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Page last updated at 10:05 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 11:05 UK

A day out with the Milk Rollers

by Matt Newsum

Middlesbrough Milk Rollers in practice
The girls whizz round in a blur of black and shocking pink

Roller derby was born in 1930s America, when the sport of formation skating was given an aggressive tweak.

Competitors were now permitted to use certain moves in order to gain advantage over their opponents, and this new take on skating spread out across the United States.

Since those early days roller derby has become a fiercely independent and 'Do-it-Yourself' sport with strong ties to alternative musical and artistic cultures.

And now it is beginning to cross the Atlantic, with more established roller derby teams such as London and Birmingham already competing, and newcomers such as the Middlesbrough Milk Rollers training for their first bouts.

Half the point of the alter-ego is that you become the person that you've always wanted to be

Kat from Middlesbrough

The Milk Rollers were born in September 2007, the brainchild of a couple of roller derby enthusiasts who fancied setting up their own club in the absence of a team in the North East.

Since then they have grown to a core of around half a dozen members, meeting at least once a week to skate and practice drills and manoeuvres.

From the practice hall they rent every Saturday to the uniforms, everything has been organised and set-up themselves.

Armed with monikers such as Suzi Queer, Darcy Hustle and Rita von Sleaze, competitors are encouraged to tailor their outfits, adding a touch of glamour and style to their kits.

And as Kat, one of the newcomers to roller derby, along with Rachel (Smoking' Ace) maintain, this is an important part of the experience.

"Half the point of the alter-ego is that you become the person that you've always wanted to be. It's powerful, strong, inner woman that you'll never really let out," Kat said.

"It's fun, you can be the self that you don't let out very often."

The image plays a big part, but the sport is still the raison d'Ítre.

"The sport comes first, then the image. The image happened because people like us got involved," the girls argued.

"You can express yourself. With footballers you don't know what they're like because they all dress the same, but we can be ourselves."

Everything is geared toward a maintaining a feminist outlook, which stretches as far as keeping roller derby a female-only sport.

So, as a male guest I could have been forgiven for being a little intimidated.

Not so. The only aggression I experienced took place on the track, and even that was punctuated with banter and laughs.

The girls are passionate about roller derby, and most have come into the sport for entirely different reasons.

Lesley, aka Suzi Queer, was attracted by the look and identity of roller derby but has been hooked by the buzz of skating since taking to the track.

I'm quite competitive, I'm looking forward to flying round, knocking each other over.

Samantha Lee

"I came into this for the fashion and the outfits, not really the skating," she said.

"But since I got involved the skating has taken over.

"Everybody's welcome no matter what their ability is or shape or size they are.

"As long as you can learn to skate in some shape or form - it's more about the attitude in our team."

For others, the physical nature of roller derby is an attraction, which was the case for Samantha Lee.

"I'm really looking forward to the time when we can get to the level when we can compete with the other girls," she laughed.

"I'm quite competitive, I'm looking forward to flying round, knocking each other over."

Having covered a good few kilometres of the track each, the girls certainly require a lot of stamina to go with the balance, strength and skill.

Kat (Darcy Hustle) admitted the girls have increased their work rate in order to keep up with other teams.

"It's very hard work, people don't realise how hard it is. We have gone up to three hours a week and we've had to train ourselves up to compete with the other girls," she said.

"It always brings up my serotonin levels, I always feel happy after three hours of skating."

However rough and tough it gets, the motto says it all - 'What happens on the track, stays on the track'.

To find out more about the Middlesbrough Milk Rollers you can visit their website.



see also
Roller Derby growing in Birmingham
05 Apr 08 |  Sport Homepage


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