fourteen. That’s even without the extra work they’re having to do to try and hold back the likes of Sin (finding gaps in the walls no-one else can see) and Terror, who shakes off the Beds blockers’ hits almost nonchalantly. MK are starting to mix things up jammer-wise, with the likes of Cat Clash and Hurt Nouveau getting chances in the red star – OK, gold star on red – as the game progresses. Bedford captain Booty Vicious puts in some super tough last line defending to keep the latter held back, whilst Cherry outscores the former to chalk up BRG’s first winning jam of the game, albeit a single pointer. Brothers finds herself up against a barely budging red pack next, as Terror racks up several five point passes. Terrorizinya follows this up in her next starclad outing with arguably the wiliest move of the game… Sent off a few seconds after Beds jammer Kookiekat, she blindsides her rival to overtake in the ref lane and sit down first, ensuring the earlier return to track.

An injury to Kookie later in the jam sees everyone take a knee – the lively BRG jammer is happily back on her feet after a couple of minutes of EMT activity. As if playing a team ranked 200 places above on flattrackstats wasn’t enough of a challenge for Bedford, there’s the added sting of having to face the woman who invented this whole crazy Heartland Series thing in the first place. The Valkyrie (for it is she) takes the MK star for the period’s final jam, but a forearms penalty sees her sent to the naughty seats, and Jed E Knights – assisted by some aggressive blocking from Screw Luce – takes advantage to nudge BRG above double figures. Half time score: 238-16. It will require a comeback of epic proportions for Beds to get anything from this game, though. This looks unlikely, particularly given the Cows packs’ burgeoning reputation as ‘purple people’ eaters; they chomped down hard on the similarly hued Bombshells last time out.

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Indeed, it’s more of the same in the second half. Magic Beanz jumping all over the track as the purple pack struggle to snare her. Cherry Bomb bouncing off Bolshevik’s shoulders – a regular hindrance for the BRG jammers – as she battles to break through. Yoho and Screw Luce donning the star for Beds and doing well, but the likes of Sula Riot, Blaise of Glory and Claudia Faceoff are as concrete as their team’s name in defence. Beds jammers recycled so often they’re running out of fibre. Brothers up in the star for BRG now though, delivering a hit on Betty Knox that the crowd cheers, only to have it returned to sender (with extra postage) on the next pass. T-Sharp and Booty battling hard as packs collide, but the red army march on. The only question remaining is whether the Cows can breach the 500 point mark, and they answer that one in the final jam. It ends 503-22, with MKRD moving above Big Bucks to top a divisional table now propped up by the brave and battling but besieged Bedfordshirians. The Cows take it in their stride – from bench manager OxymAndyAs to line-up Snoogins to captain Valkyrie, they *are* the Heartland Series, and they’re daring Big Bucks to say any different…

The Bombshells were represented in the first game not just by refs and NSOs, but also announcers. The Sassy & Swann Show we’re calling it, as the Eastbourne bench coach and captain made their debut as an announcing duo. They did a good job calling what (given the scoreline) must have been a tough game to keep the crowd engaged with, but of course we’re not about to tell them that, as it would only encourage them. “Not totally awful” is about the highest praise their mic work will get from anyone they know today (Heartland’s Twitter feed is much more complimentary). The Bombshells skate out, on the other hand, receives high praise from all quarters, despite being officially ‘The Worst Skate Out Ever’. Players draped in pieces of cardboard bearing handwritten admissions of shame – or in one notable case, a No Parking sign – parade around the track as fans hold up “You Suck (at skate outs)” placards. For the Sussex league, this is the start of a period of transition, with several high profile players and coaches leaving over the next couple of months, and rookies such as Jumpin’ Jack Smash, Seoul Destroyer and Von Stackit joining the gameday squad. The skate out ends in a shower of angle grinding burlesque from Lily Malicious, but will sparks fly in the game itself?

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The official prediction for this game on flattrackstats gives opponents Hell’s Belles from Hertfordshire Roller Derby a 67% chance of taking the win. The site treats all Heartland Series games as neutral, however, and though the Bombshells are new to this floor, with their previous open door venue in Hastings now banning skating, it’s probably fairer to view this as a home game. This adjusts the prediction to 56% Belles’ way, which suggests it will be close, but it’s still somewhat unexpected to see the Bombshells 21-0 up after four jams and seemingly well in control. Bullet Bomber, Swann, Crash and Dreaded Shortcake have taken successive leads for the Sussex side, with the tough blocking of Smash’Er Fierce, PhilosoFear and others keeping the Belles jammers pegged back. An out of bounds call on Bullet gives Scarlett Heartless a PJ start. Whilst Swann and Fear try to peg her back until a speeding Bullet’s return to track, Scarlett puts some points on the board for the Herts side. A lengthy stint off track for starclad Dolly Spartan – who passes the point of no return by inches and has to circle again before entering the penalty box – allows Crash to edge things up for the Bombshells. The Sussex league are giving very few points away at present.

An official time out gives experienced announcer Snoogins the chance to dispense a couple of birthday shoutouts to members of the Milton Keynes side she line-up manages. The Cows are celebrating both the earlier victory and the birthdays up in the bleachers, largely via the medium of booze. Another shoutout goes to the recently hitched DodgeHer – the Belles captain, who donned a wedding veil for the skate out, dons the star for Herts shortly after play resumes. She helps close the gap, alongside the other red jammers (both today’s games are purple v red, though photos colour corrected for the venue’s yellowy light may disagree) Scarlett and Spartan. Belles sticking with a rotation of three, whilst Bourne have double that, with Drag ‘N’ Fly and Chunder Woman joining the opening quartet. Power jam for Heartless, recycled well by Bullet and Hell Block H, but there’s more belief about this Belles side now. Track cut call on DNF, passive offence from the Belles pack, the impressive Vera Offtrack clacking her wheels on the floor to impersonate the jammer attack, all very close now. Chunder off next jam, forearms… Crash off too… Two minutes left, lead for Spartan, lead change for Spartan, 74-75. Bullet starred up, Chunder trying to clear a path, sent flying, spinning track cut Bullet, power jam DodgeHer. Half time: Bombshells trail 83-96.

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A large chunk of the crowd here today are cheering for the Hell’s Belles, and for Scarlett Heartless in particular. Many seem to be the players from the earlier game. The Bombshells are in some ways outsiders in this South East Division – most of the other teams know each other from past tournaments, and from the shared scrims, spectator trips and league transfers that come of geographical proximity. The South Coast is a world away from the South Midlands, and here, with a previously untraversed floor beneath and mixed crowd around, Eastbourne are to some extent strangers at their own party. They are, however, starting this second period even stronger than they began the first. A power jam and star pass from Swann in the second sees the Bombshells regain the initiative in style, with the scoreline now 120-96. Hell’s Belles fighting back though. Tough blocking from the likes of Les Be Avenue, Candy Cane-her and Leggett N Hide. Lots of jammer penalties and PJ starts on both sides. Belles close the gap to six points. Bombshells extend it again.

Power jam start for Smash’Er now. She sees the Herts jammer rejoining the track, and sends her to ground as soon as she crosses the tape. Bam! Gives it the full Popeye to the crowd. Rocky Bashova, Crash and Hell Block holding back the red jammer for Bullet to score next jam. Team time out for the rattled (clanging?) Belles. Successive leads for Bourne now, but little movement in the way of points. Back block called on Chunder, who looks very cross with either herself or the ref who made the call – best not to ask which, but it gives Herts the chance to close the gap: 148-140. Close as. There’s a slight, and unexpected, delay in proceedings now. It seems someone living by the leisure centre has complained about an illegal rave taking place nearby. The source of that complaint has been traced to this hall, and the not-very-loud-at-all tannoy. Roller derby must be what passes for lawlessness here in Haywards Heath at 6pm on a Saturday. (Personally, we suspect a specious complaint from someone who wanted to attend one of the weekly roller discos that had to make way for today’s event. Ho hum.)

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We quickly down all our drugs, hide all the sound systems, and the on track action resumes. The local residents have identified Dolly Spartan as the ringleader of the rave, and she’s been removed from the game. Either that or she fouled out on penalties. Bullet picks up lead either side of the break and the Sussex side now have a more comfortable 30 point lead, with about eight minutes – roughly two and a half bangin’ 180bpm choons, officers – remaining. Edging it up further now, picking up a point or two more than Herts in every jam. Swann and PhilosoFear holding back Heartless as Smash’Er extends the lead to over forty points. Swann stars up for what will be the final jam of the game, and also the final one in purple and leopard print for the Bombshells captain. Having tired of changing her derby name every few months – from Jayne Zawmasika to Toxic Block Syndrome to Swann – she’s now resorted to changing her derby league instead. She’ll be donning the cyan and black of the Brighton Rockers after today, her hair having already donned the former, and she goes out in style for the ‘shells with a swooping, high-scorin’, multiple-passin’, and – let’s be honest – show-boatin’ final Swann-song to close the game out at 214-159.

Jammer, Blocker and MVP awards for the first game go to MK’s Terrorizinya, Betty Knox and Rollin’ Sin, with Cherry Bomb, Yoho and Booty Vicious picking up the respective gongs for Beds. For Hell’s Belles, the certificates go to Dolly Spartan, Candy Cane-her and Leggett N Hide, with the Bombshells recipients being Drag N Fly, Hell Block H and Swann. Various Bourne players queue up to give the latter her leaving presents. In Swann’s own words: “They all wait until I finish crying from the previous gift/card before appearing with the next one. It goes on quite a while.” We miss all of the above, of course, as we are keen to maintain our flawless record of being the first to arrive at the after party for every derby event we attend (30 in a row now, just sayin’). When we called into the Burrell Arms earlier today, a gas problem meant Guinness and ales were off, and we’re keen to see (and praying) that’s been rectified. It has indeed, but the solution may well have involved re-routing gas from the ovens, since the venue is now doing no food. At. All.

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As hordes of ravenous rollergirls arrive at the pub, we anticipate a riot, but fortunately people are being allowed to bring in food from the adjacent pizza shop and chippy. Crisis averted. Out in the garden, the evening soon descends into Connect Four tournaments and arm wrestling challenges, with the latter, as ever, being simply an excuse for Smash’Er Fierce to hurt people off (as well as on) track. We understand that several of the Bourne and Belles side end up getting the midnight train to Eastbourne itself – a fair ways from here – and persuade a publican there to let them have a lock-in until the sun comes up. So much for it being a town full of grannies! Where next for the Bombshells sports-wise then? To Eastbourne Extreme, of course, the UK’s only free outdoor derby tournament, which takes place on the weekend of the 12th/13th July. Contrary to Sassy McAwesome’s assertions on the announcer mic, New York’s Gotham Girls aren’t taking part, but the A-team of Surrey, plus B-teams of Croydon and LRR will be facing off against the home side on the Saturday. Meanwhile, an intriguing Sunday programme sees several star-studded exhibition games in all the flavours – men’s, women’s, junior, co-ed, rookie to advanced.

That Saturday (12th) also sees the next Heartland Series South East gameday up in Norwich, with the Norfolk Brawds taking on Milton Keynes, whilst Beds face Big Bucks. MK currently sit atop the table, with the final SE day’s Cows v Bucks game increasingly looking like it will be a decider for play-offs seeding. Norfolk have strong ambitions to catch at least one of those sides, though. The Belles will be looking to build upon their strong showing against favourites Big Bucks and finish as high up the ‘mid section’ as they can. Beds, meanwhile, will be keen to nab their first win and improve their current points differential. With six of the division’s fifteen games completed, only one result has gone the way of the lower ranked team – that was Eastbourne’s victory over Herts today. This puts the Bombshells in a good position going into the rest of their campaign, albeit with what will in several areas be a less experienced squad. Today the Bourne debutants fared well in a bruising encounter. Tomorrow (or rather, August 16th) the Bombshells do Heartland Series battle again, against Norfolk in the home of just vanquished Herts. For now though, we party – remembering always the golden rule; don’t ever challenge Smash’Er to an arm wrestle…

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[Photos by John Hesse]

ANOTHER REPORT (BY MK’S BENCH MANAGER)
http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/heartland-south-east-game-day-3-bourne-secure-first-victory-cows-win-big/

LINKS
EASTBOURNE EXTREME: https://www.facebook.com/EastbourneExtremeRollerDerby
HEARTLAND SERIES: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
BOMBSHELLS: http://bournebombshells.co.uk/
HELL’S BELLES: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
MK COWS: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
BEDFORDSHIRE: http://www.bedfordshirerollergirls.com/
BIG BUCKS: http://www.bigbuckshighrollers.co.uk/
NORFOLK BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/