Did you know we have a women's roller derby league based here in Tottenham? What is roller derby you ask? It goes back to the 1930's, but the modern version began in the early 2000s as an all-female (although there are now men's leagues), woman-organized amateur sport in Austin, Texas. It is a full-contact sport played by two teams on quad roller skates, skating around a flat elliptical track.
The London Rollergirls (LRG) is an amateur roller derby league which began in 2006 and is run solely by the skaters and dedicated volunteers. It has been a large part of the growth of roller derby in the UK and Europe. Their home venue is based at the Tottenham Green Leisure Centre, so Rachel Ho caught up with Christina Dixon, aka Brat Worst, from LRG to find out more.
Describe your relationship to Tottenham and how LRG came to be involved in the area
Tottenham was our original home venue and the first place we organised a public bout, so it's a special location for us. We returned there a few years ago after we lost Earl's Court, which became our big event bout space when roller derby was first exploding in the UK.
Photo by Hoots Does Photos: Brat Worst
Finding venues in which to play roller derby is an ongoing challenge. We need a big space where people are happy for us to roller skate and for bouting we ideally need to be able to fit a crowd in as well. Tottenham have consistently been welcoming to us and the other London leagues so we keep coming back.
Our events at Tottenham always sell out and it gets so crazy in there. It's mad looking over from the track to see hundreds of people packed into a leisure centre cheering. The atmosphere is electric. I think that's what makes the venue quite unique compared to some of the bigger exhibition centres we play in.
Photo source @londonrollergirls
How does everyone's roller derby name get decided?
Roller derby names aren't so much of a thing anymore to be totally honest. A lot of people are choosing to skate under the real names and focus more on the serious, athletic side of the sport.
That being said, loads of us still have roller derby names and wear them with pride. Most people develop a pun or word play that somehow relates to them personally. So for example my original name was Brat Worst because I just moved back from living in Austria when I started playing derby and it was a nod to my new found love of Germanic culture, plus I am a terrible brat. Other people choose something that relates to their work, e.g Hellvetica Black (a graphic designer), or we had a Flamin' Aggro (a firefighter) for a while. There aren't really any rules for coming up with one!
What about the fans? Who comes to watch the derbies?
We have such a broad fanbase it's quite hard to define. As we do a lot of marketing and outreach in newspapers, Time Out and online we get a lot of first timers at our games alongside all the friends and family.
A lot of people from other roller derby leagues come to watch us as the standard of play at London Rollergirls is quite high and we normally offer bootcamps before our home games to teach skills to other leagues.
We've recently been trying to reach out more to the community in Tottenham by offering a local discount as well as connecting with local businesses. For example, we sell cold brew from Craving Coffee at our games. We'd love to develop a stronger connection to the local community through collaborations and fundraisers.
At the last game we had a guy from a market stall in Tottenham come along with his sons. He said he always sees people hiking around Tottenham with loads of skate gear and wanted to find out what it was all about. That's what we want more of!
Photo by Anja Wettergren
Roller Derby looks like a tough sport! What advice do you have if women want to get involved?
It might look tough but there's a role for all skills and body types within this sport. Most people start off not having a clue how to skate and we draw beginners from across quite a big age range. I think my advice would be not to be scared by people saying it's a rough sport and you might get hurt. Of course it's possible, but having a go and unlocking this side of yourself you didn't know about is worth the risk.
We welcome people from across the gender spectrum and from all backgrounds. We pride ourselves on being open and inclusive, so I'd recommend trying out roller derby to anyone who wants to make interesting new friends, travel the sports halls of the world and not be able to get your calves in your skinny jeans anymore.
Photo source @londonrollergirls
Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?
Brunch at Blighty, followed by a bloody mary at Craving Coffee. Not on game day, obviously.
Anything you would like to add?
We have a home game coming up in July and we'd love more people from Tottenham to come along. Please keep your eyes peeled on our website!
Find out more about London Rollergirls