We caught up with her to talk derby life, league and lethal skills. Pow!
What is your derby name and number, and is there a story behind it?
My derby name is Leigh-Thal Bizzle #22. The story? Well, my middle name is Leigh and when thinking up names the idea of Leigh-thal came up. This naturally led to the play on the name of UK Grime artist Lethal Bizzle, because my 'derby wife' Mighty Morphine and I are big Bizzle fans! My number is 22 (pronounced two two) because it’s Bizzle’s number.
When did you join Mansfield Roller Derby? This month is actually my 2nd ‘DerbyVersary’! I joined Mansfield Roller Derby at the end of May 2012.
Long story: I’d heard of 'old school Roller Derby' before, but it was when I saw an advert for Whip It in 2009 that I became aware of 'modern Roller Derby'. From the moment I saw the advert, I became obsessed and trawled the internet for all things Derby. Whilst I was at university in Leicester, I even considered joining the newly formed Dolly Rockit Rollers - but always chickened out of signing up to their Fresh Meat programs.
It wasn't until a couple of years later, when I was talking to Morph, my friend from back home in Mansfield, that I actually started skating. I’d read the rulebook and watched loads of bouts, but hadn’t dared put a pair of skates on.
“Have you heard of Roller Derby? I’ve joined a Roller Derby team” Morph asked me casually over a cup of tea at my mums house, one day.
“In Nottingham?” I asked, knowing of the various Nottingham teams I knew I’d never dare join.
“No, in Mansfield. They train at Garibaldi, next door [right next door to my mums house]” she told me "Oh, and their team colours are Purple and Green" my favourite colours. I had to sign up this time!
When I finally got the courage to accompany Morph to one of her training sessions (she convinced me to go, hold my hand and not let me chicken out), I put on those huge bulky plastic skates and knew that there was no going back, no matter what!
I suppose Stephanie Mainey, Kamikaze Kitten, Rogue Runner, Haus the Boss and Bloody Mary aren't too bad either... oh I could spend days listing names of skaters who inspire me.
Did you play any sports before Roller Derby? I’ve always been a sporty person. As a kid I was mad about football, but ‘grew out of it’ by my teenage years. I tried every hobby sport I could, but it wasn't until Roller Derby that I finally found something I was truly passionate about.
As Chairperson of Mansfield Roller Derby, where do you get your passion/inspiration for derby from, and how do you stay so motivated?
It’s a selfish reason, really... My passion comes from my love of this sport and of the people involved. They keep me going!
From the moment that I finally joined a team, I didn't want to go back to just being a fan who didn't dare to play, I wanted to be a player! Angi, the founder of the league and chairperson before me, taught me how to skate and further fuelled my obsession with this sport.
Although there were only a handful of people who turned up every week to skate at first (sometimes it was just me and Angi alone) we still had the same vision for the league. "One day we will have enough skaters to be able to play Roller Derby." As the league has grown, more and more people with that same vision have joined us. Tracey (Miss-Chief) joined us and started helping me with the coaching, then Morph returned from hiatus, after breaking her ankle, with a renewed passion and it's continued to grow from there. We now have a full committee of dedicated people! Discussing committee matters and ways of taking this league to the next level is just so exciting. Turning up to training and seeing skaters who share my love for this sport and want to see this league grow and evolve as much as I do is my motivation! Who wouldn't want to be a part of such a fantastic experience, making new friends and having fun?
You're also Head Coach of the Misfits - how did you make the decision to step into that role?
It wasn’t really a decision that I made. There was just nobody else around at the time to do it after Angi stepped down! At first I helped by running the warm-up whilst Angi helped the newest skaters get on their feet, the next week I’d help with the warm-up, but she’d still be needed elsewhere so she’d ask me to run the first drill, and so on...
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about playing Roller Derby? Go for it. You’ll only regret it if you don’t give it a try.
Any final words? First off, thank you to my fellow committee members for this sneaky nomination for Skater of the Month! I love you all!
Secondly, If there’s something you want, you have to go out and get it! Two years ago I could barely speak to members of my own family without clamming up and wanting to run away, but now I comfortably stand up in front of a room full of strangers and talk to them about Roller Derby. I thought that Roller Derby was this amazing sport that someone like me would never play, let alone be a coach and chairperson of a league! Never say never, don't give up on something you truly love, and don’t be afraid to work hard for something that you are really passionate about!