FEATURE: Get Into…Roller Derby | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image by Graeme Wharton

Newcastle Roller Girls are putting on a new beginner’s course, starting Sunday 3rd February in Newcastle – an ideal opportunity for women who have ‘get fit’ as a New Year’s resolution or those who want to take on something new and meet new people. To get you in the mood, we asked Newcastle Roller Girls to help us get to know the world of roller derby a little better.

My name is Mills & Boom, and I play roller derby with Newcastle Roller Girls.

Roller derby is a contact sport played on roller skates. If you’ve seen the Drew Barrymore film Whip It you’ll have an idea of what it’s about – if not, picture 2 teams of 5 people skating around an oval track. One skater per team is the ‘jammer’, and is trying to lap the other team, scoring a point for each person she passes. The other team tries to stop the jammer getting past by blocking her on track, or pushing her off track with their hips or shoulders.

It’s an exciting sport to both play and watch, but people get obsessed with it for more than just the gameplay. The sport has a real DIY and feminist ethos, and it’s a lot of fun to be training and hanging out with a bunch of other women who celebrate strength, fitness and camaraderie.

Roller derby is one of the few sports where literally every body shape and size is valued and has an advantage on track. Bigger skaters can often hit harder, push with more strength, and make a solid defence. Meanwhile smaller skaters may move faster and get through smaller spaces. But what everyone needs to succeed is a good level of fitness and strength. I’m by no means the only skater to have started going to the gym and eating better only because I want to win more games!

It’s a serious sport, but we also appreciate the absurdity of being grown adults playing on wheely shoes several times a week. Some skaters choose to have alternative skate names, often based on puns or a tongue-in-cheek tough personas – some of my favourite names on the team are Victoria Deck’em, Method Mam, and Hit One Purl One.

Newcastle Roller Girls has around 70 skaters, split across 3 teams. I’ve been playing on the A team, called The Canny Belters, for a couple of years. It’s a really competitive team, and to climb the global rankings we play teams from across the world: I’ve been lucky enough to travel with my team to Sweden, the USA and Canada.

My first overseas tournament in Denver was an unforgettable experience. We flew in a couple of days before the tournament to acclimatise to the altitude, which was 1 mile above sea level. The first night we went to a rooftop restaurant down the street from the team’s Airbnb, and all of a sudden we found ourselves in the middle of an almighty lightning storm, like nothing I’ve seen before in the UK. Americans really do everything bigger! The tournament itself was a brilliant experience – we did much better than expected, and ended up playing 5 hour-long games over the weekend, instead of getting knocked out after 2 games as expected. As well as the thrill of competing against high-level teams from across the USA, there was also the small matter of playing with reduced oxygen in the air due to the altitude – I’ve never before needed to breathe oxygen out of can to get my breath back!

Unusually for a sport, women’s roller derby has a much higher profile than the men’s version. (And by ‘women’, we mean ciswomen, transgender women, intersex women, plus people who are gender expansive). Locally you can find women’s roller derby teams in Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, and men’s teams in Newcastle and Middlesbrough. Newcastle also has a junior’s team, for all gender skaters aged 8-17.

Getting involved in roller derby will open up a whole new world to you. You’ll discover a community of supportive, competitive and fun people, you’ll find yourself getting fitter and stronger, and you’ll wonder why it took you so long to get started.

Newcastle Roller Girls is running a new beginner’s course, starting on Sunday 3rd February 2019 and lasting 15 weeks. To sign up, go to www.newcastlerollergirls.co.uk or email recruitment@newcastlerollergirls.co.uk.

Like this story? Share it!