Interview by Posy Dixon, photo by Sam Ashley
I was never into sports when I was younger. I was kicked out of ballet class when I was little and then at secondary school I had the choice of cross country running or ten pin bowling for P.E. and that says it all really. I’m not sure what attracted me to Rollerderby, I guess it was totally different from normal sports and something that could keep me fit while having a good time.
I went to my first practice without really knowing how to skate, with some horrible skates I’d borrowed off a friend. I wasn’t really nervous about having a go. I just remember trying not to think about it toomuch, the “throw yourself in there” approach seemed to work out ok.
I can’t speak for every Rollergirl but I’d say Rollerderby is violent, but no more so than any other full contact sport. Everyone who plays knows the risks involved, we wear full protection including a mouth guard, and we’re trained to the highest standard and play by the rules.
I think strength in woman can be misinterpreted as aggression or violence. In Rollerderby you have to have a strong ability to control yourself and be disciplined, because even if you think a ref has made a wrong call you have to stay focused and keep as part of the unit with your team or it all falls apart. It takes skill, time and dedication to play this sport well and to just pass it off as girls being agro on skates really doesn’t do us justice.
Two of my closest friends are girls I met doing derby. We hang out socially away from the track but that doesn’t mean it’s not daggers when we’re playing each other. Some, but not all, of the girls who do derby get dressed up for events. It’s all to do with the kind of personal style you have. I like to customise my ‘boutfits’ and wear something different for each game because that’s what I do with my non-derby clothes anyways. Some girls just like to wear the shirts as they come and not douse themselves in glitter and make up – it’s totally up to the individual.
The whole skate name thing is just a bit of fun. Some people like to think of it as a alter ego, but for me personally I’d say it was more of a nickname. Our names are actually also quite practical as you never get two girls with the same, it would be much harder to communicate with your team if you had two Louises and two Emilys on the track.
Rollerderby does tend to appeal to feminists so it does often get associated with the whole “girl power” thing. Still, in reality the league is full of different types of girls from different backgrounds and countries. It’s one of the reasons it’s so much fun as there are plenty of people I would never have met in the real world, we have teachers, social workers, a barrister, journalists, nurses and artists all involved in London Rollergirls.
None of us know how Rollerderby will develop, as it’s so new to the country. We’ve come so far in three years and we don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s really exciting to be involved with something at this stage of growth. People pick up on Rollerderby all over the place now and want to get involved. Jewellers Tatty Devine now sponsor us and have made us our own London Rollergirl necklaces this year. The whole thing so far has been totally grassroots – and it’s only the dedication of a lot of cool girls that has got us and the sport where we are today.
If you want to get involved in Rollerderby get in touch with the London Rollergirls , visit londonrollergirls.com