Track Queens – How (not) to cover a Roller Derby tournament

When Leeds Roller Dolls asked me to go to Berlin with them to cover the European Tournament it was an easy decision. How could I not go? After seeing pictures of the venue, I knew it was the right decision. I knew from my experience of the World Cup that it would be three long days followed by longer nights, backing up all the files, punctuated by surreal moments, some brought on by the lack of sleep.

Having made my travel plans and packed my bags I set off for the airport. Whilst I was travelling alone I knew I’d bump in to friendly faces along the way. All Rollergirls converge on Berlin. There must be some on my flight, and I wasn’t wrong.  Whilst they had made their own accommodation arrangements, I had also. If the rollergirls were staying in the same accommodation it made sense that the photographers should have their own. I was due to meet up with Dave McAleavy (Team Scotland/Glasgow Roller Derby) at the Ibis by Ostbanhof. The skaters may go back to their hotels after a long day skating, needing to relax and recuperate, a shared experience. But for us on the other side of the lens it would mean full days followed by full nights. Returning to the hotel to back up the photos form earlier in the day, cleaning the cards off and charging batteries ready for the following day, over a beer, of course.

As usual the organisation seemed a little non-existent, well for the media side anyway. The most important thing to do was to obtain a wristband to signify that you should be there and if that failed, chat to the refs and NSOs to give yourself some credibility. Fortunately, knowing most of the crew meant that this was easy, and a wristband arrived soon after.

All there was left to do was to find some coffee and wait for the action to commence. Finding the former wasn’t that easy and nerves became frayed due to the lack of caffeine. Luckily coffee was eventually sourced and normality was restored. Now down to the job in hand.

Five bouts down and 47 GB of files later it was time to go home. The last bout wouldn’t finish ‘till nigh on 10pm, even leaving at 8pm I was still in for a 1am finish. I need to get an assistant. This set the pattern for the next two days, apart from a brief excursion to a Vietnamese restaurant on the second night. Okay. So I’m sitting in a Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin with a bunch of Glaswegians. My linguistic skills are virtually non-existent, but that just screwed with my tiny mind.

The final night should have been an earlier finish, allowing me to head back to the hotel, dump the gear get some food and head to the after party. But due to my over enthusiastic belief that I can carry on regardless I had made other plans, meaning I’d need another night in to back everything up.

I had worked out that my flight on the Monday would get me back home by 3.15pm. That gave me 45 minutes to head home and then get out to a hair salon to do another shoot at 4pm. At 6pm I would then head down to Skate Central to shoot the New York Shock Exchange versus The Inhuman League and then I could sleep. I was very optimistic, and by the time I got home I was f****d.

I should learn from my experiences. Don’t get carried away. Don’t try and cover everything. Hire an assistant. Get coffee supplied on a drip. But I guess I’ll never learn, and I’m sure I’ll do it all again next time.


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