Roller Derby Hits The Papers Big Time & S.W.A.T Makes News Stands Around The World!
Last Weekend was magic! In fact the whole week was a whirl of fast paced Derby goodness with a humongous chunk of PR frivolity chucked in!
Are we sitting comfortably? Then I will begin:..It started when we had a very special phone call at SWAT headquarters from non other than The Sun newspaper ! We had been chosen (thanks to some help from Roller Derby UK) to feature in a double page spread about the sport we all love! Football, I mean ROLLER DERBY!!!!!
What an honor! Now we knew we’d been working hard on and off the track, but to be noticed by a national paper wasn’t something that happens every day! The buzz started to vibrate round our PR minds.What would they focus on? Would it portray Derby under the light it should be, a serious, hard, tactically brilliant sport full of committed, courageous women (and men) or would they take the angle of women in hotpants, looking hot!? (part of it of course but such a larger picture to be reported on)
Now I don’t like to judge or be judged. This is why I love this sport as it is all-inclusive and non judgmental. For us to question the motives of this article too deeply would in itself judge the papers perceived image, something that we fight so hard not to do ourselves! We decided the best action to take was to stay true to ourselves and our beloved sport and explain to the reporter how it all works, living, loving and playing in Derby World and have faith and that they would promote the sport as a sport and not under the same hat as a wet t-shirt contest!
Now I had been interviewed before by BBC radio Somerset on their breakfast show a few weeks previously. They wanted to do a phone interview with me about page 3! Not something that happens every day, to be called at 9am and asked if you would mind if they called you back live on air in 20 minutes to chat about how I feel about the well known page!
At the time we’d been setting up teaching the BBC radio presenter (Emma Cousins) how to skate live on air and this phone call was made off the back of that. They thought that a ballsy Roller Derby girl may have some opinions on Page 3 and not be afraid to give them I guess! It did however cross over into my day job as a photographer as I frequently shoot women in my studio so this made for interesting talk time!
So how does this relate to The Sun article? Well, I’d done a bit of research on the Suns readership prior to my radio interview (yes in the 20 minutes I’d between rushing around the room talking to myself and jumping around to get rid of the excess adrenaline waiting for that phone to ring!) and what I’d discovered actually amazed me!
The paper has the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the United Kingdom (about 2.5 million a day in Jan 2013) and… (now this was the bit that got me)…45% of readers were women! I knew that it could only be a good thing to reach that amount of women (and the remaining 55% of men!) with the message of Derby!
So what happened? Well our very own Vampira was interviewed for the article that was to feature two other teams in a two page spread and they wanted to send a photographer down to shoot us at training that Saturday!
This was all happening at breakneck speed, even faster than the Flash moves on a story! The article was going in the paper THAT MONDAY!!!!! So they wanted to shoot us as a team on the Saturday, do a Derby in civilian clothes shoot on the Sunday and it would be in print the next day!!!!
To be honest the timing of this wasn’t great as that Saturday we had already arranged a training sesh and Scrimmage (unofficial game for the use of training purposes to those not in the know) with the lovely Grin and Barum girls in North Devon. This meant an early morning 1.5hr drive, 3 hrs of training and scrim, 1.5hrs back the straight into 3 hrs hard training with our girls AND a shoot with the Sun!
In one word: Agggggggghhhhhhhhhh!
We had to go for it though as it was a massive opportunity and we joked that at least the shots of us training would look authentic! If the Sun thought they were going to get the glamorous side of Derby they were to be pleasantly surprised as what they would get was the sweaty nackered side too, which is what most of us look like most of the time!
To be fair I did spend the 1.5hrs (not all of it I must add.. I’m not that high maintenance although some of the girls in the van may beg to differ like when I lost my mirror under the van seat!!!) putting on my Flashness! If I was going to be in a national, I wanted to be me as I am in bout mode! We were all told to put on bout fits (what the travel team wear when they bout) and the rest of the league were to SWAT up!
Moral was high, even when we told the Grin N Barum girls what was happening as they were pleased for us and our pending photoshoot and wished us well as we all bundled into the Derby bus of fun to head back for training session no.2!
The Sun photographer spent the afternoon shooting us train and took some individual shots of Vampy as she was going to be the featured player. We had a lot of fun that day and although we were all absolutely pushed to the max physically, mentally and happily, we made it to the end of the day and out the other side alive!
My day didn’t end there though as I got home to find emails from the Sun reporter requesting action shots (knowing I shot the team) and profile pictures of Vampy and me! I was mega excited and could burst that they wanted my shot too! I had chatted to the reporter about how I had started Derby and to cut a long story short she said my story would be sent to the editor and be in Mondays paper too! Wowzers! This eased the, staying up another 4 hours and working on Derby sorting and sending pics after a mahoosive day, bearable!
The next day was the Derby Girl in civilian clothes shoot This was happening at Vampiras house in the country! It wasn’t planned that I go but it was decided at the very last minute that I should attend! Now I wasn’t expecting this AT ALL and after a 6 hr Derby sesh I was just chilling at the parents house in my sloppy clothes having a roast dinner! I had an hour to get to the shoot, I hadn’t done my makeup or hair , sods law as I always straighten or at least do my hair and today, I was so tired I had just relaxed my regime totally!
I ran upstairs at Mums, borrowed what I could makeupwise and just ran out the door shouting in a whirlwind “I’m off to be photographed by the Sun”! My poor Mum! But she is used to my crazy happenings.
The 45 min drive to Vampys was a mixture of dread and excitement! I wanted to help Vamp to do her makeup (I help the girls out a bit when I can as most of them have been for a profile pic shoot with me) but there was no time as as soon as I got in the door, he was there!!!
He wanted pics of us together and individual shots in about 3 outfits (bearing in mind I only had my slobby clothes on this was going to be a problem but I just Grinned N bared it!..see what I did there! Always up for promoting our local teams)
The afternoon was spend in a myriad of giggles and adrenalin from both me, Vamps and her parents who were there too! I had to borrow some clothes which was hilarious in itself, me being so fussy most of the time! Vampy and her Ma were amazing coming up with different possibilities while I tried to see what would fit! (Vamps is about 3 sizes smaller than me!)
The shots were taken in the garden (while Vampies Dad pulled funny faces at us and fell off the sofa that he was jumping on to distract us!) The photographer also wanted a white plain backdrop so ornamental plates were removed from the kitchen wall and the freezer turned off (plug hidden) to accommodate this request! We all laughed at the clunkyness of the whole procedure! Who would have thought that our portraits in the sun would be taken next to a de-frosting freezer, me in borrowed clothes, frizzy hair and minimal makeup! If you had told me this I would have probably hyperventilated at the thought!
It turned out to be a very special, magical day of friendship, fear, laughing and about just getting on with it! Putting yourself out of your comfort zone.
This is what all the above is about for me and what has come to the forefront of my mind whilst pondering on last weeks experiences! Putting yourself out of your comfort zone for the good of yourself and others. To me this is what Derby is about and what it has taught me. It’s not all about you, it’s about the good of the team. That weekend I had to make mental sacrifices that pushed my boundaries, which in turn has made me stronger as a player and a person. Whether that was playing hard Derby for 6 hrs or having to be shot for a national with little or no makeup, both events were character building.
This was made possible and better by the people that I was with who supported me and visa versa. In hard times, to work as a team in whatever situation, gets you through!
So Monday morning arrived and I shot up to the local Co-op at 7am where my Uncle is the Manager. He was filling shelves and I called him over in excitement while I grabbed a paper and threw it ontop of some stacked cans! I’m in the Sun I exclaimed, so excited I could burst! my excitement caused a scene (as a girl running around at 7am in a fluffy hat shouting isn’t the norm) so I had a couple of staff looking over my shoulder in anticipation too! I flicked through the paper expectantly!
There’s Vampy I shouted! looking amazing in our SWAT travel colour sandwiched between two London Roller girls and me? Well as my Uncle very eloquently pointed out, I had been bumped by a Morrissons toilet paper add!
Was I disappointed not to make it? Honestly,yes but only for 5 minutes and then I remembered how much fun I had had with my team that weekend and Vampys family the day before. It’d made me remember that it’s not necessarily the end product, its how you get there and the friends you make on the way! This may sound slushy but believe me it’s true. In extreme situations it’s the ones that stick their necks out, support, live, love and laugh with you that really matter!
So my team can now say that they’ve made a national paper and Vampy was part of a centerfold! Something to tell her grandkids of the future and be looked up to by the Tiny Terrors of today! Read the article here! http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/4858367/Fast-brutal-roller-derby-is-a-smash-with-British-women.html
Thank you to the Sun for making all our days a bit Sunnier last week!
Derby Love to you all and chat soon.
Flash Bo-Dash x