Bex the Bruiser. Kylie Kalashnikoff. Jet Reckless. Minxie Mayhem. Mortabella Bam. Fearne Rotten. These aren’t the names of fringe pop stars or villains in next month’s summer blockbusters, they’re the rough-and-tumble women of the Bristol Roller Derby.
A few weekends ago, we headed to the wrong side of the tracks to check out a match between Bristol’s own Harbour Harlots and the visiting Swansea City Slayers. Billed as ‘Grime and Punishment,’ the bout added a little cross-border drama to the sport.
We had the best seats in the house, the so-called Suicide Seating. It’s an adults-only perch right up at the edge of the action. When (that’s when, not if) the players go out of bounds, you get a roller girl in your lap and a few bruises to take home as souvenirs.
Know the game? It’s like a cross between rugby, American football and relay racing, all on quad skates. There are two halves of 30 minutes, with each containing about 10 ‘jams’ – where one skater per team (the aptly titled ‘jammer’…starting to follow along?) has to, um, assert herself through a pack of skaters and pass all her opponents. Why? For every opponent a jammer passes, she scores a point for her crew while her teammates do their part by knocking the other opponents down. Picture a mobile wrestling match and you’ll start to see why we may have found our new favourite underground sport.
We witnessed a caffeinated battle of hip shoves as the audience, full of pirate-costumed Harbour Harlot supporters, willed their hometown squad to a 276 to 48 beat-down of the Slayers. Chatting with Bristol’s Adele Linquent post-game, she was totally out of breath and basking in the warm glow of victory. We had to know: How does someone get involved? Adele was a quad-skater (never in-line!) into her late teens and only stopped because it was a bit lonely…until a friend put her down with roller derby and the glory of combat on eight wheels.
Ladies, if you ever want to join the fun, any roller derby team in the world with give you nothing but love and shoves. And for all the boys out there…the first Bristol men’s team has just formed – are you man enough?
Photo courtesy of What the F4 Photography