Guess what? Since the recent Drew Barrymore film Whip It, there’s been a huge surge of interest in female roller derby resulting in long waiting lists for member at London clubs. Roller derby is a full-contact roller skating sport with its roots in the United States. It dates back to the 1930s, but has encountered a rowdy revival in the last decade with DIY-minded, post-punky hip chicks giving it a fresh lick of neon pink paint.
Players skate around the track in a series of two-minute countdown jams. Each jam sees five girls hit the track, one jammer - the point scorer, three blockers, and a pivot (the last line of defence and main blocker). The pack will start skating at the first whistle and jammers sprint on the second whistle. The jammers’ aim is to make it through the pack and skate a full lap to enter the pack again and score a point. But the two groups are doing everything possible to stop their rival jammer from scoring points, while helping their own get by to score. What this means is the ladies get to bash their opponents, shoving and knocking them over. These are legally defined hits, considered totally acceptable by all involved. It’s quite ordinary to see players flying off the track and injuries are very common!
We wanted to investigate the situation further, so we asked a couple of member of The London Rollergirls why they love it so much.
Knickerbocker Glory told us "It’s both a sport and a subculture. Some girls are more interested in the sports aspect, hoping it will become a professional sport, others are into the showy, live aspect – their ‘boutfits’, the nicknames etc".
La Muñeca; "Nowadays people are starting to use their real names, because they want it to be recognised as a real sport. If you have fake names, like in wrestling, it won’t be taken seriously enough. I was sad when some of the girls switched back to their real names because I really loved their skater names. I love having a fake name. You can sort of play on the character a little bit – I feel empowered and different".
Knickerbocker Glory again - "When you take a name you have to ensure that no one has it. There is a global list of rollergirls and if you have one that’s similar, you have to ask that rollergirl if it’s okay".
Looks fearsome! WATCH! the girls in training at London’s City Academy of Sports in Bermondsey
And get down to your cinema to check out the Hollywood version – Whip it!
Chloe McCloskey [Shirley]