It's often been commented that Scotland has seen some of the more dramatic growth (and changes) in Roller Derby, with respect to its population. Since the first league started in Glasgow in 2007, Roller Derby has spread across the Nation - but not always uniformly, or consistently. Whilst there's certainly a lot of Roller Derby in Scotland now - with 19 leagues in existence (by one count) now - communication and organisation across the community has not always been as good as it could be.
On October 7th, in Edinburgh's Charteris Centre, three people aim to change this. Auld Reekie Roller Girls' Crazylegs and (Steph) Skinner, and Glasgow Roller Derby's head referee Candy Moho, are organising what they hope will be the first of a regular series of gatherings of the Scottish Roller Derby Community in one place and one time.
The Big Blether, as it's now known, aims to bring together all of the extant leagues and clubs in Scotland, as well as others in the sport, in order to share and discuss the future and present of the sport. Every active league in Scotland has been invited to the event as part of the organisation process,
We talked to two-thirds of the Organisers - thrice Team Scotland skater, founding Roller Derby Nations Committee rep, and founding Auld Reekie Roller Girls member, Crazylegs; and long-standing Glasgow Roller Derby Head Referee and organiser of the Scottish Roller Derby Events Spreadsheet, Candy Moho.
Crazylegs was inspired to kickstart this idea at the last European Rollerderby Organisational Conference, as she told us. "I guess for me the inspiration came from EROC - I love attending that event, and I guess the more I go to events like that and attend sessions, and deliver talks, I kind of think, we've got such a compact community in Scotland - and I don't think we take advantage of it enough. Our league [ARRG] gets so much out of events like EROC in terms of knowledge and new ideas to refresh you. It's so much easier for us to get together in Scotland - the leagues in Australia might find it harder to all meet up, for example - but we're so close.
I chatted to Candy at the end of EROC, and she mentioned that she'd been thinking of something similar, so it was in my mind from then."
Candy, meanwhile, had a slightly different perspective. "My main focus was the Officials side, off of the back of a project I'd done for the Open Uni. And also being in the Event Organising Group, the Interleague Liasion group, a lot of the issues there - it just seemed it would be easier to get people in the same room to talk to each other!
One of the things I am planning to do at The Big Blether is to present the findings from my OU project, which focussed on Scottish Derby Officials - I've not had a chance to pass on the results of that to the community, and I thought this is the perfect forum to do it, and make the results public after. That took in feedback from Officials as well as skaters from leagues. A lot of the stuff from that is still very relevant, and it's relevant to UK officials as well."
Unlike EROC's speaker-centered sessions, The Big Blether is intended to foster a less hierarchical approach - each topic will have a "facilitator" to moderate, but will emphasise communication and discussion between peers, not a top-down dissemination of from on-high.Topics on the agenda currently cover the spectrum of community concerns and interests, from best practice in Training, through the creation of better links for interleague support and with local communities, and how to move the sport on in terms of recognition on both local and National/International scales; however, in keeping with the design of the event, there are no topics which are out of bounds if attendees wish to discuss them.
Speaking to the organisers, again, they each have their own favourite areas from the menu presented. For Crazylegs, a key topic is governance and organisation, on all scales.
"We want to cover topics like League Governance - so: the legalities of how you set up a league, how you structure a league, what works for different leagues, of different sizes.
I guess leading on from that you'd look at sports governance - as in governing bodies, as in the national teams, UKRDA, WFTDA [MRDA], just I think maybe putting a bit of information out there for everybody.
I think there's a lot of myths out there concerning the various bodies - but we also need to talk about what Scotland itself needs.
I know Stef's driving force for this comes from her job, she's a community sports officer, and she's been has been doing a lot of research around the growth of sport, how we can better use Sport Scotland, and have better links with them for funding and support. We were also discussing working on having clear pathways, to show people how they can get to where they want to go - if that's high level competition, or having fun - from where they are.
And I think training as well - what support setups different leagues need, if we feel that there needs to be more information out there about training and structures, and how to set things up from beginning to getting wherever your league or team wants to go."Candy, with her other hat on, is most concerned with another topic. "On the Events side: getting a Scottish Tournament (doing another "Highland Fling", perhaps) but also the topic of if we need to look into a League structure - as they have in Germany and France. I think you tend to find that when you have that kind of structure, and people working well together, then you also drive the sport, and the level of competition as well. "
But, most of all, the event is about everyone meeting up and building the community links that can make Scottish Derby stronger together. As Crazylegs notes, "having a relaxed chat to people that you don't know, but you've heard of their leagues - if you get that kind of face-to-face conversation with people you've only interacted with on social media, then you make better connections, and everyone learns something.
The venue's amazing, it's close to town, we'll get some nice stuff going on in the breaks to build connections - and we'll be providing a delicious lunch!"
The Charteris Centre can be found here on Google Maps. Sign up for leagues (who are already contacted) is for the 23rd September, with potential for other slots for non-league attendees after the initial numbers are known.
All questions can be sent to the event organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org
The initial shortlist of topics is:
- Training: Creation of clear pathways and sharing best practice
- Sport recognition (Leagues, National/International Governing Bodies and National Teams)
- Club governance; sharing best practices / resources / contacts, league support.
- Scottish Events Scheduling: game scheduling, events, opportunities
- Partnership working, local communities
- Officiating: recruitment and retention, development pathways, national association
- Volunteering (development, pathways, recruitment, training)