For most Nottingham sports fans, 'supporting a local team' might mean a trip to see Forest, County, the Panthers or the Outlaws. However, there's an alternative team sport currently being enjoyed not only here in Nottingham but across the globe. It's not getting too much mainstream attention, but continues to grow bigger and bigger by the day.
Roller derby is a sport many thought breathed its last breath to the disco beats of the 1970s, but over the past decade it's been rebuilding and reinventing itself and now enjoys a cult following right here in the heart of England. We met-up with Jen 'F'inFurious' Jones, die-hard member of Nottingham's own wheeled warriors, the Hellfire Harlots!
Can you give me a 'bite size' explanation of what roller derby is all about?
It's a full-contact, extreme sport played on quad roller skates. It's had various incarnations since its invention in the 1930's but the current revival movement saw it dropping the wrestling style staged fights to become a legitimate sport predominately played by all-female teams. It started in Austin Texas in 2001, and has since spread around the globe. There are currently over 1000 leagues across the globe.
The rules are quite complex but in a nutshell: it's played by two teams of five members skating in the same direction around an oval track. Game play consists of a series of 2 minute jams in which both teams designate a scoring player, the "jammer", who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The remaining 4 players from each team are "blockers" who must skate in close proximity (within 10 feet) to each other and form a "pack". The teams attempt to assist their own jammer through the pack, while hindering the opposing jammer - playing both offense and defense simultaneously.
Where do you skate?
We skate mostly in leisure centres and sports hall in Nottingham. Currently Djanogly City Academy, Chilwell Olympia and South Glade Leisure centre. We need a lot of space (at the very least equivalent to one large basket ball court) and a nice smooth floor. You will often find some of us donning outdoor wheels and skating on the Victoria Embankment for recreation rolling though too!
How often do you train?
Currently up to 3 times a week, not counting actual weekend bouts (matches). It's incredibly intensive, and we put a massive emphasis on safety. As a complete beginner you can expect to train for between six months to a year before you are deemed safe to play the game properly.
Are all the Harlots from Nottingham?
Mostly, yes. We're from all around the county. We do have few members who come to us from a little further away, but in general with the rate roller derby is expanding there is at least one team in every major city. We have a really diverse bunch, which is great. Our average demographic is 25 to 35, but we range in age from 18 to 52. We have everything from housewives to teachers, students to photographers, and everything in between. We have one player training to be a forensic scientist, and two others doing PHD's in neuroscience! We really do attract people from all walks of life.
When is the roller derby season on?
There isn't really a proper established season as such, but some teams have rest periods between July to August and December to January. You can pretty much guarantee that you will be able to watch a live bout somewhere in the country most weekends.
How can people support you?
By helping spread the word and coming to matches. We need dedicated sports fans just like any sport. You can find us online at www.hellfire -harlots.co.uk
How did you personally get into roller derby?
My cousin put on her Facebook status that she was joining a roller derby team. I Googled it and instantly knew I had to do it, despite the fact that I'd never played sport outside of school and never roller skated. It just looked incredible! I brought my own skates after my first session and I've never looked back.
Can people try-out for the Harlots?
We run recruitment drives every few months and are planning another one for November. We train from the ground up, so it doesn't matter if you have no prior skating ability.
If anyone is interested in joining before the next recruitment we also take on refs (male or female) and non skating officials who along side the refs officiate the game.
What makes a good Harlot? What do you look for?
Quite simply, dedication. As I mentioned before it's incredibly intensive and although its technically classed as a hobby if you want to get anywhere in the sport you have to train like an athlete and put the hours in. You quickly find it takes over your life!
It doesn't matter what age or background you have, if you want it badly enough, are willing to accept the risk of injury, and put your body through the rigorous training you will get where you want to go.