When Bristol Roller Derby (BRD) opened its doors for try-outs in March 2011 the organisers had no idea what they had let themselves in for. Instead of recruiting just enough skaters to cover costs, they were faced with the difficult chore of whittling nearly 100 derby-girls-in-waiting down to the maximum number – two dozen – that could be accommodated on the course.
This was the final intake of new skaters for the foreseeable future, as BRD had grown large so fast it was becoming necessary to stop recruitment and take stock of what they had, building on strengths and talents within the group to reinforce the aims of the League before taking on any more skaters.
This last group became Fresh Meat 2011, and after spending 2011 learning how to (safely) knock each other down in style, they are about to graduate. Following 9 months of literal blood, sweat and tears, the newest members of BRD are preparing for their graduation bout, a friendly game played against each other in the privacy of their practice hall, which will mark the end of their probationary training period and the beginning of their lives as players for one of BRD’s home teams. They have submitted themselves for the draft to either Daughters of Anarchy, Smash Vandals or Project Mayhem and – while they look forward to their new teams with fierce intensity – they express nothing but love, admiration and a deep respect for their fellow ‘Meaties’, their coaches and their teammates-to-be.
The demographic of the group is incredibly varied. The skaters range in age from 20 to “certainly older than you might think I am” and the careers they represent “in real life” include administration, physiotherapy, insurance adjustment and photography. One skater is a Cabin Crew member for a major airline and brings her uniform to practice when she’s on standby, just in case. They are mothers, wives and girlfriends and while they do exhibit a liking for tattoos and hair dye, not all look like the mainstream stereotype of “the derby girl”. Rachel “Ac!d Drop” Britton, a Senior Pharmaceutical Advisor for the NHS explained “My tattoos are strategically placed – they’re on show when I want them to be but they cover up completely for work. I am absolutely professional during the week but I can still show my roller girl colours when it counts!” Outside of practice, suits and dresses, jeans and t-shirts are just as prevalent in their wardrobes as hot-pants and crazy-colour tights. Roller Derby doesn’t make a girl’s wardrobe go wild – sometimes it just encourages pre-existing tendencies to emerge.
No sports league would be complete without an all-star team, and BRD is no exception. Their travel team, the Harbour Harlots, have gone from strength to strength this year, relishing victory and taking defeat in their stride as they strive to become the dominant team in the South West in 2012. While it is rare for a newly-qualified skater to be drafted straight to the travel team, it isn’t unheard of, and some of the new grads will certainly stand a chance. Asked what she thought about landing a spot on the Harlots, Sorrel “Hattie Flattener” Sparks replied:“The thought of being instantly drafted onto the Travel Team fills me with equal measures of knee wobbling excitement and teeth clenching terror! I will get there one day, but will have to rely on hard work and determination rather than natural ability.” Clearly, these girls are prepared to work for their dreams.
Regardless of what teams they end up on, 2012 is certain to be an amazing 12 months for the new recruits of Bristol Roller Derby, and another exciting and successful year for the league as a whole.
Written by Red October (aka Mia Gilson)