Located in Manchester, England, Rainy City Roller Derby is eager to welcome skaters and officials from around the world for the WFTDA’s Roller Derby World Summit April 21st-23rd. Rainy City is a fitting host, not just because of their hard-fought gains on the track, but for their efforts in growing the international derby community — something that has also earned them the honor of hosting the Roller Derby World Cup in 2018. Learn more about the people that make Rainy City Roller Derby tick, and what to expect at the inaugural Roller Derby World Summit.
Where are you located? We’re in wonderful Manchester, in the north of England.
When was your league formed? 2008
When did you join WFTDA? 2012
When did you graduate from the Apprentice Program? 2013
How does your season run?
Owning our own venue means we’re always looking to put on competitive and exhibition games all year around. Our All Stars run a season from February through to WFTDA playoffs with a short Summer break.
What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
The North of England is filled with lots of great derby leagues in close proximity. We have Leeds Roller Derby nearby, formed out of a recent merger between two Leeds teams (Hot Wheel and Leeds) with whom we’ve shared many great games over the years. There’s also Newcastle Roller Girls who recently hosted an excellent tournament showcasing some great European roller derby teams.
How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have close to 80 active skaters over three competitive teams.
How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We have our C team, the Bet Lynch Mob, our B team, the Tender Hooligans and then our All Star team. We also have a rolling new skater program, which brings in people new to the sport every Monday night and trains them for their minimum skills assessment.
Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you’ve played them?
The past 18 months has seen a big skill shift for our All Stars. As we’ve climbed the rankings we’ve come up against a number of strong opponents from a range of countries rather than local teams. This season will be just the same as we step up against the top 10 of Europe and beyond. It’s a big learning curve for us, and one we’re relishing.
Do you have any sister/brother/junior leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We share our home venue with a men’s team, The Knights Of Oldham, who are an amazing bunch, always helping us run games at our home venue by staffing our bar or working the door.
What are some of the unique challenges of your home town?
Manchester is fantastically set up for roller derby. It has a young, vibrant community, millions of residents, and lots of large towns and cities nearby where fans and skaters from other leagues come along to cheer us on or to compete. We’re pretty lucky in that regard.
What are your biggest training challenges?
Fitting in all our training sessions for all three teams. As the league grows it becomes a fight for time and we are always trying to make sure we have that perfect balance for all our skaters and officials. Our fantastic skater-coaches help run training programmes for all three teams, and we have a good process in place to keep the Rainy sporting philosophy equal across every tier. This really helps to keep a sense of identity and to move skaters from one team to the next. We’re also finding we’re getting more and more transfers and keeping an introduction policy in place that’s fair for everyone is always a challenge.
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We have training sessions five days a week. Our All Stars practice three days a week with a devoted skills session on Tuesdays. They also share individual off-skates training sessions for the days away from the track. Our Tender Hooligans practice on Tuesdays, and our Bet Lynch Mob practice on Wednesdays. We host new skater nights every Monday and on Sundays we have a league-wide scrimmage.
Tell us about your training facilities.
We run our own venue called the Thunderdome in Oldham. We decided as a league that we wanted the chance to run our own dedicated roller derby venue and found this sad, old, abandoned nightclub that was just waiting to be loved. It was filled with trash, rodents, and rubble when we first found it. We spent six tough months ripping out walls, polishing floors, rewiring the electrics, installing toilets, and cleaning up the place up in order to make it skateable. It has taken a long time and a LOT of hard work to get it to the state it is in today. We hold all our training sessions there as well as bootcamps and public games. A few years back we also won some funding from Sport England and bought a skate court floor and tiered seating. We have a bar, cafe and merch stands and a small sports rehab room. It’s cold, it’s leaky, there’s plants growing out of the brickwork, but we love it!
Where do you hold your public games?
All our games take place at our home venue: the Thunderdome.
Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
Liz Yeatman is our All Star blocking legend. She’s the anchor to our team — there’s just no way she can be moved. Fay Roberts is another Rainy superstar, blocking with strength, intelligence, and power, and always in the right place at the right time. Alex Wilde is one of our strongest jammers; her tactical awareness, determination and sheer force means she’s skittling over blockers like they’re made of papier-mâché. GoGo Chanel is another All Star jammer legend. Fast, agile, extremely clever on track. She’s definitely one to watch out for this season.
Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help run your league?
Our founder and current President Biertrix is the true driving force behind Rainy. Her commitment and devotion is unparalleled and she’s always there to solve any issues and help discover new avenues to promote and grow Rainy City. She’s also an amazing motivator and chair, helping us come together as a group and share the same direction and objectives. She’s also — we can say totally unbiasedly — the greatest derby announcer on the planet.
What are some of your league’s biggest accomplishments?
Owning our own venue has been a huge accomplishment for us and we’re so proud to be the center of derby excellence in the North of England. On the track, our All Stars making it to the 2016 International WFTDA D1 Playoffs in Columbia, S.C., U.S. last summer is our biggest accomplishment— rising up the ranks in such a short amount of time. We’re immensely proud of that. On top of this, seeing our B and C teams rise and grow in strength over the past two years and playing competitively abroad for the first time this year gets us so excited for what the future holds.
As hosts for the WFTDA’s very first Roller Derby World Summit, what can skaters and officials from around the world expect when they come to visit Manchester?
Manchester is a unique British city, filled with Industrial Revolution heritage but with an eye firmly on the future. The population is young, progressive, and surging. Cranes fill the skyline as the city expands and there’s lots of unique areas with their own character, great for nightlife and food. It’s also an incredible city for sports, with so many world-class sporting venues and facilities for football, cricket, cycling, climbing, and of course roller derby. But we should warn you: Expect it to rain. Weather isn’t our strongest selling point. Learn more about the Roller Derby World Summit.
Your league went through a major branding overhaul, changing from the “Rainy City Roller Girls” to “Rainy City Roller Derby”. What can you share about the experience of building a new, eye-catching brand for your league?
A rebrand was long overdue and the whole league was immediately behind the new direction. Ditching the ‘G’ word was long overdue and a massive priority for us and it became a great excuse to create a unique, memorable brand that we could be proud to wear on our kits. It was a difficult undertaking and the whole process took nine months to complete, but we’re lucky to have great graphic designers, brand guardians, social media experts, and copywriters in the league, so we were well positioned to do things properly. We’re really proud of the outcome and the response we’ve had from the roller derby community.
We put together a guide based on our experiences a while back which might come in handy if any other leagues are looking to take the plunge.
All eyes will be back on Rainy City in February 2018 as you host the Roller Derby World Cup! How did your league decide to host this big event and what does it mean for your league to foster such a massive, international roller derby event?
The idea of bringing the World Cup to England was too good an idea to pass on. Manchester is a great place to host, being an international hub with great expo venues such as Event City where we’re hosting the competition. Just the idea of having nations of the world flood our city and play in a big festival of roller derby is giving us butterflies already. It’s going to be an amazing weekend. We get giddy just thinking about it.
Do you have any big games and/or other tournaments coming up that you are looking forward to in 2017?
Anarchy in the UK is coming up this month, where we get to take on Helsinki, Stockholm, Crime City, and London. We can’t wait to take part in this top-level European tournament which showcases the top five teams in Europe, all in one place. In June our All Stars will also travel to Helsinki to compete in the WFTDA-Recognized FINvitational Tournament. It’s hosted by the ever-awesome Kallio, one of our favorite teams in the universe.
Do you have any video footage from games or other events that you would like to share?
It wasn’t a win, but our game against Crime City at last year’s WFTDA D1 Playoffs was a fantastic game, with two European teams showcasing what we have to offer deep in the heart of the USA. These were the games we’ve been striving towards, and we hope for many more to come.
Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We’re incredibly proud that our All Stars are sponsored by Radar Wheels this season. http://radarwheels.com
Do you have a special message for your fans?
Just a massive thank you. The amount of amazing evenings we’ve had at our home venue is just overwhelming. The noise of cheers and laughter, the sight of half-cocked Mexican waves amidst swigs of beer. The stomach-in-throat final jam victories that cause an eruption. The wide eyes of kids seeing skaters for the first time and getting inspired. The weird chants about rain. The awkward dancing to R&B classics. The umbrella-themed hats. The after parties until the wee hours. You’re all amazing. ✌