From Halifax’s Bruising Bandita Rollergirls to Southend’s Seaside Sirens, Roller Derby leagues have spread across Britain since the game arrived on our shores from America in the mid noughties.
Croydon has not been immune from this roller invasion and now a band of over 30 Croydon women practice the sport at Carshalton Health Centre for 7 hours each week.
And they are ready to grow.
At this weekend’s gruesomely-named ‘Fresh Meat event,’ Croydon Roller Derby is hosting open trials with the aim of getting more local women involved in the sport – and it is open to all abilities.
Ellie ‘Inara Terra’ Odurny, who works at a record company, says: “The thing that attracts people to roller derby is its alternative edge. Where a lot of other team sports, even at amateur level, focus on exclusivity, roller derby caters to all shapes and sizes.”
Lily ‘Agent Cooper’ Rae, who has been ‘derbying’ for a year, explains: “I would encourage anyone who is even remotely interested to come to the tryouts and give it a go. When I went to Fresh Meat last year I couldn’t skate and fell on my arse constantly – now I am skating at A-team-level bouts.”
Derby involves two teams of five: one jammer and four blockers. The jammer’s aim is to get round the track as quickly as possible, picking up points by passing blockers of the opposing team. The blocker’s role is to stop this – by any means necessary.
Unlike football, hockey and netball, the aim of the game is contact, and bruises and broken bones are par for the course.
It is this difference to the world of mainstream sport that appeals to many of Croydon’s members and has bred the 1,250 amateur leagues worldwide.
The Croydon chapter was started in the autumn of 2009 by Dee ‘Mosquito’ Hogan as an alternative to the popular central London leagues.
MJ ‘Smookie Smackhouse’ Hogan, sister of Mosquito, was there at the start of it all: “Dee started skating for London Rockin Rollers but London was a bit far to travel and some of her friends were interested in doing it so she set up a small skating group.”
And this is what she did. Croydon began by just skating at Croydon centre’s St George’s Walk, more friends joined, they found a hall and now they run a regular league with its A-team, ‘Riot Squad’, ranked 33rd in the Europe.
But Roller Derby is more than just about what happens on the track; there is a special camaraderie and community that is created by the sport.
Says Agent Cooper, “I have made the best friends I have ever had because of it and I know if I am ever in a fix that they have my back.”
Inara Terra adds: “We are like a massive family.”
So if you fancy joining the family, and the thousands of other ‘derby girls’ that make Roller Derby one of the fastest growing female participant sports in Britain, roll on down to Carshalton Leisure Centre this Sunday afternoon.
Trials will be held this Sunday at the Pulse Health & Fitness Centre in Carshalton, Nightingale Rd, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 2EJ from 3:00-4:45 p.m.