Inter Derby

World Wide Derby Domination

I’m Dreaming of Dry and Smooth Concrete

Posted by hooligal on January 26, 2008

Challenges in the International Derby World

Aside from being cut off from the American roller derby world, there are a few challenges I’ve noticed that face an English roller derby league and their skaters. Along with learning how to build a league from the ground with virtually no help from outside sources, they then have to teach their skaters, find practice space, and raise awareness of their newly acquired sport, the likes of which the international world has never seen before. Roller Derby in past days was purely a North American phenomenon, and never reached the shores of England, Germany, Australia, and other places until now.

Coming from Canada, the hockey capital of the world, I’ve taken for granted the vast number of hockey arenas that sit open waiting for derby girls to fill them during the summer months. Not to mention there’s always ball hockey spaces, because Canadians will find any way to play hockey, even without skates! Here in England, where there is no or little snow or ice, hockey is just not a popular sport. Football (soccer) is the game here, but you cannot play roller derby on a football pitch! So finding practice space large enough to house at least a track has proved difficult. We have practiced in very small school gyms and halls, the largest being vast enough to hold a track, but only so much so that we are smashing each other up into the walls. This still leaves us the problem of finding bout venues! The London Roller Girls have found one of passable size, but still have to turn fans away due to lack of capacity. Which seems good, in terms of saying that your bout was sold out, but really, that could be that many more people whom could have seen roller derby!

Furthermore there is the sheer expense of paying for our practice space, in one of the most expensive and crowded cities in the world. Our league dues cover it, and we scrape by, but I can only think of how much more space leagues in the arenas of Canada for a fraction of the cost. Then we also have to pay outrageous transport fees for the tube (subway), train, or petrol if you are driving. London is a very large city and our skaters are dotted from one end of it to another. From where I stay (in a suburb of London called Staines) it costs me £10 to get a travelcard, which will get me both to and from practice. That’s $20 American! Every practice! And then it takes about an hour and a half to get there. Almost the same if you’re driving through London traffic.

So I don’t go to midweek practices. I can’t afford it and it’s much too far. I figure, I can skate outside during the week, its free, its local, and I don’t have to listen to a coach (I’m notorious for not listening to the coach, hehe). But wait, there’s problems there too! Again I have taken for granted something from my homeland of Canada: smooth and dry concrete! England is famous for its rain. Even in the winter whilst I think there is no snow and that’s a good thing skating wise, it rains almost every day. Or looks like its about to any minute. Or has earlier and the pavement is still wet. The days that it is dry enough to skate, there is another problem: the sidewalks, roads and parking lots are made of what looks like gravel stuck in cement. Very rocky, not smooth, and never, ever even. In a semi-smooth parking lot you will still find huge dips, bumps and mounds. And I’m not just making a mountain out of a molehill here, they are some seriously bad conditions!

Looking for local skating, my team-mate Margy Bargy and I did find a fairly nice path down by the river Thames. However, upon skating down it, we ran into patches that are nothing but large dips and bumps. Even further down the path we ran into a dirt path. End of the road. These are the conditions we have to skate in here.

Hyde Park seems to apparently be one of the only good places to skate in though, in the summer when its nice out. You can get the whole league out and have a picnic. I’ve never been there though, it’s too damn far and not worth the journey until the weather is a bit nicer.

However, they say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. All the obsticles that derby girls here have to face never hinders them from their reason for being. More and more leagues are popping up all over the UK, and around the world, in places that have never seen derby in any form before. They each face unique roadblocks and isolation from experienced leagues to help them. And yet they pull though. Why do they do it? For the love of derby of course!

Still, I wish I could find some smooth, dry concrete!

Here’s a video I made about…pavement..yea thats right..pavement. 

2 Responses to “I’m Dreaming of Dry and Smooth Concrete”

  1. Hot Lips said

    Here in Sydney, we’re also facing the challenge of being a derby league without a rink – and while we’ve been rewarded for plenty of hard work with some awesome venues close to public transport, near the CBD, and while we have much better weather for outdoor skating than you do … we’re now facing the challenge of having no easy way in for Freshies – since they have to commit to the sport enough to buy their own skates right off the bat. Tricky situations, to be sure.

  2. Kitty DeCapitate said

    Hey Hooligal! It sure does suck, doesn’t it??!?! and i know what you mean about the pavement. i grew up on skates back in melbourne (both at my local rink, but mainly street skating) and you could skate on the pavement or on the road and it was smooth as silk. my sister and i used to play suicide races, and skate down the hill on my street! i have tried to street skate here a few times and it scared the crap out of me!

    p.s: australia did have roller derby in the 70’s. the bay city bombers, etc., were televised, as both my uncle and dad used to watch it. so in oz, i think, at least some people are aware of the concept. though maybe because we play alot of full contact sport (aussie rules football/rugby), the whole aggression/hardcoredness of the sport isn;t such an alien concept. it has been super hard to build derby in the uk, though as you can testify to yourself, it is really starting to take off now! yay!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: