All Change

A report from The Skateful Dead practice of 22 December, which I thought I’d published, but it’s been sat in draft since then. Oops!

We tried a new drill for the first time. Skating at a fair speed around the track the lead two would derby stop to inside and outside and then recycle as fast as possible to the back of the line. Then we did 27 in 5 which was good; I kept low and went fast :-)

Then we moved on to hitting practice, so I stopped – yeah, sciatic still not right. It looked like fun though. We borrowed some pads from Whitcliffe so people didn’t get completely battered. After some variation of left/right hitting we all lined up and everyone had a go had hitting Tony. It was his last practice session today as he’s moving on to play for Manchester Roller Derby. Thank you Tony for all the effort that you’ve put into Skateful Dead :-)

Then it was scrim time. As I wasn’t playing I got to “bench” for team black. It was five-a-side, so no rest between jams. It’s occasionally good to watch from the bench as you get a different perspective. The focus moves on what you’re doing/meant to be doing to seeing how the teams perform as a group. There was some really good play from both teams. Our walls can be really effective when they work; there was one jam where our wall held Ash for quite some time. I noticed Matt jamming and nicely slicing through our wall on one occasion. Tony O also did a monster hit on Ash and knocked him over.

We also had Carly and Rollverine from the Banditas skating with us today. It’s great when we have Banditas join us as they are so good.


I couldn’t make it to practice this weekend. However, Sunday afternoon found me at North Bridge Leisure Centre “NSOing”.

An Non Skating Official is one of the team involved with the administration of a roller derby bout. They perform a range of tasks, score keeping, penalty tracking and timing. I’ve never done it before, but when the Banditas but out a call on Facebook I jumped at the chance. Some have said that it can be boring, though I didn’t find it so. In any case I feel that it’s important to step up and do this kind of thing, I believe it’s part of belonging to the derby community.

This was a scrimmage was between Halifax Banditas and Rainy City Rollergirls. The Head NSO was Kim who plays for Wakey Wheeled Cats. She organised us all, provided sweets and gave clear guidance on what we needed to do. I was one of the three penalty box timers; timing a blocker pair.

A roller derby bout is 60 minutes, consisting of two 30 minute periods. Each of these is a series of “jams” that are no longer than 2 minutes each. If a player get penalised they spend a minute in the box. So that is what I was timing. It’s not quite so straight forward though. Jams can be shorter than 2 minutes and when they end then the penalty timers stop until the next jam starts. In addition the skater remains seated until they have 10 seconds remaining, at which point they stand. There is only space for two blockers from each team in the box, so if a third commits a foul it gets more complicated. Anyway, it went pretty well and I came away with a list of improvements for my penalty timer app.

How quickly did I learn the importance of calling colour and number when giving instructions? Two players with #147 in the box at the same time. Oops! No harm done.

After the first two periods the teams drew black/white discs and two new teams evolved each made up of a mixture of Banditas and Rainy City girls. (I was glad to be living by my “always carry a camera” rule as at this point I got asked to take photos of the mixed teams.) They then played a third period. This was followed by some hectic removing of the track and tidying the hall before a bit of a buffet in the bar.

A very enjoyable afternoon thank you!

Hull and Home

Hull Angels Roller Dames vs Sheffield Steel Rollergirls Crucibelles

This weekend started with a train ride over to Hull to take photos at this (closed) bout. Danni Mac, who plays for HARD, put out a call for photographers on Facebook a bit ago. I jumped at the chance, having missed an opportunity in November.

I arrived at Ennerdale Leisure Centre early and grabbed an very reasonably priced chip butty and a cup of tea. Then down to the sports hall. It was Sodium lighting, like we have in the main hall at Whitcliffe Mount. I know that it’s impossible to get the white balance correct under such lighting. Shoot RAW, you’ll be fine! #crossesfingers

There was a photographer there with the Crucibelles. We had a quick chat about the light and where we were allowed to stand inside the track. We got told that too.

Iron GiantThe atmosphere was lovely. Lots of laughter between players from both teams. It quickly became apparent that Iron Giant is one of those people that spreads happiness. In reviewing the photos I see it too, so many times.

When the jam starts she puts on her game face. She both jammed and blocked and succeeded at both. Of note was some excellent blocking against She Rarr.  It seems I may have a bit of a derby crush :-)

During half time the players sang as they skated round. (I don’t recall the song, but it was very good.) I can’t imagine blokes doing that, but it would be cool IMHO.

I’d not had chance to speak to D-Mac before or during the game, but caught up with her afterwards. I also got a lift back to the station (thanks, Danni, perfect timing for the train). She’s lovely too. We chatted about guest skaters (oops, heavy topic), injuries and other derby stuff.

For those interested in the stats I took 876 photos and used just 67. For each of those I fixed white balance in UFRaw before exporting to JPEG. The views on Flickr has exceeded anything I’ve ever seen; 16,865 since I posted them at around 1pm.

View the photo set on Flickr.


Sunday is Skateful Dead training day. Not so much to report from this.

Tony O and I arrived early. It had been suggested by the captain that we might want to feedback on last week’s bout. This didn’t really happen as planned. We had a quick chat after warm up and agreed that the team needs to work on stamina and improve fitness outside of training. Endurance drill followed. Then we practised some of the stuff that had done previously – jammer against two blockers, then full wall. Some bridging.

We scrimmaged, though numbers were low, so it was three blockers and a jammer per team. This is when I got injured. I was jamming and the opposing blocker was facing me, so I went for a hit. Unfortunately we collided shoulder to shoulder and I seem to have come off worst. I’m hoping that it won’t be so bad in the morning. #sigh

Right, off to bed to rest up, late start in the morning :-)


Skateful Dead vs Super Smash Brollers

Yesterday I was with The Skateful Dead as our official photographer. We were down in Nottingham to play the Super Smash Brollers. The Brollers won 226 to 181.

Buckingham Malice jamming for The Skateful DeadThe bout was, as I’m sure TV commentators would say, one of two halves. Buckingham Malice drew first blood with a 9 point jam. The team looked great. The walls were effective (all that practice was paying off) and our jammer was getting lead. I could hear the team shouting opposing jammer lane numbers and it was working! By the fifth jam we had 29 against 9 for SSB.

Super Smash Brollers jammer and blockers filling their penalty boxBrollers were suffering penalties, and this rewarded us with a handful of power jams. There was an official time out 20 minutes in to the first period. I took the opportunity to tweet the score of 87 for Skateful with the Brollers on 27. We extended that over the next ten minutes whilst holding the Brollers. The first period ended with a power jam for the Brollers taking their score to 58 against our 148.

(A note to those that don’t watch roller derby. A 90 point lead might sound good, but we didn’t consider it “comfortable”. A power jam (a jam in which there is only one jammer on track for some of the time) can net a team 20 or 30 points.)

In the second period the Brollers came out fighting. The played Jammy Dodger in probably every other jam. The tables turned. We got penalty after penalty, handing the Brollers power jam after power jam. It seemed, to me, that our jammers were exhausted. We’d scored 148 points in the first period and only managed 33 in the second. Brollers scored 58 in the first and 168 in the second. We have plenty to take away from the bout and it was played in good spirit. Thank you Brollers!

Super Smash Brollers celebrate their victory

Nottingham Roller Girls vs Hereford Rollers Girls

Following on from the men’s bout we had Nottingham Roller Girls versus Hereford Roller Girls. I still had my “official photographer” badge, so I stayed in the middle of the track and carried on shooting. (Childish it may be, but I do like a badge :-))

Thinking about it, my mind must have been in a completely different state watching the women play. I wasn’t attempting to live tweet the bout and I don’t know the final outcome. Nottingham won by about ten points I think. During the bout however I was utterly focused on taking photos. When Skateful were playing I was more engaged in the game, willing the team on to win.

A Hereford blocker getting launched at the Notting jammerPeople often say that the women’s game is different to the men’s. Clichéd, but I agree, though I’m just not quite sure how. There seemed to be much less shouting in the women’s bout, but perhaps I just wasn’t tuned into it? I think that generally the female players are more nimble then the men. I feel that the jammers get to a wall, momentarily get held up and then skip around/through and are one their way. They are cleaner players – from memory I’d say that there was only one power jam in the bout. There were some good hits, and I captured one excellent sacrifice of a blocker in an attempt to take out a jammer.

I also noticed a formation of three wall that we’ve not practised – like a cyclops but in a two/one formation. (It obviously can’t be called a cyclops!)

Nottingham Roller Girls

Some (mildly) interesting notes regarding the photography. I took 825 photos during the day. Many of these are sequences. With these it is usually only a single image that makes it to Flickr. The one where the player doesn’t have his/her eyes closed, the referee/NSO didn’t get in the way and the image is in focus. So I discard many of the images.

When selecting images I try to avoid (too many) duplicates of the same person. Jammers get their photo taken all the time! I also try to make sure that I’ve got at least one photo of all of the players, though it’s not always possible.

I worked through those of the men’s bout on Sunday morning and the women’s late evening. I have ended up, quite by accident, with 54 photos in the first set and 56 in the second. (Two of the men left before the awards, so that would have made it 56.)

Carly, making her debut appearance as a refereeFinally, a special mention for our very own Carly Jane. It was her début appearance as a derby referee this weekend. Not an easy start as she faced a tough call in our bout. During the second period, when we were losing, our jammer cut track. She called the penalty. This is absolutely the right thing to do of course, but it still can’t have felt comfortable. Well done Carly!