Turn Left Issue 28

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You might notice a few regular items missing from today’s magazine. What, no predictions from Flattrackstats? No unhilarious made-up facts about the opposition’s home town? Nope, for the simple reason that today’s A and B-team opponents Team Unicorn are a challenge team. That is to say, a group of skaters from various different leagues with no official Flattrackstats ranking and no geographic base. Challenge teams are a rarity in most sports, but roller derby is rife with them (albeit not as rife as during their peak a few years ago). A lot of challenge sides are one-offs put together for a single game. This is particularly common with rookie debut games (‘cherry poppers’) as small to medium sized derby leagues might only have four or five players ready to make their debuts. Linking up with a couple of other leagues in the same situation to create a mixed rookie team is the perfect solution for everyone. In other cases one-off teams might be created for special events. Elves vs Reindeers vs Snowpeople at a Christmas scrim say, or any of the inordinate Harry Potter or Game Of Thrones ‘play for your house’ tournaments. We’re not here to talk about one-off challenge sides though, but those that exist long term. Usually these have a pool of skaters to choose from (depending on availability and level of opposition), a kit, a social media presence and the stability of someone – often the bench coach – running things day to day. These teams are often for a particular social group or community, such as Team Crazy Legs (mental health and chronic illness) or Vagine Regime (LGBTQ), both of which developed into networks of national teams spanning the globe. Often the theme is super vague (eg Team No Fuss – they’re simply not fussed) or nothing more than a name to hang things on. Portsmouth Roller Wenches’ Dropkick Molly is no stranger to challenge teams. She took on the Rockers A-team here at the Dolphin as part of No Fuss towards the end of 2016. Today she’s back for more with Team Unicorn...


Team Unicorn and (past opponents) Team Dragon aren’t the only challenge teams named after mythical creatures. There are also these ones – although we may have slightly made some or all of them up... • TEAM LOCH NESS MONSTER who are hated by derby photographers. For some reason any photos taken of their games come out as blurry indistinct shapes. • TEAM WEREWOLF whose game days are marked with a white circle in most diaries. • TEAM FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER who won a recent legal victory over governing body WFTDA. Colanders can now be worn instead of helmets by pastafarians. • TEAM YETI who have yet to play whilst awaiting an order of custom sized skates. • TEAM TROLL who are too busy on social media to actually arrange any games.

“I love challenge team games and love that TURD [Team Unicorn Roller Derby] are still going,” says Molly. “I had an injury and kiddo break a couple of years ago and challenge teams seemed to have died out a bit by time I got back. They are fun, less pressure and you get to skate with friends who would otherwise be your opponents. This also means gameplay can be trickier since things don’t happen as naturally as with your regular teammates.” Mama, who founded challenge side Team Dragon which faced the Rockers twice at the Dolphin (A-team in 2015, B-team in 2016), believes the rise of UK challenge teams was in part due to the annual Eastbourne Extreme tournament. This gathers skaters from across the UK and Europe into various mixed teams. “Myself and Niks, who founded Team No Fuss, benched mixed teams against each other at Eastbourne,” says Mama. “We decided it was so much fun that we set up Dragon and No Fuss so we could do it again. Challenge teams are a great way for skaters to experience, and perhaps learn from, playing alongside people who have been coached differently to themselves.” Dropkick Molly is looking forward to facing the Rockers with Unicorn today for a number of reasons: “Psyclone recently transferred to London Roller Derby from Portsmouth, so I’m super excited to be back on track alongside her. I haven’t played against Brighton for a long time due to rubbish knees and babies but have always enjoyed our games. The Rockers are tough but there’s always time for some laughs on track. I know they are going to make us work. Hopefully I won’t have to pretend I am a jammer.” Their changing rosters and lack of a geographic home means challenge teams generally don’t have an established supporter base the way traditional derby leagues do. Molly is hoping that some of the crowd will get behind Unicorn today though. “Unfortunately we don’t have the actual magical power of unicorns, but we do have a very strong roster so please cheer loudly for us all.” TL


CAKE OR DEATH With six months since the last home game/ fanzine there’s a load to catch up on. In October you beat London Rockin’ Rollers (who were Brighton’s WFTDA mentor league) away, marking your first victory against them since March 2013, the game issue one of this fanzine came out at. Cake Or Death: We knew they’d lost a few of their key players to London Roller Derby and a couple of American teams, so we didn’t go in expecting to lose. We knew it would be a hard game, but we thought we could win it. The margin of victory (62 points) was a surprise as it was a tough game. We weren’t scoring 20 points in a jam, just a couple of points here and there. LRR hit so hard and really battled, so yeah, maybe the score was a surprise, but not the win. Two weeks later you travelled to Hull for Humber Struck, defeating Sheffield and Brest before a four point loss against Utrecht in the final. We were one of the higher ranked teams in the tournament, so we expected to do quite well. We were missing some of our top players like Finn and Sham though. It was also a long and tiring journey to get there, longer than a lot of overseas trips. Watching some of the other teams scared us a bit. The Cannibal Marmots (Grenoble) were so good, for example; it was a surprise they lost to Dom City (Utrecht) in the semis. It was a good weekend. Last year the A-team won the Harbour Cup in Rotterdam and made that final in Hull, while the Bs lifted the Eastbourne Extreme trophy. Any reasons for all that success? The A-team are playing a lot more tournaments these days. Now that we’re WFTDA members it makes sense as it means we’re playing three WFTDA ranked games over a weekend, which is worth a lengthy journey. You have played in tournaments before though, such a two years of Slip It in Normandy, finishing last both times. Why are you suddenly doing so much better? We learnt an important lesson. That lesson is: Don’t play at Slip It. In seriousness we’ve been focusing on bringing up our lower A-team players so we aren’t relying on a small core of top level players playing almost every jam. You need a big strong roster for a weekend of tournament play, so you can rotate players who are at risk of fouling out or are tiring etc, and we’re starting to have that now.

“Some time after moving to Brighton in 2011, I noticed a Rockers banner down on the seafront. It sparked some serious daydreams about being all awesome like the girl in Whip It, but that was all they were until a couple of years ago when a friend mentioned they were training with Eastbourne Roller Derby. I swiftly asked to be put on the Rockers intake mailing list, practised in Hove Park while I waited, and managed to get on the June 2019 fast track intake. Eight months later, today sees my public debut with C-Side. Obviously there are nerves, but the coaches are so good at preparing us, and I trust my teammates, so I’m mostly looking forward to getting out there. My favourite aspect of derby is the way we cheer each other on during training. The worst bits are the potential for injury and my smelly pads, both of which come with the territory. The position I feel the most confident playing is the ‘fatty’, the controller at the tip of the blocker tripod. But I’m still new, so I’m enjoying trying everything, even jamming as my skating improves. It’s great to be part of such an established league as the Rockers, with dedicated supporters and an ever-expanding roster.” TL

“Playing for C-Side today will be nerve wracking because of course there are people watching. We’ve all worked hard to get to this stage though. I just hope I’m effective, supportive, and we take home the win. I took up derby as I wanted to get fit but find gyms scary. I followed in the footsteps of an old friend who was with York Minxters. My favourite thing about this sport is the game plays and tactics. One wrong move and that jammer is past! When you try something during a game and it works, it feels amazing. I love being useful and there are so many ways to be that in roller derby. I’m not a fan of looking at in-game footage (and photos) of myself, but it does help you see how to improve. Also sweaty helmet covers, yuck! I currently play combined offence and defence. I hang around mid track and make a nuisance of myself which is great fun. I also brace the wall and help yell out where the jammer is. I don’t really know much about the Rockers’ history, but over the years that I’ve played derby, Brighton have always been a good solid team that everyone (skaters, NSOs and refs) has a good word to say about. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to play for them.” TL

Moving on to today’s event, you’re the only Rocker we can ever get to predict scores. Which is handy since the A and B-team face Team Unicorn. They’re a challenge team so there are no Flattrackstats predictions for the games. It’s all down to you. Imagine if I refused to give a prediction now. OK, I’ll only do it if you give me a bottle of gin. If you get it exactly right? Yep. I did actually think about this before the interview, as I’m sad like that. I think the A-team game is going to be high scoring, with fast jammers and hard hits, but I think Brighton will take the win as we’re such a cohesive team. There are a lot of really great players on Unicorn’s roster, but I think our cohesion will make the difference. I’m going 276-125 to the Rockers. Dum dum dum! And for the B-team game? Oh. Er... I didn’t think you’d ask me for a prediction for that. You have to get them both right for the gin. No! Half a bottle if I get one right? OK. I think the cohesion in the league will see Brighton taking the victory in the B-team game too, but I don’t think it’s going to be as high scoring. I reckon 190-153 to the Rockerbillies. C-Side are also in action today. What can people expect from that? It’s going to be a half hour exhibition game against an opposition side that will include quite a few Eastbourne B-teamers and people from elsewhere. Speaking of Eastbourne, a number of New Bournes juniors (who also play for junior Team GB) train with the Rockers and once they hit 18 they become eligible to play for you. What kind of impact do you think the introduction of people who have grown up playing the sport will have, not just on the Rockers but on adult derby in general? It’s terrifying. They’re so good. The level is just going to go up and up. I think you’re going to see some truly remarkable things on track in the future. Some of the things you see skaters doing on half pipes, skate park tricks and the like, are going to be filtering into derby. More stunt work and some harder hitting. It’s going to be awesome. TL


What is the highest and/ or longest thing you’ve jumped over in roller skates? Alien Queen (Brighton Rockers): The whole of the B-team wall in a pile up on track, but it wasn’t intentional and I might not have quite made it over all of them. Dropkick Molly (Team Unicorn): Probably a person. I’m not much of a jumper – with me it’s more vaguely controlled falling.

What is the weirdest nickname you’ve had (at school, derby, work, anywhere) and how did you get it? Alien: I discourage nicknames. Most generations of my family have been called ‘O weird one’ at school [for surname reasons] which shows original thinking. My weirdest work nickname is Dean. Molly: Moon Boots, from wearing ridiculously padded Steve Cabellero Vans at college.

What would be your perfect post-derby meal? It’s got to be chips – preferably with cheese or mayo – and beer. Burritos, always burritos... and a side of rum.


fighting to change my ways before they become almost ingrained. I think I’ve now subconsciously started doing it on purpose because I know how much it pisses my captain off! I’ve never seen her so happy as when I caught someone with a hook as opposed to on my chest. I’m not really sure what my playing style is. Maybe because I’m quite new to the sport or because I can’t watch myself. I’d like to think that it’s a sort of mixture of the elegance of Anna Pavlova and the power of Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his 1970s steroids intake, but I’d be happy if I could just be recognised as surprisingly strong for my size.” TL “I’ve never been a very sporty person and didn’t have good experiences from PE at school. I was inspired to play derby because of its inclusive nature. Everyone can bring something to the team no matter who you are. I get a lot of joy from being an annoyance to the other team. I’m working on my rules knowledge and my goal today is to not get too many penalties. It’s frustrating sitting in the box unable to help your team. I can feel really nervous before scrims and games but as soon as I get on track the adrenaline starts and it all goes away. It’s exciting to be taking part in events during the Rockers’ 10th anniversary season. I’m particularly enthusiastic about playing in a league that is working hard to be a welcoming and inclusive space towards trans and non-binary skaters. Here’s to the next ten years and beyond!” TL

Somehow you have been hired to create roller derby flavoured crisps. What exactly is that flavour? I’m going with Finn McCruel crisps, which sound like they could be a Monster Munch or NikNak or weird fish type flavour. Mainly I’m choosing this as it’s the best derby name in the league with its mix of Irish and Finnish traditions. As nations they definitely have the best crisps: Tayto in Ireland and Sips in Finland. Well, [Portsmouth Roller] Wench Stench is obviously the number one derby flavour to savour. I’m not sure how good sales would be though.


What is the most recent non-roller derby award you’ve won? I got a medal for finishing the 1.5k swim in Paddle Round The Pier. I’m not sure if that counts though. Undisputed Queen of Air Hockey. There were only two participants in this tournament, so my odds were good.

If there was a President of all roller derby who should it be and why? Sigourney Weaver. Because Sigourney Weaver. Dunno. It’s not a job I would want. I just like skating. TL

• THE LATEST NEWS FROM PLANET ROCKERS •S POP GO THE ROCKERS The first thing Turn Left editor Mr Adam ever

WORDS FROM SOME OF TODAY’S DEBUTANTS “My main thought about today is if you want to do something, go for it! As someone almost always stuck in their own head, I risk achieving nothing at the cost of daydreaming. I don’t know what it was one evening that made me have enough of this perpetually self contained non reality, but I’m so grateful. Grateful to be part of a community which poses such a threat to gender stereotypes, melding both love and aggression in a way historically only afforded to males. Grateful to our incredible coaches who train us on top of their own training and jobs, to those who built the league from the ground up ten years ago, and to my fellow C-Siders, such a supportive and eclectic group of people to share this experience with. At 15 I watched Whip It and became obsessed with the idea of derby. I was always a pretty feral kid and I’d actually wanted to become a boxer, but the East End gyms were pretty macho and I was scared off by the expectation that women within male dominated environments must be nothing short of exceptional – other worldly almost. So where’s the space to learn? Derby’s so different. I was inspired to play not only because I love skating and bashing people around, but because I’d get to meet loads of other women and non-binary people who also love skating and bashing people around, falling and failing in a myriad of ridiculous ways. Anything I dislike? The clockwise penalty. I have a strong tendency to catch people on my chest, so often push them backwards. I don’t know when this became a thing of mine, but I’m

Which of your teammates has the strangest pregame ritual? The whole of the Rockers A-team. The secret rituals are weird but they’d have to kill me if I told you what they were. At Portsmouth Duchess Of Crutches used to make us all sniff lavender in an attempt to calm us. That had mixed success, haha.

did in Brighton (two hours after moving down here in 1993) was go to a Cornershop gig. Fast forward to 2020 and not only does that awesome band still exist, but their latest video stars the mighty Brighton Rockers. OMG! Check it out at tinyurl.com/TL281 yeah.


Due to no home game in December last year’s BRATS Awards voting was all done online. The badges and certificates have found their way to the following awesome winning wonders... PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cake Or Death JAMMER OF THE YEAR: Kapow! BLOCKER OF THE YEAR: Fellen E Assault B-TEAMER OF THE YEAR: Goldiblocks ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Joadicea ICON OF THE YEAR: Finn McCruel OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR: Sez Who OTHER OF THE YEAR: John Hesse MOST VOTED FOR: Hairy Fairy FRIEND OF BRATS: Mr Séamus

THE CYPRIOT SQUAD Not only is the amazing Hairy Fairy the last re-

maining founding member of the Rockers, but she’s aiming to be the founder of a new national roller derby team too. If you know any derby folks with Cypriot lineage point them towards Team Cyprus RD (Facebook) right now!

TIME FOR SOME CAKE This issue is full of Cake (Or Death) but there’s

perhaps less mention than there should be of this being the Rockers’ 10th anniversary year. They were founded on Valentine’s Day 2010. Wanna learn more? We’ve made a whole extra free mag to celebrate. Pick one up today or at any 2020 home game.

RESULTS OF ALL GAMES SINCE THE LAST ISSUE SEPTEMBER 21ST @ HAYWARDS HEATH Brighton A 289-152 Limerick A Brighton B 265-196 Bristol B OCTOBER 12TH @ TOTTENHAM LRR A 174-236 Brighton A OCTOBER 26TH & 27TH @ HULL Brighton A 241-152 Sheffield A Brighton A 187-111 Brest A Brighton A 144-148 Utrecht A