Following the skater’s tragic death in the summer of 2014, Louise Wright’s family felt that contributions to her team Nottingham Roller Derby would be a more fitting tribute than flowers. Many months passed before members would find the strength to move forward and contemplate her legacy; still, one night in the room above The Organ Grinder pub, they gathered in full force and the vision that would eventually become the Louisey Rider Cup was born...
From the moment you walk into the Lee Westwood Sports Centre, NTU, it is clear that this event is the result of months of preparation. The hall becomes a sea of colour as roughly 100 skaters gather and don their team shirts for the day. They’ve come from the length and breadth of the UK with some of the officials travelling even further; hailing from Ireland, Italy, Denmark and The Netherlands.
The initial stage of the tournament sees teams University Challenged, Dat Ass and Fanny Bunting in Group One and Batiste Babez, Grandad Shoes and Slutty Banana in Group Two. Each triumvirate will compete in a round robin of thirty-minute matches to determine the rankings for the playoff games. Skaters have been allocated as evenly as possible according to their club’s national ranking and the number of games they’ve played; the points system is kept relatively simple, teams are awarded one point for a win and an additional bonus point is scored every time they hit Louise’s shirt number - 66.
The tournament’s first whistle is sounded by Louise's mum, Sharon Brown; it’s an emotional moment as the crowd erupts and the organisers breathe a sigh of fulfillment. The inaugural LRC was held in 2016 and this year it feels bigger than ever; skater tickets sold out in three minutes flat, spectator pre-sales were at a record high and there are a host of stalls selling team merch, baked goods, prints, jewelry, clothing, skate equipment; you can even get an Indian head or sports massage while you’re at it.
But most impressive of all is the raffle, crammed with around £2000 worth of prizes generously donated by establishments from Nottinghamshire and beyond. Up for grabs are vouchers for Bar Iberico, The Dice Cup, Rough Trade and the National Videogame Arcade to name a few, but the crowning glory has to be the folio from Paul Smith, taking pride of place in the centre of the display. As the hall fills up with spectators, they all make a beeline to the vendor, eager to bag a ticket.
Gameplay is physical and intense for the majority of the fixtures; the selection process seems to have worked well to keep scores close, there are certainly no real landslide victories. In the final stages of the day, Fanny Bunting and Slutty Banana compete for fifth place with the risque fruit proving victorious, Grandad Shoes defeat Dat Ass for bronze, leaving University Challenged to take on Batiste Babez for the coveted trophy.
Both teams are perfectly matched and it’s pretty much neck and neck throughout the whole contest; the walls are tough and the score line is low. As the game winds down to the final whistle, University Challenged hold a slender lead, 65 - 64. However, in the final jam, Batiste Babez look poised to steal the victory as their jammer approaches the pack; with the clock counting down seemingly in slow motion and the points agonisingly close, the game is called.
All profits from the event are donated to the road safety charity, Brake. This year Nottingham Roller Derby raised in excess of £4000 taking the total since the tournament’s beginnings to an incredible £10,000.
The 2018 Louisey Rider Cup took place on Saturday 28 April at the Lee Westwood Centre, NTU Clifton Campus
Nottingham Roller Derby website