Earlier this month, there was some considerable excitement in the Scottish roller derby community as a crowd-funder launched to support a new Junior Roller Derby club in Glasgow: Resistance Roller Derby.
This excitement wasn't simply because Junior derby itself is relatively rare in Scotland still; Resistance Roller Derby aims to be something more than that, with commitments to be a specifically inclusive LGBTI space built into its founding principles.
To find out more, we talked to founders Feminist Killjoy and Fever.
So, you guys sort of burst into visibility from almost invisibility... How long have you been planning Resistance Roller Derby?
Killjoy: Erm…. [since] May?
Fever: Yeah, several months.
Killjoy: The idea of … I have been, internally, thinking about how to make Juniors happen in Glasgow, since UKROC 2014. Which was, I guess, November that year.
Fever: I'd been thinking about the need for a specifically… we'd both independently been thinking about this thing…
Killjoy:…making some kind of space of this nature, with an LGBTI focus of roller derby, Queer-focussed roller derby. Inclusive Roller Derby. Junior Roller Derby.
But definitely, that was I went to a workshop in UKROC2014, got excited by it, but then thought "no, if someone wants to do this, they really have to do that thing". And didn't really think about it again for a long time.
And then we [looks at Fever] were discussing earlier this year…
Fever: I think we were discussing. Yeah, because I was looking at, I was more thinking about Inclusive spaces in Roller Derby, and the fact that there really isn't something there, at least not what I wanted, and we thought "what if we made this thing".
Killjoy: Yeah, I think there was a desire on behalf of both of us to tap back into some of the ways that Roller Derby actually could be genuinely revolutionary; as opposed to something which started in a revolutionary way, and is maybe …
Fever: …drifting sideways…
Killjoy: … in the wrong direction…
Fever: …becoming more like every other sport.[laughs]
Killjoy: And so we thought that maybe embedding more of the anarchist principles of.. [for example] being financially inclusive, in that that's an issue with roller derby, of the costs. The idea is to be inclusive, and oppose all axes of oppression, as much as it possible can be.
And I think also being explicitly, and radically, Queer, is something that [is important]. Of course, Roller Derby is miles ahead of so many other sports already in that kind of inclusion, but the need for spaces which say, right up, this for you, this is what we're here for...
Fever: [This space] is for you, rather than … you're not a side-, an after-, thought that we're happy to take along, it is for you.
Killjoy: "We're not against homophobia, against transphobia, we're for people who are [LGBTQI]".
— Because, as you've said, Roller Derby is pretty inclusive compared to most sports for LGBTI, and also other areas of discrimination, say mental health. We've had, for example, the engagement of Auld Reekie Roller Girls (and other leagues) with the Rainbow Laces campaign, the existence of various exhibition teams (Vagine Regime, but also Crazy Legs, Metal Legs and so on)
Are you moving beyond merely being inclusive, to doing something specifically for those minorities?
Killjoy: Yeah, I think it's about not just saying it's inclusive, but practically embedding those values into the structure, the culture itself. So, [laughs] in terms of policies, the [roller derby] clubs which already exist have been built on a kind of sports-club model, that include things like attendance polices, which are particularly limiting for people who struggle with mental health issues, or various disabilities...
Fever: ..or just financially can't get to practice that week, or having disruption due to home or just can't maintain a regular attendance..
Killjoy: so lots of these things that are, and even in league leadership positions that are, when you see how they're like "Club Presidents" and the ways that decision making happens, even though it is democratic, it is not always collectivist. And so I think it's about radical inclusivity as opposed to just being a safe space, or being an inclusive space..
Fever: And there's also the fact that, as an adult, you can kind of seek out these kind of spaces. But specifically in Glasgow, for young people, there are very very few places where it is safe to be Queer and Trans, and particularly spaces that aren't sexualised or alcohol-based.
This is a provision which doesn't exist very much, especially in a sports kind of venue, where you have the opportunity for like, body-positivityandconfidence-buildingandskillsandcreating a community that just, so I think it's just, the age group is really important, because it's a group which really doesn't have that view of the world and doesn't really have access to the adult roller derby leagues in the way that people over 18 do.
Killjoy: Yeah, and also in terms of collectivism in an intergenerational sense as well, (I say "intergenerational", but I'm only 23!) , it's just a spectrum of age, so in terms of decision making, in terms of the voice of a 12-year old who's just joined the club being as important to the decision making as us two.
All of those things help to build a culture, but also to sustain these attitudes of collectivism. The thing we've been saying is that "we elevate each other", and the idea is that if we can help to kickstart a culture, that hopefully will sustain itself, then that's really supportive.
Fever: Yeah, maybe some young person will understand that they're valued, their opinion matters, they have a direct say in this thing that they feel really important, and that's maybe an attitude that , with that support, they can carry on in advocating for themselves, in other areas of their life. In their school, or in other places where they're not treated to maybe entirely fairly, and it gives them that backup and that support system and that awareness that they are entitled to equal treatment, they are entitled to a voice.
So, it's equally not just a Queer-inclusive space, but also a directly Collectivist one, what the Scottish Green Party call "radical democracy".
Killjoy: Yeah, it's not a process, it's consultation; it's about let's see what you want. When the community exists, it'll be about people making decisions for themselves.
So, obviously, it's the two of us just now who have been planning this, but the reason it's been in our heads and not in the world for most of the time it's existed as a concept is because we were really trying to take the time to make sure that our governing document, our policies, and the kind of things that are the bones of the community and the thing itself, exist as something external from us, external from the club when it does exist, whoever is a part of it, and that hopefully that is something that can be in collective ownership, rather than...
Fever: It is intended to be self-sustaining, so we took a long time to work on everything, to make sure that when it came into the world it was something that existed in its own right, and we do need funding to start it, but it already has a form that is external to us.
On that note, we should talk about the crowdfunder! Apart from its existence in itself, can we talk about what it will be funding specifically? As the Target money is quite low, people might be concerned about…
Fever: sustainability! Yeah...
Killjoy: The first key cost, to allow us to just begin, is insurance. I've been looking at costing, talking to other junior derby leagues, on the insurance premiums they paid in their first year, and in an ongoing way, we know how expensive that is; that's part of the cost that's factored in.
Fever: Basically, the goal of the fundraiser is: in order to apply for sports funding, or register as a proper charity, in order to do all the things that allow us to grow, you first have to exist as a thing that is happening, which is offering training, that has young people using your service. So the goal of the fundraiser, and the reason why it's not a huge target is because that's basically the starting money we need to get our insurance, get kit, take in our small first intake, and become a Thing that Exists. That is offering this service to young people in Glasgow. Once we're a thing that exists, we can apply for other funding, we can look at becoming a proper charity, we can grow from there.
But essentially, this is just to get us our first intake off the ground.
Killjoy: I think, we don't want to... it would be hypocritical of us to be asking for a lot of money from people who are in the roller derby community, given that our whole kind of thing is that the sport as a whole should be financially accessible. [pause] It is just true that most of the people that will be giving to this fundraiser are people who are already a part of the roller derby community.
And so, asking that community to part with significant sums of money is quite presumptuous. Our intention is to be …
Killjoy: Yeah. We need this kind of support to get going, and obviously, however much we can raise is brilliant, and if people want to give what they can give, but it's not for us to be like "we need this amount of money and then we'll be …"
Fever: ..."here's two years of running costs and we'll try and raise this", that isn't what we're trying. This is just what we need to get started, and we can take it from there.
Killjoy: We'll be doing fundraising scrimmage.
Fever: Yeah, we've got monthly scrimmages planned for fundraising - adult pickup scrimmages with skaters from other derby leagues, officials training that we're going to do as part of that, we have ongoing fundraising plans.
Killjoy: And through small-grant funding, as we hopefully get more distribution. Sports clubs, especially for young people, operate as charities which is our intention. If we can get access to the kind of funds that are coming from these big trusts, these big grant-awarding-bodies, even with small funds, external money, public funding, these kind of things, those funds are there and it makes more sense for us to be trying to source funding from that kind of avenue.
Fever: Yeah, rather than from people from the community. There's such a need for this kind of provision, and there's so little of it, that it is definitely a good funding opportunity, once it is a thing which actually exists in the world.
- So, you've said fundraising bouts and adult pickup scrims... will Resistance be mostly Recreational, or are you planning any competitive component?
Killjoy: I think our intention is to allow the league to be shaped by the people who skate regularly with the league. It's impossible for us to say right now how how it would look like a year from now, or three years from now. I think... people who play roller derby now in the sport are looking for so many different things, and any given group of people that are coming together to play roller derby might have different ambitions and different goals in that regard. Maybe if we begin with an intake, for example let's just say that they're all 12 to 14, five years from now, those people are going to be thinking about adult roller derby. And maybe [Resistance is] going to have to be a thing which moves in that direction, or maybe people will be very comfortable with aging into the other leagues which are available in Glasgow, so I think it's impossible for us to say.
Definitely, in terms of how we aim to begin, in terms of the way in which adults can be involved as skaters, it's definitely a recreational, learning, scrimmage environment
Fever: yeah, 'cause we're gonna, we're definitely beginning as a youth league, but we'll have adults at our monthly scrimmages, with the intention of doing learning, training, but mostly fundraising for the continued [support]
Killjoy: And in terms of.. there obviously is a competitive junior roller derby community... not in Scotland...
- There is one other junior team in Scotland...
Killjoy: There is, and we would love to be in a position [to work with them].
Fever: I mean, if they want to end up as a junior buddy league, if that's what the young people want, then we'll go in that direction.
Killjoy: If they want to play other teams, there are junior leagues popping up all over the place. I don't think we're saying we're Recreational in that we can only bout internally or scrimmage internally or anything like that, if people want us to move towards being travelling and playing other places or...
Fever: Yeah, we'll grow where the young people want to grow to basically.
Killjoy: But we're not approaching this from the idea that "this is how we get top-level roller derby elite athletes, start them young and then …"
Fever: train them
— You're not an incubator.
Fever: We are not an incubator. We're very much about the experience of being in the league, at that point in that person's life, and the value to the person in that. We're not about what value that person might be to other roller derby leagues in the future, because that's a really weird [both laugh] way to be looking at it.
Killjoy: I work in sports inclusion, in my day-to-day life, and work with LGBTI young people, and one of the things they always get excited by, is when I talk about the fact that I'm involved in roller derby. And, it's always frustrating to them to then have me explain that do this for three years, or this is a sport you can only access as a spectator, or you can't even [pause]
Fever: I mean even NSOs…
Killjoy: Because of insurance, yeah. Most adult leagues' insurance doesn't really cover having juniors as NSOs. So, being able to be a space where…
Fever: They can be part of this really awesome thing, because roller derby's pretty great! And a lot of young people are really really interested in it, so.
— So, can we talk about what it is about Roller Derby that interests the young people that you [Killjoy] talk to?
Killjoy: For the people, I feel like I'm just going to end up repeating myself, but for a lot of queer kids, like, queerness is something that's politicised, roller derby is so much more inclusive than other sports.
The fact that, I work with a lot of transgender young people, and the fact that they can be talking to a transgender adult who's having a great time in as mainstream a version of the sport - it's not fringe roller derby that's inclusive, it's roller derby that's inclusive. So I think the sport as a whole is a major attraction in that sense.
I think the fact that the roots of the sport are fundamentally feminist is particularly attractive for anyone who's ever considered gender politics.
I think all of those reasons are reasons for teenagers, particularly people who are at an age where they are beginning to simultaneously recognise and be able to articulate a lot of the ways in which they are being marginalised and disenfranchised by the structures which exist in our society, but are also coming into an age where they're being able to identify their own agency within those systems, so these little kind of pockets and things that they can see that are inherently equipped to be a part of that challenge but at the same time being a nurturing space it's not like jumping into the front line of some kind of political...
Fever: You get to come and skate with your pals.
Killjoy: Its a symbiotic kind of relationship, I give to a movement but also get so much from it.
—So, last topic: Why Resistance Roller Derby?
Killjoy: I just have one answer, it's going to be repeating myself! Because it's about resisting! I think we don't want to be polite about the fact that we're here as a direct challenge to a lot of the social structures and …
Fever: All the terrible things that we do to teenagers.
Killjoy: [laughing slightly] …the terrible things that we do to teenagers. The terrible things that the world does to poor people. All of the things that we just kind of accept with "this is the way it has to be, this is the way you do things" I think we don't want to be quiet about the fact that we're angry about those things.
— That's a fair answer.
Fever: Because, being a teenager is quite often not fun. Being a queer, trans teenager is worse. Yeah, it depends on school environment, it depends on family, but it can be terrible, and it can be an environment that you're stuck in for years, that you have very little power over and very little ability to get out of, and within that struggling with all these things. We're just offering a space where you're allowed to acknowledge that those are challenges that you're facing, and hopefully gain support and gain confidence and in… resisting those things.
— Yes, one of the issues for trans or queer kids, must be the societial assumption that you can't know you have a non-cis identity, or a non-straight orientation, until you're an adult of whatever "default" gender you appear to be.
Killjoy: It's a fucked up sexual politics, which kind of equates the idea of having a gender identity with having sexuality. Which is really kind of messed up. But I think that's also something that it's very important for us to acknowledge, there's no gatekeeping, there's no quiz, there's no "fill in this form and tell us all the ways you're gay" [Fever laughs], we're going to be really explicit about why we're here, and it's up for people to - we trust people to know themselves.
Fever: If you feel like this is the space for you; then we're here for you. Whatever form of fluidity within that space that you need to be a part of, it's up to you.
The Resistance Roller Derby Indiegogo is still raising funds here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/resistance-roller-derby-glasgow-lgbt--2/#/
You will also, as mentioned, be able to sign up for regular donations via Paypal here, soon: http://resistancerdg.tumblr.com/support