Edinburgh has one Roller Derby league called the Auld Reekie Roller Girls which fields two travel teams; The Cannon Belles and The Twisted Thistles. Roller Derby is played widely up and down the UK, and this first bout of the Fringe Festival against the Glasgow Roller Girls (GRG) Maiden Girders was packed out. If you're not familiar with the game, some background.
Edinburgh opened their first of two festival parties with a fairly explosive start. Glasgow failed to score a single point for eleven minutes and the crowd seemed rather more shocked by this than I'd expected. There were obviously a lot of travelling fans. After Glasgow crushed the Cannon Belles 66-116 in June, I think many of Maiden's fans expected more of the same. Instead, it was Edinburgh's Debris Harry and Crotch Lightning who ran rings around a dismayed GRG team for most of the first jams.
Jams, kind of innings if you'd a like comparison, separate both halves. Each jam can run to two minutes. Anyway, jam seven saw Glasgow begin to get to their feet and start to look like making a game of it. Edinburgh took a time out and as the ninth got going, Miss Collie Check carved a hole in the pack to take lead jam and effectively end Glasgow's resurgence in the first half - they'd come from 51-0 down to score a respectable twenty three points - but by jam eleven Edinburgh were working from a forty point lead.
Glasgow famously finish strong, coming from behind last month against an organised Dublin team to comfortably pick up the win. Edinburgh needed to score more points and they did, with Glasgow failing to match them for organisation in the second half and The Cannon Belles running out 126 - 86 winners. The whole thing stayed very tight though and only half-time afforded any let up for me to check out the merchandise stalls and home-made craft and cake stands that round out the derby experience. It's like a fun fair with sport at its core.
I've seen a a fair few games of Roller Derby in the last two years and this match proved to be a real classic. It's a family-friendly day out and thankfully it centres around fitness and creates a welcoming environment for people of all ages. Something Scotland can certainly be proud of during an international festival, and it's right on your doorstep all the year round.
Most Valuable Player for the game, and the Cannon Belles Captain, Lilo and Stitches explained just how much the Fringe bouts mean to the volunteer-run league:
“The free entry for children under 14 means families can enjoy a low-cost afternoon, including a lively vendor hall featuring homemade crafts, cakes and ARRG merchandise. It’s the perfect chance for visitors and Edinburgh residents alike to discover this growing sport, and to experience something completely different to the usual Fringe fare.”
The next bout takes place on the 20th with the Auld Reekie Roller Girls senior travel team The Twisted Thistles taking on the Stuttgart Valley Roller Girls. Stuttgart are more than a match for Edinburgh and expectations for a tough contest are high. The Scots won the last encounter between the two, so the Germans have something to prove. Any derby game is its own little festival by itself and I can heartily recommend the next Fringe bout coming up on the 20th of August.
Doors open at 2pm at Meadowbank Sports Centre, London Road, Edinburgh on Saturday 20th August. There will be a demonstration of the basic rules prior to kick off and costs £5 with under-14's going free.