What a weekend! The two days of UKROC at the University of Warwick in Coventry have been some of the most positive, and productive, during my time in roller derby.
The idea for a UK-based conference came out of UK league discussions at EROC. Attendees had felt like they had got a lot out of those sessions, and they wanted to see something similar on offer in the UK. So the UKRDA decided to take on the task of putting together a UK conference, with the help of many people from leagues around the country, who brought in speakers, arranged sponsorship, helped with PR, ticket sales, competitions, booking the venue and making arrangements, basically every job that goes into arranging an event of this scope.
Even with all the many hours of work put in by every person in the organising crew, I have to admit, in the run up to the event, I had some apprehensions. Would people show up? Would they feel that they got value for money? Were we offering the right sessions? Looking at the schedule I felt sure that people would be happy with the first UKROC, but you never know how things will be received.
We managed to get some massive names from the sport involved – from Bette Noir, who founded London Rollergirls, to Bloody Mary, the executive director of the WFTDA – but we also tried to include people who were less well-known, but provided a wide range of skills that would be helpful to league organisers and skaters.
Among the Scottish representation speaking over the course of the weekend was Glasgow Roller Derby's Mistress Malicious (who is the chair of the UKRDA), myself and ARRG's Crazylegs, whose session on coaching skaters through their minimum skills received a lot of positive feedback.
Delegates from Scotland also included people from GRD, ARRG, Fierce Valley Roller Girls, Dundee Roller Girls, Mean City and Doonhame Derby Dolls. It was great to see so many people from north of the border making the long trip south. Although for some of us, the excuse to stop at Tebay was a big part of that!
Some of the most popular sessions over the weekend were Kitty DeCaptitate's team cohesion and mental prep talks, a session on conflict resolution led by Hannibal Lecturer of Kent Roller Girls, who teaches HR in her day job and was able to bring that knowledge and make it relevant to roller derby, and Bette Noir's creatively titled “Herding Cats and Preparing for Tomorrowland”.
Other sessions focused on bout production and filming bouts, using social media to promote your league, organising tournaments, and face to faces with the UKRDA directors, the president of MRDA, Grambo, and WFTDA's Bloody Mary. Grambo and Bloody also attended a lot of sessions to listen in, and it was great to see them putting their views and opinions forward.
The University of Warwick surroundings were welcoming and delegates enjoyed fantastic meals and snacks over the weekend, and a setting that encouraged people from different leagues to sit together and chat about some of the themes of the sessions and make connections which will hopefully last long after UKROC.
What was clear throughout the weekend was that everyone was enthusiastic about seeing their leagues, and the wider derby community, grow and develop to the next level. The veteran leagues were happy to share their experience with the newer leagues, who were happy to accept any advice and offers of help that came their way. FVRG's Dita Von Cheese held that the event was "brilliant, absolutely buzzing with new ideas and skills to share with the league back home", and was enthusiastic to would return again next time
The attendees, attentive. (MDP Images)
One of the biggest positives for me was the engagement of the mens' leagues in attendance. At the UKRDA we have been trying to get them more involved and find out what they want to see for the development of the sport for men, and getting them together in a mens' league face to face was the ideal way to achieve that. They are now working together to decide what their priorities are moving forward, in a way that us telling them what they should want would never have achieved. Mean City's BruiseDog echoed this perspective, telling us that "UKROC was exciting and informative; from a men's derby perspective I found it really useful to discuss the challenges and the potential solutions face to face with other [men's derby] leagues, and our female counterparts."
Since UKROC, the feedback has been almost universally positive. With the event in its infancy, we had all hoped that we would have a successful event, but I don't think any of us believed that it would go as well as it did.
As for next year? At this point, the organisers are hopeful that UKROC 2015 will be a goer, but we are looking at funding possibilities before we commit to doing it again!