After two years of training, the London Rollergirls are ready to take on their first international competition this Saturday when the pick of their players line up for London Brawling as they take on Team Canada at the Tottenham Green Leisure Centre in a matchup entitled "Mutiny on the Mountie." As the team's press release says:
Roller derby involves two teams of four blockers skating round an elliptical track, while a point scorer from each team ("the jammer") tries to fight their way through, gaining a point for each opposing player they pass. Trips, grabs, elbows, headbutts and fist-fighting are all illegal – but spine-crunching shoulder barges, hip checks and booty blocks are totally legit.
Londonist caught up with the rollergirls at a recent training session which, predictably enough, started off with some skating. Despite acquiring a position off the track at the side of the sports hall, it rapidly became clear this was no guarantee of safety as the league's fastest skaters did laps of what appeared to be an unfeasibly tight course for the speeds they were moving at, the laws of physics and the skater's unbroken legs to peaceably coexist. That was before the contact drills started, which clarified the need for the wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, helmets and gumshields worn by the skaters. Londonist had been delighted to discover, having previously assumed that the holes in the skater's helmets were to provide ventilation and prevent overheating, that one of their lesser known qualities was being about the right size to accommodate a gumshield when not in use. Although the girls were taking things easy in advance of Saturday's 'bout', a morass of pink and black whirled around the track whilst the blockers attempted to barge jammers aside, sending them sliding into walls, doors and benches.
If the training session was anything to go by, Team Canada will be facing a London Brawling team with plenty of aggression. These girls have bags full of attitude. Well, actually, they have suitcases on wheels full of skates, protective gear, fishnets, hotpants, mini skirts and possibly London's finest collection of knee-length, stripy socks, which they haul to and from training sessions. But they're certainly not short on attitude. Depending on who you ask, the main attraction of the sport is either the other people, or being able to hit the other people. The worst thing, on which there seemed general agreement, is the injuries. Four broken legs in two years would testify to that. After two hours' adrenalin-fuelled roller derby education at the 'easy' pre-match training session, and raising the question in the pub afterwards, Londonist is still a little unclear why these girls do this sport, but suspects it may be something to do with the socks. Regardless, and despite not fully understanding the rules, Londonist is a newly converted roller derby fan. Anyone stuck for a Saturday plan could do a lot worse than pick up a ticket.
For more information see: http://www.londonrollergirls.com/
Report by Rachel Symes.
Photo of the London Brawling squad courtesy of the London Rollergirls.