We checked the records and exactly a year ago, to this day, a group of overly excited, wobbly would-be roller derby players were strapping on skates, gagging on cheap mouth guards and trying to figure out which way their knee pads went as they assembled at Green Park Station.
Yep, Bath Roller Derby Girls first ever session was exactly a year ago - which means our little league has officially made it through its first year and turns one today! What a ridiculously amazing year it's been...
The Dawn Of Time
Displaying Spartan levels of stoic badassery, we soldiered through the dark initial days - skating in a freezing former railway station, never flinching as we pulled splinter after splinter from our bums, and maintaining a zen-like tolerance of the little kids who kicked footballs at us while we stretched out...
It took a huge effort to get the league off the ground, and we owe a big thank you to Bristol Roller Derby at that time, for the loan of their spare kit, and for their help coaching sessions way back at the beginning - especially Tess, Matt and Jet. We count ourselves very lucky to have such awesome derby neighbours.
I think even with the puddles, and the passing drunks and the massive sign that said "No Skating" and attracted many a disapproving OAP, we knew we were on to a good thing...
Winter Is Coming: The Nomadic Days
It is a truth universally acknowledged that you shouldn't have to wear gloves and a scarf to training. Green Park was open to the elements and we started to freeze. The nights drew in and our epic quest for a permanent home began... Drawing a blank with Bath's halls, we started a nomadic existence, shuttling between Frome and Corsham venues.
The winter months ticked by, and we started to ramp up the social side of the league. We had an awesome Christmas social (ice skating - our time at Green Park had not prepared us for this as well as we thought it might) and held our first ever Booze and Bearings night. It was probably around this time that we started to realise quite how big a role roller derby was going to play in our lives, as whole weekends got swallowed by training, traveling to watch bouts and generally getting drunk together discussing the finer tactical points of the sport. Our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, pets and children huddled hungry in cold, unlit houses - shivering, remembering happier times...
The Tro-Bo Diaries
The floor at Corsham got worse every week, and with new skaters swelling our ranks, we'd outgrown Frome and it's lethal hidden stacks of furniture. The next move was to Trowbridge; home of the lovely, lovely floor of dreams. Suddenly 25 in 5 didn't seem like such an impossible task - we started passing Minimum Skills! We've come on in leaps and bounds since we've been skating here - and aside form the amazing dedication of our own coaches, we also need to thank folks for the fantastic guest coaching we've received from Kid Block and Boba Fettish of the Tiger Bay Brawlers and the ladies ofSeven Roller Torrent (especially Fear, who is awesome.)
With a bunch of us Min Skills passed, we also started preparing to take on other real life roller girls. Ho. Lee. Sheet. We had to kick things up a gear: this called for a training montage!
We popped our cherry to the Devon Clotted Screamers. What can I say, you never forget your first. We've remained really good friends with these girls - if you ever get a chance to play them, or just hang out, jump at it. They are brilliant. We love you Screamers!
Fresh Meat Delivery!
And suddenly it was time to recruit Fresh Meat! This was amazing, and felt like such a huge step! Our 10 week course was fully booked, with a waiting list - and we were blown away by the tenacity, enthusiasm and sheer brilliance of our new recruits.
Taking charge of all training was our beloved HC Blondage - who roams the globe like some kind of roller derby Gandalf, sprinkling magic and cider on everyone she passes (last spotted in Amsterdam, killing it on Team No Sleep.) Fresh Meat aced the course, graduating to league training at the end of the 10 weeks with no problem at all - we can't wait to get everyone up to Min Skills level and skating out with us.
It's been brilliant to see Bath Roller Derby grow from a couple of girls nursing pints around a pub table and talking about starting something, to 35+ regular skaters, refs and NSOs. We celebrated their graduation in style with a Debutantes Crawl...
Some Other Highlights...
Our darling Wheelia Smith got WED! She didn't even slack off training to avoid wedding picture arm bruises! We gave her a suitably epic send off, and still got up the next morning to run the Bath Race For Life.
This is a video of the first big 'derby weekend' we spent together as a team: fantastic South West bout, Booze & Bearings party, topped off with a training session. Phew.
Another HUGE deal was our Derby Come Dine With Me contest! Designed to get the whole team mixing (and fat) - for months on end we threw and attended some of the best themed dinner parties known to man...
We also had a lot of fun supporting our beloved Petra "Petra's Gonna Get Ya" Bomb in her own bout with the Harbour Harlots Bees!
There's SO MUCH MORE I could add to this already epic post - but if I don't stop writing soon then it will be tomorrow, and no longer our 1 Year Derbyversary... To sum up and hopefully without getting too mushy; Bath Roller Derby is pretty much the greatest thing I've ever been involved with. It's made the last year one of the best of my whole life, and I know its introduced me to people who I'll be friends with until I'm an old, old lady, looking approvingly on at kids skating in places where skating is forbidden.
A huge thank you to everyone who's coached us, supported our fundraisers, driven us to training, traveled to play with us, slapped ice packs on our bruises, cheered us on and generally made the last 12 months all the fun they've been.
I can't wait to see what the next year holds for Bath Roller Derby. Love and shoves, everyone - happy birthday BRDG x.
Words: Hell Cat
Photos: Assorted BRDG!
Videos: Hell Cat
This blog is regularly updated with all the goings on of Bath Roller Derby!