Live Roller Derby: Brighton Rockers

I didn't know what to expect upon my arrival at the Dolphin Leisure Centre. I was there to see a Roller Derby but what this exactly entailed was unknown. As far as my own knowledge, I had a brief recollection of a film called Whip It starring Ellen Page which I had seen a couple of years ago, where a young girl encounters Roller Derby for the very first time, she finds she has a natural ability for the sport and so joins the Hurl Scouts on their journey to the top. It was jam packed full of scenes of rivalry where the Hurl Scouts took on their competitors the Holy Rollers, violently shoving and pushing one another to reach ultimate victory.

There is a real performative element to Roller Derby, and this was made immediately clear from the start. Before the match began there was an extensive introduction of all the team members and an announcement of all the whacky names, ranging from Mighty Mighty Bash to Peggy Lethal.

But what was most memorable about the film was not necessarily the Roller Derby itself but the atmosphere that radiated from the event, which is why when I arrived at the Dolphin Leisure Centre I was not amazed by a similar experience. Upon entering the venue, merchandise was immediately up for grabs, with novelties from key rings to rub on tattoos. Turning the corner, I immediately heard chanting and yelling from the stands with supporters from both teams trying their best to shout the loudest. I gravitated towards my fellow Brighton supporters, tightly clutching my programme and taking my seat.

There is a real performative element to Roller Derby, and this was made immediately clear from the start. Before the match began there was an extensive introduction of all the team members and an announcement of all the whacky names, ranging from Mighty Mighty Bash to Peggy Lethal. Accompanied with loud music and voice commentary, there was an immediate desire to entertain the audience with not just sport but something of a spectacle.

For those unfamiliar with the rules, five players stand on the track, one Jammer, one Pivot and three Blockers. It is the Blockers duty to prevent the Jammer from scoring points, Pivots are like Blockers only they can become Jammers once given a star helmet cover, which clarifies this identity. Each round is called a Jam which can last up to two minutes, in this time it is the Jammers job to pass the other skaters who they must simultaneously try to stop. Points are gained through every successful passing through of skaters on the opposing team, the first Jammer to make it through the pack receives the role of Lead Jammer and can call off the Jam at any moment by repeatedly touching their hips.

The rules are not necessarily complicated but each Jam moves along at such a pace I often forgot and simply resorted to following the crowd by cheering in unison. Nevertheless, I instantly understood why there is a growing interest in Roller Derby, the sport itself is full throttle sheer competitiveness, it is fast paced, nail biting and had me glued to my seat. The Brighton Rockers came out on top against the Hot Wheels, but this wasn't what made the day a success, it was the whole network of support that collectively came together. That said, it won't be the last time I attend a Roller Derby, in fact I've already looked up when the next match is place and who knows maybe I'll wear some Roller Skates and even give it a go myself! 

Reviews by Lucy Skinner

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The Blurb

Discover roller derby: a fast-paced, full-contact sport played on roller skates. The fearless Brighton Rockers will take on the Hotties from Hot Wheel Roller Derby - guaranteed to be an action-packed afternoon!

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