Secret scenes: Roller girls

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’We met at cage fighting class,‘ says Danielle, 29, as she straps on battered elbow pads. ’Lauren said to me, “Isn‘t roller derby like cage fighting on skates? Let‘s do it!”‘ That was in February. Since then, the two London-based Americans have started the London Rollergirls, the UK‘s first all-girl roller derby group. In post-Depression era America, roller derby was a hugely popular sport, only falling out of favour in the 1970s. The last 12 months, however, has seen a wildfire revival in the US. And now it‘s in London

  • Secret scenes: Roller girls

    Anna Monoxide shoes off the tattoo of her rollergirl identity

  • It’s Saturday afternoon and we’ve crowded into an East End school hall. Girls around me are pulling yoga poses, contorting their bodies into stretches that involve getting their foreheads up close and personal with their knee caps. Girls with blunt, retro fringes and colourful tattoos twist, turn and discuss the best anti-inflammatory combinations. As bags full of body armour and mouth guards are unpacked, I start questioning the el cheapo skate pad pack that I bought earlier.

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    The girls go through the motions at Mulberry Leisure Centre in E1

    ‘It’s not the bone-breaking you need to worry about, it’s the bruises,’ says a voice by my knee – belonging to 23-year-old Brogan Savage. ‘We get an awful lot of bruises.’ She hikes up her tartan mini to reveal a mean purple and yellow bruise over most of her right thigh.

    So what’s it all about? Two teams of five race around a track in a very tight group trying to prevent the opposition’s jammer from overtaking and scoring a point per enemy passed. You stop the jammer with… pretty much any move that isn’t a blatant wheels-out trip or punch to the face.

    The teams each have themes – think punks, pirates, war brides – and each girl chooses a unique skate name, such as Bambi Manslaughter or Calamity Pain. ‘The girls really get into their superhero personas,’ smiles 25-year-old head coach Mash, who joined Danielle, Lauren and financial boss, April, in running the Rollergirls. There’s a database in America, he explains, and you have to ask permission from another rollergirl if your name’s similar. To show she meant business, 23-year old London rollergirl Anna Monoxide had ‘monoxide’ tattoed on her lower lip and was all set to get it on her labia, too. Fortunately Gotham’s Carmen Monoxide is cool with it.

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    Left to right: Anna Monoxide, Tamar Tantrum and Brogan Savage

    The first thing we learn is how to fall when skating fast. ‘Pornstar!’ shouts 29-year-old Lauren and we all fall forward onto our wrists and elbows, bums high in the air. ‘Baseball!’ she cries, and we slide out on our sides. When you’re skating in a group and fall, chances are you’ll take out everyone else, but falling is fun. Fingers tucked into fists at all times, though: they’re the bones most likely to break as someone skates over them. The mock game at the end is exhausting. Naomi, 27, sweet English rose off track, fiercely competitive on, agrees: ‘It’s hard. You’ve got to keep an eye backwards looking for their jammer, an eye sideways on the person you’re tracking and ahead at the same time.’

    While they’ve only been hosting training sessions since March, the Rollergirls hope to stage an exhibition bout at the end of the year, and should have enough girls to set up a four-team league soon. They throw monthly fundraising parties to recruit more girls to play and guys to referee. And it shouldn’t be too hard to convince guys to watch short-skirted girls on skates beat the crap out of each other. It’s the most exciting sport on wheels, until they get cages.

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6 comments
Gwen
Gwen

Love Anna Monoxide :) She was my kick A*$ Piercer !Glad she's in the states now:)Roller girls are RAD!! :0)

Kiera
Kiera

bloody love the rollergirls!

Maz
Maz

I think they look bloody amazing.

john johson
john johson

you are nothing but next level scene kids

Auntie K
Auntie K

To Rudy... Let's hope you were "making a funny" w/ your comment. If so, "Hardy har ho hum!" to you. If not, well we'll consider the source.