In November 2010, three friends decided to try to set up a local roller derby league, and Fierce Valley Roller Girls was born. I spoke to the league founders, V for Vienetta, Grizabelta and Kirk Jammett, for their thoughts on the last five years.
What prompted you to establish Fierce Valley Roller Girls, and how did you get started?
V: I had been following ARRG for a while and was interested in derby then after finaly seeing a bout I took Griz and Kirk through to see ARRG's next one. I quickly realised I wanted to be involved in some way with roller derby in Scoland and started to look into learning to ref. At this time Scotland only had leagues in Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Glasgow and Edinburgh and we joked about starting one in Falkirk, the joke continued on for a couple of weeks where it then started to become more serious and then before we knew it we were looking into equipment, finding out about rules, skating, training and trying to find a hall to put this all together.
G: Our own laziness! V had convinced Kirk and myself to go along to an ARRG bout, and we were instantly hooked. We spent the entire journey home discussing how we could go about getting involved, but living in Falkirk, our nearest leagues were Edinburgh and Glasgow. I already spent a lot of time out the house with my other hobbies (outwith derby I'm a band geek and hospital radio DJ!) so wasn't keen to add more travelling to my week, and eventually 'if only there was something closer' turned into 'we could make this happen if we try'. It was really the boys' vision – but as a predominately female sport at the time, they thought it a bit inappropriate to approach sports halls on their own to try and bring this amazing women's sport to Forth Valley – which is where my involvement really came in! As the radio station is a small charity, I was fortunate to have the knowledge behind me of how to run not-for-profit organisations (or at least know the principles of how to run one!). We managed to convince Bo'ness Recreation Centre to let us skate around for a bit, and after a meeting in a pub to gather some interest – Fierce Valley Roller Girls was born!
K: Marco has been pestering us to go to a - then bout - with him, so we finally took up the chance to go see ARRG play. Then followed a rather excited train journey home about what names we could have, and if we could really create our own league in the falkirk area. A few weeks went by and I got in contact with Marco again and said that if he was serious about starting it to count me in.
What difficulties did the league face in the early days? V: I would say our main difficulty much like any other derby league at that time was getting a hall to practice in. We went round visiting all of the local sports centres/halls speaking to the managers to no avail, we even looked into other halls in the hope of someone letting us. For a while there was a real fear that we would never be able to get somewhere but thankfully Bo'ness Sports Centre said yes.
G: Getting a hall! So many halls had inappropriate floors, and those that didn't were reluctant to let us skate. Bo'ness used to host roller hockey, so we took a chance with asking them, and thankfully they said yes – but even then only for a trial period. Back then we couldn't afford a full hall either- we had 2/3 of a hall, with a net wheel trap!!
K: The basics - getting a hall that was happy to let us skate in without damaging the floor. So we gathered as much information about the sport, and the different requirements needed to play the sport and tried every hall we could think of to let us just skate on their floor before we even considered the basics of roller derby and getting others interested. Weeks and weeks of every free moment contacting, and researching halls in the area to either be ignored or told ‘no’. 2 men turning up and saying we’re looking to start an all female sport in the area was confronted with many confused expressions. However we decided to give Bo’Ness Sports centre a stop by one day just to see - even though we’d been advised they’d banned skating in their halls. We gave the centre manager the run down on what we needed, and what our plans were going forward, he was kind enough to give us a tour of the halls available, and then offered us a 6 or 12 week probation to make sure there were no issues. And we never got kicked out.
What roles did you play, and how have these changed over time? V: For the first three years I was quite involved in the running of the league as the vice chair, I was also on a few different committee's including our Sports and Training. As time went on and as I got involved in Men's Derby I took less to do with the running of the league but am still involved in different committees within FVRG and find myself helping to train our new refs.
G: I think I've done everything and everything haha! Managerial-wise – I held the position of Chairperson for FVRG's first 4 years, which was amazingly rewarding and frustrating all at the same time! I took a step down last year to arrange my wedding, but also because I think you do get to a point where you just start to run out of ideas – you need that different perspective for a while. I'm now one of FVRG's UKRDA reps, which I'm still very much adjusting to – the whole 'big fish small pond' to 'small fish big pond' thing! Front-of-house so to speak, I started off as a skater (it's really odd seeing old pictures of my in my Parma Violents top!) but used to get far too nervous and basically just get jelly legs and spend all my time on the ground... Tried my hand at line-up manager a couple of times, and did a few games as bench coach, but then I settled as a full time NSO. NSOing was just something I started doing so I didn't have to sit on my own while Kirk and V were reffing, so I'm always slightly baffled as to where it's taken me!
K: Being the people with the crazy notion of starting this we got voted in as Chairperson, Vice Chair, and board member at our first AGM in Weatherspoons in Falkirk that memorable November evening. With relatively low numbers we took on a lot of other tasks, such as sourcing designers to come up with our branding, then obtaining our first range of merchandise. Where possible we focused on keeping these to local businesses to help the area as well. While the structure of the league has remained - if not grown - things are generally run in a similar manner, but with more and more experience coming into the league and taking on the different board, and spokesperson positions which are available.
How has the league grown over the past five years? V: FVRG has grown in so many different ways and that is all thanks to its members. We started as a handful of people in half a hall skating once a week to a league filed with skaters, refs, dedicated NSOs and off skate members. We run 4 sessions a week covering all skating levels within the league. Our bouting team is sought after to be played against and has risen sharply up the rankings in the last couple of years and our officials travel all over reffing derby at different levels.
G: We've certainly got a lot more structure – we're run more like a business now than just a group of friends muddling along.
K: Oh whoa! How has it grown! From 5 people skating in a badminton court in Bo’Ness to 4 regular training sessions spanning all levels of skating, to continually growing our knowledge and numbers in not only skaters but officials. And while we see friends moving on to bigger things, personally and in derby, our little league keeps pulling in the numbers and growing all of the time.
What are your personal highlights and proudest moments? V: It has been great to see the league build up from its formation and its members develop in their roles and watching the team grow from their first bout to now.
G: It's always hard to single out a particular moment – I'm always proud of what our members achieve, on and off track. What does warm my heart though is when I see the friendships that have been formed through FVRG – people who are now the best of friends, who may never have met if they hadn't taken a chance on coming along to a Fresh Meat session one time. Or the transformation of those who are so quiet when they join, to becoming a confident and assertive individual.
K: Personal highlights? Working with the vast number of amazing officials in Scotland, and somehow moving from just standing up in my skates to being picked to represent Scotland’s officials at the first Men's World Cup in Birmingham. While it’s been a lot of work to get to this stage, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without everyone who has given me feedback and having the faith in me. Proudest moments, would be seeing what seemed like a crazy idea one afternoon has become something not only we can be proud of, but everyone in the league who keeps pushing the league forward. That and seeing referees who I’ve helped train go on to do amazing once let loose on the world.
You were all involved in the first ever Men's Roller Derby World Cup, as officials and as a skater - how was this experience for you? V: It was such an honour and privilege to play and represent Power of Scotland at the first Men's Roller derby World Cup. Between the training on the run up to and the actual world cup, it is an experience I could never forget as there are so many fond memories. The camaraderie between all the teams/skaters was amazing with everyone helping each other out, I got to meet and skate with/against some amazing people from all over the world and the atmosphere between us all in the team area just bfore the closing ceremony was unforgettable.
G: Amazing! To get to work with some of the best officials in the world, while seeing some of the best men's skaters in the world – I think I spent the entire time starstruck! I was very much the newbie in my crew (when we introduced ourselves it was lots of 'I'm xxx, Head Ref/HNSO of xxx', it came round to me and I was like 'I'm Griz, and I like to NSO'!!) but I learned so much from them and they looked after me amazingly well, especially during what ended up being a quite challenging time personally for me.
K: So many different emotions happened that weekend. From feeling like the least experienced person in my crew - A lot of high level referees were on my crew. To being given amazing feedback on my refereeing, to then some stressful stuff happening closer to home, to then being picked to work on the last 3 games for my crew. Embarrassment, and a lot of laughter at the support I was getting from back home. I still look back at that weekend and love all of it. One of the hardest parts was being part of the crowed during the PoS and America game and staying completely impartial. Also, I missed every single Scottish point - every time I left the track they scored! My crew was up next so I couldn’t hang around and watch.
What advice would you give to a new league starting out? V: I think the best advice would be not to rush and take your time. Build up your league and tune those skating skills so you are all ready to play together as a team, it can be tempting to start playing before you are all ready. Also make friends and build bridges with other leagues, you never know how much help they will be able to give you and how much you may need them in the future.
G: Be prepared for a lot of hard work! There are a number of reasons why people want to start a new league, but there will always end up being policies that need to be written, meetings to be had – and no matter what you do, you'll never please everyone all of the time!
K: Take as much advice as you can. It’s hard, it’s stressful, it takes all of your time and hard work, but seeing so many happy faces make it worth it. You’re going to make mistakes a long the way, and recognising and learning from them will help move the league forward. Most importantly, have fun.
How would you like to see FVRG develop in the future? V: I would like to see FVRG keep pushing forward and building their team and experience whilst developing all their upcoming skaters, hopefully long term get a 2nd team and who knows, even join WFTDA.
G: Well our goal for now is to work towards becoming a WFTDA league – but that has been our goal from the outset and it will take as long as it needs to take. We've spent a lot of work in the past year determining our vision, mission statement and values, and everything we do ties into these, so we're becoming much more aware of how the little things we do tie into the bigger picture. I'm always really proud of our community involvement too, so I'm hoping this will continue! And of course, I just want everyone to enjoy being part of FVRG, no matter what role they play :)
K: While there are the obvious ones of continuing to climb the rankings in Europe and UKRDA, and also joining WFTDA, just being where the league needs to be at that point in time.