TCT 6: Leeds Roller Dolls “When you share sweat, you bond”
This year has been an exciting one for Leeds Roller Dolls. They play roller derby, a predominantly all-female sport that has its origins in the USA. First played in the 1930s, since 2001 there has been a resurgence of interest in this fast-paced, unscripted, full contact sport.
In 2013 roller derby has found a permanent home in Leeds, and both our teams – Rebel Roses and Whips Its – have toured in Europe. There has been enough expansion for recreational, junior and men’s leagues to start up.
The basic rules have the two sides line up for “jams” with four blockers and a jammer each. The eight blockers form a “pack,” and the jammers score points by breaking through the pack before lapping the track to break through again. The jam ends when the “lead jammer” calls it off, or if it runs for two minutes. This continues for two 30 minute halves.
For LRD, who are celebrating their fifth birthday this year, it is important that their new home, the Futsal Arena, is a Leeds home, after last year when they were training in both Leeds and Bradford and bouting in Huddersfield.
The move has seen more people turn up on bout days, and more interest in playing, with lots of new faces coming through the LRD Ragdoll Academy, which is now known as the LRD Recreational League.
Anna Ward, aka Bird of Pain, played her final bout as captain of B team Whip-Its in their 183-156 loss to Liverpool Roller Birds in July, before becoming a fully fledged member of the A team: Rebel Roses.
She said, “Huddersfield was brilliant and we had so many amazing times there, but Leeds just feels like home now, it feels like how it should be.
“I think it benefits us that we train here and we bout here, because we’re more relaxed when we start off the game. It feels like we’re on our space – it’s made a great, big difference to be back in Leeds!”
As it is completely self financed, keeping the Leeds Roller Dolls league running involves a whole lot more than simply turning up on training and match days. With the additional necessities of fundraising and promotion to keep the business alive, LRD can be a huge a commitment for those involved; but it’s a commitment that unites the Roller Derby community.
Bird continued, “For the future we need to shore up the league financially to ensure that our players can play. A lot of what we do is being funded by the skaters themselves and it’s untenable, so we’ve got to get into a position where the league is financially buoyant, safe and solid as a business.
“Maintaining the league is hard work, but I don’t think it will ever break apart. We’re all here for one reason and that’s what keeps us together.
“We do everything together; not just playing Roller Derby, but we run the league, so we fundraise together, we put on events together, we teach the newbies, do our merchandise and PR – so the league is a whole community that flexes and stretches and comes together really well to help it all function.”
LRD are set for yet another roller derby homecoming next year when they go to America to compete in the 2014 Beach Brawl, hosted by the Gold Coast Roller Grrls in Florida. Bird says it’s a huge opportunity for LRD and one which will put the girls through their paces.
“Going to America to play where Roller Derby was born is one of the most exciting things I think I’ll ever experience. We’re always looking up to the US leagues and players – they have it sorted. It’s where Roller Derby is established and when it’s played it’s so popular. The level of play out there is just amazing and we will be tested to our absolute maximum. It is just going to be such a good experience.”
So why should YOU make your way to down Futsal Arena to watch Leeds Roller Dolls play? Bird explains, “If you’ve never watched Roller Derby – come, give it a go! It’s a spectacle even before you know the rules, but then as you get to know them it just gets better and better and better. Watching is the best way to learn about it and the best way to get tempted to play. I’ve never really known a group of people like it – when you share each other’s sweat, you bond!”