Roller derby is a relatively recent phenomenon in Britain, but the United Kingdom Roller Derby Association — which governs competitive clubs in the UK — already counts 15 leagues among its members. The high-impact contact sport involves two teams of four defensive players and one jammer (the one with a star on her helmet), who must pass through the pack to score.
Where can you watch a breathtaking roller derby bout when visiting Britain?
Berkshire: Royal Windsor Roller Girls
In England's southeast region, the Royal Windsor Roller Girls have their bouts at the Windsor Leisure Centre on Stovell Road in Windsor. The team sports the colors of silver, royal blue and black. Tickets cost £10 for anyone over age 12; kids enter gratis. Considering the team's instrumental role in the formation of the league, roller-derby fans visiting Great Britain should make a point of visiting the team's bouts whenever possible.
Essex: Seaside Siren Roller Girls
The Seaside Siren Roller Girls train and compete in Southend-on-Sea, situated in the east of England. Founded in 2009, this league is not yet part of the international Women's Flat Track Derby Association but intends to apply for membership soon. The team competes at the Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre on Eastern Avenue in Essex's Garon Park. Adults pay £8 to enter; children over five years of age pay half. Since this roller derby team — like so many others — play various bouts and special events, it's a good idea to keep a close eye on the events calendar for updates.
London: London Rockin' Rollers
Not only have the London Rockin' Rollers spawned three teams since their 2007 inception, but you also saw some of them at the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic Games, skating in the "nightmare" sequence. The home teams — known as the Goldie Lookin' Chain Gang, the Voodoo Skull Krushers and the NeanderDolls — play home bouts at the Newham Leisure Centre and some away games at the High Wycombe Sports Centre. Buy tickets in advance for £5 or £7 at the door (free for kids under 12). Check with event organizers; in some cases, visitors can qualify to pay the lower advance sale price at the door by wearing a derby team T-shirt.
North Yorkshire: Middlesbrough Milk Rollers
Holding bouts at the Peterlee Leisure Centre on St. Cuthberts Way in Peterlee, the Middlesbrough Milk Rollers represent the country's northeast region. The team also practices at the Eston Sports Academy and the Rainbow Leisure Centre. Ticket prices start at £6 for anyone over age 12. Buy your tickets online; the cost jumps to £7 at the door.
Insider tips for roller derby attendees
Roller derby is more fun for spectators if they know the rules. Many derby leagues have information on their websites or even in pamphlet form at bouts. Most knowledgeable fans are happy to explain what's going on.
Flat-track roller derby is a contact sport. Although event organizers make valiant efforts to keep the bouts family friendly, younger children who are easily upset by jam crashes may not be good attendees.
The after-parties are another reason to consider leaving the kids at home. Roller derby teams are very accessible and enjoy a good party after a bout. While all fans and attendees are invited to come, these parties usually take place at 18-and-over bars and pubs.
by Sylvia Cochran
Top: The Suffra Jets (blue) compete with the Ultraviolent Femmes (white) during a London Rollergirls Roller Derby event. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)