Skate fast, turn left! Roller derby hails from 1930s America, but in recent years, the game has had a renaissance across the world. This fast-paced, high-contact sport has a strong community of devoted players, officials, and fans. Oxford is home to two local teams, Oxford Roller Derby and Oxford Wheels of Gory.
What is roller derby?
Roller derby is a contact sport where two teams skate around a track in short sessions known as 'jams'. Each team has a 'jammer', a fast skater who is in charge of scoring the points, something she achieves by overtaking players from the other team - one player, one point.
The other team members are known as 'blockers', whose job is, unsurprisingly, to block the other team's jammer and stop her from passing. They can do this by knocking her with their hips and shoulders (but not elbows, knees, or heads). Each team also has one 'pivot', a player in charge of directing the blockers and focusing on strategy.
I say 'she', because roller derby began as a women's sport, although there are now many men's teams. Roller derby is one of the few sports where the women's game is the main focus, rather than being perceived as a side event.
How do I get involved?
Oxford Roller Derby runs a beginners' course every January, where the curious can come along and try skating. There are also taster sessions throughout the year for new starters. Oxford Wheels of Gory has a new intake session on the first Sunday of every month. Absolute beginners are welcome - you don't even need to know how to skate! There are also places for NSOs (non-skating officials), who play an invaluable role in running matches.
Isn't it dangerous?
Roller derby is a contact sport, so there's always an element of risk. However, derby teams are very safety-focused. You'll always be wearing a full set of pads and helmets, and the first lessons teach you how to fall without hurting yourself. You'll have to go through a lot of training before you start doing anything involving contact, and by the time you're ready to play a match, you'll be more than ready to take a few knocks!
Where can I watch it?
Most roller derby teams have a mix of closed and open events. Closed events are just for the teams who are playing, but anyone can attend open events. You can find Oxford Roller Derby's upcoming events here, and Oxford Wheels of Gory's events here.