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Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 16:16 UK
Meet local roller derby team Newcastle Roller Girls
Team NRG skating. Photo by Idene Roozbayani
Newcastle Roller Girls warm up on track at Smash Dance in Sheffield

Roller derby is a female only sport that is rising from the underground and becoming pretty darn popular.

Films like Drew Barrymore's "Whip It!" sparked an interest in girls-on-skates, speeding around a track and knocking each other flying.

Fortunately for skate teams across the globe, like most films based on real events, it doesn't live up reality.

So we met Tyneside's local team, the Newcastle Roller Girls to find out what roller derby's all about.

And we're off!

Roller derby started in America and is loosely based on formation skating, with a bit of rough and tumble thrown in for good measure.

Brie Larceny on track. Photo by Idene Roozbayani
Brie Larceny on track, playing the pivot position

Although it's been kicking about in some form since the 1920s, it's current incarnation evolved in Texas in 2000.

The women in the team threw away the shackles of fake fighting (the type you'll see in Whip It!) and took the sport into their own hands.

Becoming skater run, and skater led - it's grown in popularity in leaps and bounds and now you can find a team in nearly every country in the world.

When they're on track, skaters take on a new persona - complete with skate name, they don quad skates, padding and an attitude - before battling it out against another team in front of an audience.

So what is it?

This is where the Newcastle Roller Girls team captain, Claire Byrne, or as her skate-mates will call her, "Brie Larceny", comes in.

She said: "Basically, you're on an oval track, skating in a counter-clockwise direction. The aim is to help your Jammer get through the pack, so that she can score points.

"As well as helping your Jammer, you also have to hinder the other team's Jammer, by any legal manoeuvre possible - this can mean blocking, hitting, or throwing another skater into her path.

"It's fast paced, it's full contact, and man it's a whole lot of fun."

So what brings someone to the delights of derby? It doesn't sound like the kind of sport they teach you in school... for Brie Larceny the call to skates came at 23-years-old.

NRG at their first bout, Hadrian's Brawl in April 2010
NRG at their first bout, Hadrian's Brawl in April 2010

She said: "Skating just seemed like a lot of fun.

"I met Sicily Suplex (real name Fritha Haimes) who asked if we should be starting a roller derby team. It seemed like a good idea... we just had to find out what roller derby was.

"After putting an ad out and rounding up a few friends and friends of friends, it wasn't long before my new mate Boozewound Barbie (real name Gail Farrow) and I were off to see "Roll Britannia".

"I'd never properly seen roller derby in action before and it was a sight to behold. Girls with elaborate war paint style make up, ripped team t-shirts and all manner of razzamatazz heroically battled it out whizzing round, bashing into each other while the announcer gave a blow by blow account.

"We sat on the sidelines, pint in hand, absolutely awestruck. It's fair to say it was love at first sight and something that we had to make work in Newcastle."

Bringing derby home

It didn't take long to make it happen in Newcastle - the team have now got a few bouts (that's matches to you and me) under their belts, and are looking forward to setting up their first home bout.

SSRG v NRG. Team NRG skating. Photo by Idene Roozbayani
There's a lot of falls, but the girls wear protective padding

Brie continued: "We're hoping to organise a bout in Newcastle in 2011 - we'll have been going for two years at that point, and want to show all of our friends and families just how much fun this sport is that's taken over our lives.

"I always want to get my friends and family involved because I love doing this so much - but sometimes you have to recognise that glazed over look, and realise this isn't for everyone.

"I'd always advise people to give it a bash though - if you're starting from scratch, you might be really wobbly just standing up on skates, so the thought of someone trying to knock you down at high speeds is horrifying at first.

"But we show you how to skate safely and how to do everything before we let you loose on the track. Most of us started from scratch, and it doesn't take that long before you're up and joining in with the rest of us."

"I like to think that we have a special bond because of what we do. It's aggressive, full contact and still quite niche so that sets us apart from others.

"We're pack animals on and off the track so we look out for each other and you never get the chance to get lonely."




SEE ALSO
The Rollergirls whip it up!
07 Apr 10 |  Arts & Culture
Movie boost for roller derby team
13 Jan 10 |  Things to do
Lincolnshire Bombers Roller Derby
29 Oct 09 |  Things to do
Middlesbrough's roller derby team
27 Aug 10 |  People & Places
Roller skate revolution
18 Aug 10 |  Northern Ireland


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