Whilst on a general level, 2016 has been labelled a bad year (perhaps unfairly - it's been a mixed bag, it's just that the negatives have been big and prominent, and the positives less so), for Roller Derby, in Scotland and World wide, it's been pretty good.
We're capping off the year by talking about the things that happened in the past 12 months, first in Scotland (page 1) and secondly across the World (page 2), before rounding up our hopes for 2017 (page 3).
ScotlandScottish Roller Derby continued to Grow: several new leagues popped up, which we recently brought to you [Inverclyde Roller Derby, Orkney ViQueens, West Lothian Roller Derby, Glasgow Men's Roller Derby and Resistance Roller Derby] and others continued to grow. Ayrshire Roller Derby had their first public bout (against Lothian Derby Dolls) as did Granite City Brawlers and GMRD, and Helgin Roller Derby and the renewed Fair City Rollers have scheduled their (joint) first bout for next year (if we were to bet, we'd expect Doonhame Roller Derby to be the next to be bout-ready). Scotland's only bouting junior derby team, Fierce Valley Roller Cubs, also played their first ever interleague bout, against a mixed team from Sheffield and Newcastle. Even the larger leagues continued to expand, with Auld Reekie Roller Girls' ASTROs founded this year, and taking the number of ARRG travel teams to 3. As our Auld Reekie review shows, the whole league had a pretty good year, with the All-Stars qualifying for WFTDA Division 2 playoffs (after an impressive performance at The Big O in the USA), and sensibly declining in favour of working on longer term goals.
Further north, both Dundee Roller Girls and Granite City Roller Derby had very good years as well. Both leagues' A-teams performed impressively in their Divisions at British Champs (Granite City qualifying for promotion to Tier 3 from Tier 4, and Dundee just missing out on the promotion to Tier 2 at the Tier-3 playoffs). Whilst Dundee has withdrawn from Champs to focus on their national and international game (especially after playing their first international away, in Tenerife, just scant weeks ago), Granite City will indeed be in Tier 3 of Champs next year, alongside Auld Reekie's Reserves! The two leagues' B-teams also had very good years, with Dundee's Bonnie Colliders winning basically every bout they played until ARRG's ASTROs late in the year, and GCRD's Fight Hawks playing three times as much derby as they did in 2015.
In the Central Belt, Bairn City Rollers' Skelpies managed a few bouts, despite many of them also making Power of Scotland, which prevented them taking fixtures in the first half of the year!. Alongside GMRD, they'll be joining the British Champs Men's T3 in 2017, and we expect good things of them. Meanwhile, BCR's Central Belters continued their own upward rise in the rankings - a win against the newly-reformed Furness Firecrackers sealing that trend for the year, and setting the Belters the challenge of maintaining expectations in 2017 (the problem with upward growth is that people start expecting it to never stop!). The open-gender Belter Skelpers had a much quieter year, taking on just Mean City's coed-team and then hosting Granite City Brawlers and friends for BCR's 4th Anniversary event.
Speaking of Mean City, they were also extremely busy this year, hosting a vast range of events, including double-headers supporting Power of Scotland. With the growth of coed leagues in Scotland (several of our newer non-bouting leagues are open), hopefully Mean City will have an even busier year next year!
Of course, the Scottish Men's National Team, Power of Scotland also had a very big year, representing well at the Men's Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary, placing a creditable 10th, just below the tournament's surprise unseeded upset of Mexico. Several members of the 2016 team are also now involved with Team Scotland Roller Derby, who will be hoping (along with PoS) to represent the nation strongly in 2018.
That's not to say that there weren't some wobbles in Scottish Derby: due to an unfortunate series of retirements, Glasgow Roller Derby has spent the season with a very different roster to 2015, resulting in the 2015 British Champs Champions placing near the bottom of the Premier Division in 2016. They'll be aiming to pull back their WFTDA ranking position over 2017... although they've retired from British Champs to focus their team on this goal. Similarly, a series of transfers and other movements lead to Fierce Valley Roller Girls performing less well than they would have liked in the Champs Tier 3, resulting in potential relegation to Tier 4 in 2017. (Despite this, both FVRG and GRD have been drivers of many Scottish events in the past year - Fierce Valley hosting a pair of massive Sur5al tournaments and hosting an international against Zurich, and Glasgow hosting Charity events and playing all over Europe themselves, as well as hosting Berlin, and playing a big part in Vagine Regime UK.)
Another growing trend in Scotland (and the UK) this year was "cherry popper" or "rookie" bouts, with almost every league in Scotland hosting at least one such event this year, including Livingston's New Town Roller Girls .
But we shouldn't just talk about the Leagues themselves. Scottish Referees and NSOs also continued to represent at the highest levels of the sport, with Dundee's Righteous Oxide particularly visible at international level events like MRDWC and ; but many other referees like , and NSOs (many of whom were nominated in the TDTM Listener awards) travelled huge distances and devoted much time to supporting the sport. Scottish photographers were also supporting international events this year, with Dave McAleavy and Laura MacDonald being both ubiquitous at Scottish games, but also travelling to Tenerife in Dave's case, and to the Men's World Cup in Laura's. (As the two are, between them, the photographers for the two national teams, we expect even more travel in their future.) Our Announcers didn't do too badly either, with Helliverence near-ubiquitous across UK events, Bairn City's man of many names Graeme "Archie" McPhail supporting MEC [and announcing two tournaments in Scotland without a break in each], MRDWC media director Chasing Katy appearing at several events, but especially MEC, and Granite City's sMACklemore doing both MEC and Track Head Announcing at MRDWC itself. The latter two also helped to push on the Scottish contributions to Roller Derby media, with the Talk Derby To Me podcast [also hosted by King Crazy] going from strength to strength over the year (especially with their excellent coverage of tournament-level events), culminating in a rather huge Listener Awards.
(For us at the Scottish Roller Derby Blog, it's also been a good year - we've expanded our coverage again, introduced our own rankings, and even managed to expand into some new fields of video and audio interviews. We also covered the Men's Roller Derby World Cup in more depth than we have any previous event. In order to handle this, we launched our own annex to the blog, which hosts links to content which doesn't work well with Wordpress. We also managed to hit more then 1500 likes on our Facebook page just a few days ago, which was our own goal for 2016!)
UK and EuropeObviously one of the most exciting developments of 2016 was the announcement of so much International Derby coming to Europe in the next two years. Both World Cups will be in Europe - the Men's in Barcelona and the Women's in Greater Manchester - in 2018; but before that, one MRDA playoff and the Championship itself will be in Europe as well. With so many Europe-wide international tournaments already happening in Europe (ERDT, The Road to..., SKOD, MEC, European Smackdown and so on... with Newcastle's EuroClash joining the set in 2017), this was almost inevitable at some point, but no-one expected everything but WFTDA to happen at once.
Another positive development in the UK was the coming together of Coaches at the Derby Stance Coaching Summit (followed by the Summit at the Ramps, which brought together skaters from multiple disciplines) organised by Rule 56 and the Female Coaching Network. We're very much in favour of people working together to progress the community...
...which is also why we were cheered by the announcement very recently that Leeds Roller Derby had formed from fusion of Hot Wheel and Leeds Roller Dolls. We'd love to report on more "collaborations" rather than the politics which leads to splits in Roller Derby, and hope this can be a trend for 2017.
Finally, Roller Derby media also had some growth in the UK as well, with two new podcasts - Hell Yeah! Roller Derby [Croydon and elsewhere] and the Good Arrows Podcast [Nottingham Roller Derby] both launching this year, with good content already!
InternationalInternationally, the most exciting places for Roller Derby are always where growth and development is still raring ahead.
So, in East Asia, the Japan Open Tournament was possibly the most significant event of the year - the first ever international tournament in the region, hosted in Okinawa and with attendees from the Pacific Region, Australiasia and beyond (Alaska and Copenhagen!). We're very excited to see what the sequel (now managed directly by a consortium of the Japanese leagues) tournament - the Tomodachi in March 2017 - manages.
Also in East Asia, after literally years of development, the first ever public bout in China happened, with Beijing Roller Derby hosting a mixed team from the rest of the Asian leagues. This was also a great example of the still-political purpose of Roller Derby, as the event was in promotion of the UN HeForShe project.
Growth has also continued in other regions, with Latin America now hosting a huge number of teams (although their terminology for leagues and teams differs from the USA and Europe), including 3 now in WFTDA (as full members, with more Apprentices). Across Europe and the Middle East, increasing number of countries are growing not just one, but multiple teams - and in the more established countries we've seen huge growth in national level tournaments (the French Nationale is a mighty thing), and other regular events (for ex. the Finnish Pohjola Cup now trans-national as it includes Russia's White Night Furies this year).
In terms of National Teams representation, 2016 has seen continued growth in both the Men's and Women's parts of the sport - MRDWC 2016 saw a massive surge in teams attending, filling out Europe and Latin America [Colombia having a last-minute technical hitch which prevented this being even more impressive]; and there are already at least 5 new Nations for the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester.
Finally, we were very pleased that WFTDA has started adopting positive policies such as releasing the (alpha) of their new bout stats management tool, bouttime, as an open-source project, truly for the community.
And International Derby Media has also continued to grow, with the startling appearance of The Derby Apex earlier this year, and their meteoric rise to popularity. We're sure we'll see more good things from them in 2017 and beyond. (Derby Central, of course, continued to do great work, covering all of the international things above, and many more.)