Roller Derby, a Community of Strength

Crash Kale-ision #612

It’s January and ARRG are back for the first training session of 2017. The familiar sound of wheels on the rubber sports court and whistles blowing drills makes me feel at home. Specifically it is the All Star Rookies (ASTROs) first team training for the new season. After victories away in Belfast and at our home tournament ARRGmageddon at the end of last year we are keen to be even stronger, more together and aggressive in our play this year. Today Vice-Captain Hoose is putting us through our paces transitioning around obstacles in tight spaces. Practice that will hopefully prove useful getting past tough walls of blockers when I jam in our next game against Newcastle’s North C’s on 28th January.

Crash in action against Belfast City Rockets

I started roller derby almost 2 years ago now after stumbling upon the Auld Reekie Roller Girls website. I read all the ‘Featured Skater’ posts and was struck by the way each skater clearly had mental & physical strength, self-confidence and an amazing community to be a part of. Having struggled with my physical and mental health for several years I didn’t have those things. But it seemed that the simple (or not so simple if you have never skated before like me) act of putting on some roller skates had something to do with those qualities so I signed up for the next beginners programme.

Fast forward to today and it feels like a very satisfying circle of events to be sitting here writing an ARRG blog. It hasn’t been easy. I remember attempting the 25/5 laps assessment countless times – thinking to myself ‘I can’t do this’ as I skated round the track. Then when I failed, on multiple occasions, I would endlessly criticize myself inside my head for ‘not being good enough’ and ‘always failing’. Eventually I did pass my laps and the day that I did I thought ‘I can do this!’ for the first time about anything in a very long time. (This why I now have #crashcan written on my helmet!) Since then I am eternally grateful for the way roller derby gives me a lens through which to observe how I react to challenge, failure, success, fear and insecurity and then the motivation to analyse those reactions to see if they are helpful, healthy or downright self-destructive. Mentality isn’t a substitute for hard work but I don’t think we can ever fulfil our potential (athletic or otherwise) unless we have constructive reactions to success, failure and everything in between. So it turns out that strapping on a pair of roller skates did have something to do with becoming mentally and physically stronger and more self-confident.

ARRG ASTROs

ARRG ASTROs

As for community my team the ASTROS are some of the best people I know. I am always happier after a training session with them because of our hardworking but fun and supportive team atmosphere. Our upcoming bout against Newcastle will be one of our most challenging games to date but we are ready. Our leadership team are an organisational and tactical powerhouse to die for and our roster is strong, confident and experienced.

We play to win but regardless of the outcome I hope we can take something from the game that makes us stronger, happier and better people. That’s why I started roller derby and why I keep coming back for more.

Come support Crash and her ASTRO team pals in action against Newcastle North C’s On Saturday 28th Jan! Get your tickets here.

Photo credit: Sara Marsden Photography

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Skate Skills 101 – Stepping in from the Cold

Stepping in from the Cold by Life Saber  

Life Saber

Since coming to Scotland from sunny Spain over nine years ago I thought I was fully used to the Scottish weather. However, there I was once again on the sofa playing videogames under my blanket. Another dark winter coming… And the low mood continued over the summer and then over autumn and back in winter again: work, sofa, work, sofa, work, sofa…

I kept thinking of getting fit again and improving my social life so I would break this bad cycle. I kept thinking of joining the Auld Reekie Roller Girls, the crazy Roller Derby girls which would inject my life with energy and an active lifestyle again. This thought was liberating. However, at first I was working different shifts so I could not commit to enough training sessions, then time passed and I was getting more and more unfit and my mind kept telling me I was crazy to even think I could attempt to stand on skates.

Then four years later, a week before my birthday, I saw an open taster day advertised again for skating near my house, this was a sign! No more excuses I thought. I have regular shifts now and free time and the training sessions are not too far. I immediately started overthinking, yes again… remembering that I had not skated since I was a child and that I had put on considerable amounts of weight since then! This time, I did not listen to any of that, not even the voice telling me I had the same agility as Pinocchio and would look like Bambi on ice. This time I just got myself to the first taster day and had no clue what I would find there.

What did I find? Well, above all I found my new passion. Many people there were experienced and very passionate about the sport. Others, like myself, were just looking down at their skates and trying to stay up. During the session I laughed, I felt frustrated, I fell various times but also learnt that falling means you are trying new things and pushing yourself. By the end of the session all I could see were smiles and I was committed to push myself and turn my body and mind into something powerful and to be proud of.

I explored a bit further and joined ARRG for their Skate Skills 101 programme to train weekly. That was not enough you see? I also read every single review on the Internet about wheels, skates, skate bags, knee pads etc until I found my first Fresh Meat kit. Nope, I did not stop there either, I booked myself in all social skate sessions and discos coming up and joined various social media pages with info and tips. And my favourite….. stickers, stickers, stickers! Yes, I became addicted.

Life alongside her fellow SS101 Pals

The training sessions are great! The support we receive from the returning skaters and also the trainers is outstanding and the comradery and banter makes the training more enjoyable. I still remember the first time they lined up some cones and helmets in front of us and just like that, it was time to learn to jump! That was petrifying at first but I will never forget the sense of achievement I felt and the big cheer I got when I jumped those helmets! And when I nailed my first crossover and when I was able to skate one more lap!

Some days if I feel down I remember what I felt when I went to my first Roller Derby match. The teams were so strong, agile and they were having so much fun. The atmosphere was fantastic and very infectious. I enjoyed it so much I am now volunteering for future events and getting involved in as many things as I can. My friends now keep mentioning how I use Roller Derby vocabulary more and more in every conversation!

I find Roller Derby suits me since I have always had a competitive mind and it gives me focus and determination. It is also very convenient because we train indoors so winter cannot get to me there! I had not done any regular exercise for over five years and since joining ARRG in September I can feel I am progressing and my body is changing every day. My friends tell me I look different, more positive and radiant. I do feel different, more empowered and determined. I now have a weekly routine where it is not just training but also a way to feel empowered, strong and have fun.

Inspired by Life’s story? Tempted to give roller derby a go? Do it! Email newskaters@arrg.co.uk for details on our next new intake. 

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Backstage with the All Star Reserves

Cirque Du Slay #23  

Pre-Game Teamie Japes

I was already well into my game day when the audience watched the Auld Reekie Roller Girl All Star Reserves take to the track for our first jam against Granite City’s Northern Fights on Saturday. As usual, the team had met in our changing room hours before to start the process of preparing ourselves mentally and physically to be the most in sync, super-gelled, teamiest of teams.

This transformation involves a mixture of long-running ARRG traditions, season-specific Reserves rituals and one-off activities. So many of the anecdotes, in-jokes and rituals that gel teams together and make game days so special come from this period. I have bonded with various ARRG teamies reading anonymous nice comments they’ve written about me, constructing a web of (imaginary) wool to symbolise our (not imaginary) combined strength, playing with balloons perilously close to a row of shower heads and wildly waving my teamies’ arms around in a sort of charades by proxy (the clue was “winning”, obviously).

Motivational Post-its!

The masterminds behind all this excitement – i.e. the leadership team, spend hours rolling out this program of activities, corralling 15 people, doing their own game prep and trying to keep their cool when the umpteenth person asks them what’s the time/what time is the warm up/do they have time to go to the toilet? On Saturday this fine team consisted of co-captains Puke and Doom, Bench Coach Collie and Line Up Manager McPain, who kicked off Organised Team Fun by way of positive post-its. Everyone wrote their name on a post-it and their teamies filled it in by describing them in one word … beginning with the same letter as their name. In case you were wondering, this is quite hard, but it did produce some wonderfully creative and unconventional compliments (always lovely to hear your pal thinks you’re “civilised”).

Reserves’ Biggest Fan Award Trophy

The Reserves’ Biggest Fan Award trophy made an appearance: a beautifully constructed work of art and mechanical engineering which functions on occasion as an actual fan but has sadly proved poorly suited to the jet-set life required by our recent game schedule. It allows us to tell a teamie at each game who did something particularly awesome that We Are Your Biggest Fan! and would afterwards be handed over to an incredibly deserving new winner.

Next came the warm ups, off skates first and what better way to warm up than Strip the Willow? Even if it was far scarier than the roller derby – for my partner at least, pre-game adrenaline seemed to inspire the same wild zeal as the drunk finale of a ceilidh – but miraculously we all made it to the end of the music in one piece and pretty warm besides. Then in full kit, we continued to warm up our bodies and our brains, increase our communication and raise our aggression levels ready to play at 100% from the very first jam.

After being fired up by a final pep talk from Captain Puke, followed by our properly inspired team chant (Chant! Chant! Chant! HUH!!!), it was time for the first jam. I then played a bloody amazing game of roller derby as part of the most in sync, super-gelled, teamiest of teams and we won by 179 points to 99. Cos we were prepared and stuff. It was pretty fun.

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Pre-Game Thoughts from an ASTRO

Pummela #321

I joined Auld Reekie Roller Girls in May 2011 which seems like an age ago! Every time I think back to when I first put skates on, I laugh. I couldn’t stop or turn a corner and would often hit the wall if I got too cocky and went too fast. The first time I saw a game I thought – there’s no way I could ever do that. Now I’m playing for the All Star Rookies (ASTRO) and we have a game on Saturday against Mean City! This is the first time I’ve played in public with ASTRO so I’m incredibly excited. We were talking tactics at the weekend so I feel READY!

I didn’t actually play my first game of roller derby until roughly three years after I joined ARRG. Although I’ve skated intermittently during that time, I was around enough to see the sport evolve and keep my connections within the league. By which I mean keeping in touch with friends in the league and volunteering. The beauty of being part of a roller derby community is that whether or not you can skate, there’s always a place for you. You can be involved.

I passed the minimum skills after completing the fresh meat programme the first time. It was massively exciting to move up to skate ‘with the big girls’ as we affectionately called it at the time. All this amazing stuff was happening as I ignored increasing pain in my left hip. Eventually I couldn’t ignore it and it turned out I’d significantly damaged the inside of my hip joint so I needed surgery. That was all fine and I would come back and play again when I was better.

When that time came and it was a shock. I couldn’t do what I could before and I had gained a lot of weight. There’s a rule in the roller derby community that you should never compare your progress to others. It’s sound advice but I went beyond that and compared my recovery to other people’s recovery! My confidence was low and I came close to quitting all together. I accepted that if I wanted to play, I had to work for it so I took another few months off to strengthen each bit of my body and mind that needed to be strong.  When I returned again, I struggled through the minimum skills test and eventually passed after countless attempts. When I moved to intermediate I thought ‘that’ll do’ but I then progressed to advanced training, then soon after I got selected for the All Star Reserves. When I got the email offering me a place, I may have cried a little.

After that amazing experience I’ve had some other obstacles to tackle such as depression which made playing roller derby that wee bit harder. I took another break. I take a lot of breaks but I know that’s OK. If that’s what it takes to keep me playing, that’s fine. When ARRG decided to create the ASTROs I was incredibly excited. A great opportunity arose for me and I was lucky to get a place. I feel really at home in this team and whenever I feel that I should be progressing better or faster I remind myself that I almost quit once and had I done that, I wouldn’t have proved that a big person like me could be athletic, I wouldn’t have achieved what I wanted, I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people and I wouldn’t be playing with the ASTROs on Saturday.

Pummela alongside her fellow ASTROs take on Mean City Roller Derby this Saturday. Full game details via Mean City’s Facebook page. 

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Six ARRG Skaters Called Up For Team Scotland Squad

Six skaters from Edinburgh’s top roller derby league, The Auld Reekie Roller Girls have been drafted as part of Team Scotland. The six women will now join skaters from all over Scotland for an intensive training programme ahead of the 2017 Roller Derby World Cup.

Collie Check, Yin and Bang, Jess Little, Crazylegs, Rosie Peacock and Sharlotte Paterson all fought through intense try outs and an extremely competitive national selection process to secure a place on the Scottish Training Squad.

Edinburgh will be strongly represented in the national squad and the Auld Reekie drafted skaters will bring a mix of seasoned experience and fresh ferocity, Crazylegs captained the Scottish Team at both the 2011 and 2014 World Cups, Yin and Bang skated in the 2014 World Cup and it’s the first time for Peacock, Patterson, Collie Check and Little.

On making the squad the skaters had this to say:

Collie Check – “I’m looking forward to working my hardest with the group of talented, determined and hardworking skaters that make up the Team Scotland Training Squad.  It’s a great opportunity to push yourself to the furthest surrounded by other inspiring, and perspiring women.”

Sharlotte Patterson – “I’m so excited to have been given this opportunity and can’t wait to get training with the squad.”

Crazylegs – “So pleased to make the cut again! I’m excited by the potential of this new national team training squad; I can’t wait to start training hard and get to know everyone a little better and to see what we can bring.”

Yin and Bang – “I am so excited, I’m honoured and proud that I could be representing team Scotland at the World Cup.”

The Edinburgh skaters will now join the National Training Squad to undertake a gruelling training programme, as the squad work tirelessly to prepare and gel as a team ahead of the 2017 Roller Derby World Cup. The six women, who all skate as part of the Auld Reekie Roller Girls’s All Star Team will have little time to celebrate their achievement as they prepare to take on fierce rivals, Glasgow Roller Derby on the 6th August. The Edinburgh team will have the home advantage as the game will be held in Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium as part of the Festival Fringe. Click here for tickets! 

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ARRG and D2 Play Offs – A message from the All Stars

2016 has been an awesomely exciting and successful year so far for the Auld Reekie Roller Girls. We’ve had record numbers of new skaters in every intake of our SkateSkills 101 Programme, record numbers of derby fans attend our home games, we launched a new travel team, our skaters, officials and refs have traveled and represented ARRG nationally and internationally and to cap it all, we’ve finished the season at 57 in the WFTDA rankings (the highest ever in our leagues history!) – and have been invited to the 2016 WFTDA D2 playoffs! So aye, it’s been a good year for ARRG so far.

Alongside the highs and successes, we’ve had our fair share of challenges and difficult calls. After a huge amount of thought and having talked it through as a team, we have had to make the unbelievably difficult decision not to accept our invitation to D2 play offs this year.

Anyone who skates, who trains tirelessly, who sacrifices and fights to be the best they can possibly be, anyone who knows and loves our sport, will understand just how difficult this decision was. Every ARRG team only ever wants to skate and compete as the very best team they can be and at this current point, due to a number of unavoidable factors we cannot field a full strength team and now is not our time to compete at play offs. We train as a team, we want to play as a team.

Now our focus is 100% on being that full strength team. Now we work towards next year, to training and preparing to ensure that when we next get the invitation to play offs, which we absolutely will do, we do so in a position to play as the team we know we can be, when we are at our full strength. We are hugely excited about the challenge and hugely excited about the potential we know we possess.

Year after year, as a team we have consistently climbed the international rankings and we’ve had some amazing successes so far, all thanks to the hard work of a succession of amazing skaters who led and played on the team, and the unrelenting support from our league mates. This is just a small part in the All Stars journey, we have so much more to do and we will fight hard to ensure we maintain our presence in European and International derby competitive pathways.

So aye, 2016 has been a great year but seriously pals…2017 is going to be an absolute beaut of a year for ARRG!

Huge thanks to our league and supporters for your understanding.

Auld Reekie All Stars

Image credit: Benma Photo

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Welcome ASTRO – ARRG’s Newest Travel Team!

We’ve had a busy and pretty exciting couple of months here at ARRG. Our All Stars travelled to the US to take part in The Big O and absolutely kicked *ss, taking on some of the best teams in the world and playing four games in four days. Auld Reekie are now ranked #47 in the WFTDA world rankings – no biggie. We had a huge intake of new skaters as part of our newly rebranded and refreshed New Skaters programme – Skate Skills 101 (hiya new pals). We turned the ripe old age of eight – happy birthday ARRG! Oh aye, we also now have a band new C-Team!! We like to keep busy eh.

Auld Reekie All Star Rookies – ASTRO 

The all new Auld Reekie Roller Girls All Star Rookies (affectionately known as ASTRO) are our brand new travel team, put together for two reasons; to accommodate an ever growing number of competitive skaters in ARRG, but also because our All Stars and All Star Reserves are playing at such a high level, we needed a team that can compete on a more local level. We want to play local and UK teams to help grow the sport as much as we can, and whilst our Reserves can play a lot of UK A teams, our new ASTRO team are ready to take on B teams, or newer leagues A teams.

The team is made up of a mixture of players; we’ve got some who have been playing derby for over 6 years, and some who started less than 12 months ago. We believe this team really showcases the different learning and development paths that all skaters take – anyone who has taken the brave leap into becoming a competitive skater knows that everyone progresses at different rates, and this team really shows that. Everyone can achieve anything, if you just keep working at it.

In terms of ARRG, this team means that we now have three focused, competitive travel teams. Whilst this has its own set of challenges in terms of coaching, hall space, and leadership, it’s also really positive for things like tactical development, skater progression, and skill sharing.

We are super excited to start playing as a team – we’ve worked so hard to get game ready, we’ve become a strong, responsive, unified team and we have no doubt we’ll put up a good fight on the 11th! Tickets for the game are on sale now!

The first ASTRO team who will take on Granite City Fight Hawks on Saturday are:

1. Aisa Typhoon
2. Cirque Du Slay
3. Danisaurus Wrecks
4. Dead Metal
5. EmKa
6. Ex Machina
7. Lannthrax
8. McPain – VICE CAPTAIN!
9. Powerhouse
10. Princess Die – CAPTAIN!
11. Purely Belt’her
12. Shanarchy
13. Simply the Beast
14. Trojan Virus
Sub 1 – Hex 

Bench – Lex Luthor 

LUM – Lucky Harms 

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Auld Reekie take on Finland’s Finest

On Saturday 11th June, the Auld Reekie Roller Girls All Stars (ARRG) will do battle with Finland’s Kallio Roller Derby at Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium, continuing their international roller derby onslaught.

Get your tickets here. Please note, online ticket sales will close at 11am on the 11th June. Tickets will be available for £8 (£6 concessions) on the door on game day!

Fresh from a successful Big O tournament in the US last month during which the Edinburgh team took on some of the best roller derby teams in the world, they will be fighting hard for a win on home track.

Cailtin O’Carroll, All Stars Co-Captain said:

“We were definitely really challenged in America. American teams tend to have a lot very solid, big players. Inspired by this we will be training to aggressively own our space on track, and be a little more agile in avoiding the bigger hits. We’ve a lot to work on but we are in a really strong position – we’ve room to build and improve with one eye on next season already.”

Auld Reekie, now ranked 47th in the world will be more determined than ever to retain their unbeaten home record this year as a confident win against the Finnish team will further propel Edinburgh up the international rankings, a lose however, could cost dearly.

O’Carroll continued:

“The rankings position is always a risk, especially with an unknown (to us) quantity like Kallio who have been quietly beating teams ranked above us….but we feel it’s vital to play the harder games this season, to push ourselves to the limits. With Kallio there is a risk of us dropping some of the rankings points we earned in the US as a result of the game but we are incredibly hungry for the win and are prepared to take the risk to ensure we qualify for Championship Play Offs later on this summer.” 

Whatever the outcome, when Auld Reekie face Kallio, an explosive game of world-class roller derby is guaranteed!

Spectators will get two games for the price of one on the 11th June. In addition to the international fixture against Kallio, the day will also see the debut of the newly created C team for the Edinburgh league – the Auld Reekie Roller Girls All Star Rookies who will take on Aberdeen’s Granite City Fight Hawks. As well as top derby action, the event includes plenty of activities to keep the entire family entertained including local craft stalls, top ARRG merchandise, half-time entertainment, a stocked bar, tasty cake stalls and a kids’ area with crafts and face painting.

Tickets: £5 online, £8 (£6 concessions) on the door, free entry for under 14’s – to purchase click here. Please note, online ticket sales will close at 11am on the 11th June. Tickets will be available on the door on game day!

Doors open at 14:20 at Meadowbank Stadium

14:30 -16:00

Auld Reekie Roller Girls All Star Rookies V Granite City Fight Hawks

16:00 – 18:00

Auld Reekie Roller Girls All Stars V Kallio Roller Derby

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A Taste(r) of Things to Come


If all that Big O action has been whetting your appetite for destruction (and why wouldn’t it?), you’ll be happy to know that you can learn the hits, blocks and jams of roller derby at one of our regular Taster Days. ‘What’s that all about, eh?’ we hear you ask. Well, ask no more.

Our most recent Taster Session took place on Sunday May 1. The day started out with an off-skates introduction to derby (the whats, the hows, the whos and the whys), led by our fabulous league member BA Humbug. Then, thanks to our intermediate and advanced pals who lent their kit, the newbies got a look at all the gear and protection that goes into derby: skates (obvs), knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets and mouth guards (brought from home, because nobody wants to share those). While they were doing this, they were sharing a hall with our brand-new ad hoc team, the WarriARRGS, a challenge team made up of mixed level skaters to play closed, friendly games with local teams, and got an up-close look at a scrimmage situation, plus a sneak peek at what to expect from roller derby once they pass their mins.

Thankfully, nobody was frightened off, and the group got down to a warm-up, before strapping on their skates and having a go. Everyone goes through a wobbly beginning (eight wheels is very different from two feet), but soon the group were having a go at doing a few laps of the track. This was followed by trying stopping for the first time (always important), and T-Stops were the order of the day. Balance exercises and skull crushing followed (skating without lifting your legs from the ground, using your thigh muscles to guide your skates in and out, right foot mirroring left foot, in order to keep moving forward in a pack situation).

After all that hard work, the group decided it was time for some fun: Hot Dog Tag, one of ARRG’s fave on-track games. Two skaters are assigned to be ‘mustard’, and have to tag the other skaters on track. Once tagged, the skater (or ‘hotdog’) must lie down on the floor and can’t get up until two other skaters lie down, one on each side of her (creating a ‘bun’). The game is a bit of fun, but works wonders for creating awareness of who’s on track, being aware of your own position on track, and, of course, dodging and skating quickly away from opponents. The last exercise of the day was crossovers – an imperative skill when it comes to getting quickly around the track.

Taster Day leader, Aisa Typhoon, said:

‘Everybody tried really hard and improved a lot in the session: the start was pretty wobbly, but they were all showing lots of stability by the end! Really good work – we’re looking forward to seeing them all in the next Skate Skills 101.’

The hope is that our taster pals will have enjoyed their time so much they’ll sign up to do our Skate Skills 101 programme – a 14-week course that teaches everything newbie skaters need to know to complete their minimum skills tests and progress to competitive skating, or refereeing!

Our next Taster Session is on the 4th December and the next intake begins on 15th January 2017! Email newskaters@arrg.co.uk for a place on the course!

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ARRG are heading for The Big O!

ARRG All Stars Head for The Big O

ARRG’s All Stars will travel to America to take on some of the most talented roller derby teams on the planet later this month.

The All Stars are currently ranked 48th in the world, are the only UK team to have secured a coveted place in the three-day Big O tournament in Oregon.

All Stars co-captain Crazylegs said the team needed to travel across the Atlantic to play top tier games, which will be among the hardest ARRG has ever played.

She said:

“We’ll be playing really experienced, well-practiced teams of a level we’ve probably not come against for a wee while.

It will be a huge test to hold our focus when things maybe don’t go our way and to keep calm and together. We’ve trained incredibly hard, developed some new approaches to our game, aiming to play smarter and consolidating key tactics. We are ready for the challenge.

We’re facing teams like original WFTDA member league Windy City from Chicago, who have been playing at the highest tournament levels since before our team existed.

Whatever happens, we’re stoked to be there and we are bringing everything we’ve got.”

The Big O tournament runs from Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1.

Nearly forty teams will compete, including Team USA and six of the top ten women’s teams in the world.

Good luck pals!!

ARRG’s Big O Fixtures:

Friday 29th April 

ARRG v Windy City Rollers (Chicago) 

Saturday 30th April 

ARRG v Sacred (Sacramento) 

Sunday 30th April 

ARRG v Santa Cruz

Games can be streamed live online via: http://ecrg.com/bigo/

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