Photo by Graeme Willets.

 

LONDON CALLING

People from all across the UK, Europe and the world chose to spend a glorious, sunny weekend sweating it out in a sports hall for the 5th year running. Why? For Anarchy in the UK . 2015’s event involved a gruelling two-day bootcamp and a double-header bout showcasing some of the best derby Europe has to offer.

This year, our skaters added an extra colour to their usual pink and black get-up: teal. The colour was prominent among all skaters and the crowd too, in memory and celebration of the life of #57, Casper, a 15-year-old transgender skater from the Darlings of Destruction Junior Derby League, and to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

THE APPETISER

London Brawl Saints 174 – 96 Birmingham Blitz Dames

LRG’s Brawl Saints took on the venue hosts Birmingham Blitz Dames. This was no easy match: Brawl Saints were skating with a relatively new line-up and many of their skaters were making their B-team debut, while Blitz Dames are one of the oldest teams in the UK – a force to be reckoned with.

Excellent pack work and jammer agility ended the first jam 15-0 in Brawl Saints’ favour, but Blitz Dames’ intense physicality set their opponents on the defensive. Trading power jams back and forth, it took everything Brawl Saints had to maintain their 30 point lead by half time.

Whatever Brawl Saints’ bench coach Sinister did at half time – fed them spinach, delivered a Mighty Ducks-style team speech – it lit a fire under them. Not long into the second half, they had almost double BBD’s score. Blitz Dames suffered a lot of penalties too, giving away more power jams than they’d have liked and keeping pack powerhouses largely out of action.

As the last seconds ticked down, Andracula scored lead in a tense race between the two jammers. The crowd gazed on as, hands poised above her hips, she watched the time tick away. But a blistering sprint from Blitz Dames’ Violet Attack forced her to call it with seconds to spare – and a quick time-out from Birmingham’s bench ensured that there’d be another jam.

The atmosphere was electric as Violet Attack and LRG’s Lil’ Bow Creep faced off on the jam line. But after a daring gambit for lead, BBD’s jammer was sent to the box for a cut. Creep fought her way to lead and swiftly called the jam, and the game, to an end.

THE ALL-STAR EUROCLASH

London Brawling 318 – 102 Euro All-stars

In recent years, Brawling have been tearing it up on the world derby scene and in the US. But there’s a huge amount of red-hot derby talent simmering to the surface in the rest of Europe too. That’s what 2015’s Euro All-Stars were out to prove.

Opening with Mainey vs Mort on the jam line, the Euro All-Stars’ athleticism seemed to catch Brawling off-guard. It was neck-and-neck for the first few minutes – 4-0 to Brawling, then 4-4, then 13-4, then 13-13, then a lead change to 13-16. A pair of Euro star-pass violations allowed Brawling jammers Lexi Lightspeed and Rogue Runner to rack up some serious points, bringing Brawling to 50 points before the Euros could score again.

Kid Block, Juke Boxx and Kristen Lee showcased a combination of power and agility that’d make any jammer’s life a misery, and points were hard won by the Euros. But they drew on the crowd’s support and that of their home teams in the audience and forged on.

The, um, interesting sportscourt surface impacted on both teams, with unpredictable skids turning run-of-the-mill blocks into pile-ups and racking up the penalties for both teams. Football players seem to love that floor, but it sure as hell wasn’t made for wheels.

Sandrine Rangeon fouling out at half time hurt the All-Stars chances, as did Stef Mainey’s wrecking-ball approach. Brawling experimented with new line-ups, putting Gaz and Juke out to jam and moving Mainey into the pack. For the Euros, incredible jamming from Nina Erwes, Mort and Attackbar made up for the absence of Rangeon, but it wasn’t quite enough.

The penultimate jam had the crowd on the edge of their seats as, 1m 14s in, there was still no lead jammer in a Gaz vs Erwes face-off. Eventually Erwes took it with rapturous applause from the crowd, bringing them to 101 with 1m 04s on the clock.

Lexi took lead in the last jam, and was even picked up off the floor and thrown back into the fray by Mainey at one point! But the real stars of the show were the adorable matching outfits worn by Brawling bench staff Ballistic Whistle and Kev. Professionalism might have been the look they were going for, but it read more father-and-son family business. It’s a hell of a business they’re running though.