Rowdy roller derby fans in Blackpool are bursting onto the national stage in this year’s roller derby championships.
The Blackpool Roller Coasters are hoping to advance into the highly-respected third tier in the British Roller Derby Champs in the next round of the annual competition next month.
The 14-strong team gave it their all in a round one championship match against Aberdeen’s Granite City Roller Girls at Blackpool Sports Centre last week, but were unable to secure a victory over the seasoned team. Now they are hoping to win back their pride in their upcoming match against the Durham Roller Girls in May.
Blackpool Roller Coasters manager Claire Breen said: “We have got another three more games to play before we find out whether we advance to the next level and fingers crossed we’ll get there, but we’re feeling quite confident.
“We have played them before in a mini tournament and we did win. Not to be over-confident but we’re hopeful that we’ll bring home a win.”
Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller skating in the same direction around a track. ‘Jammers’ score points by overtaking members of the opposing team, while ‘blockers’ try to slow down rival jammers - by any means necessary. Players rampage around the track, doing their best to knock their opponents off their feet, allowing their own jammers to soar ahead.
Claire said: “Roller derby is the fastest growing sport in the world at the moment. It started in America but over the last few years it has picked up pace, especially in the UK.
“Obviously it can be dangerous but we’re very hot on health and safety. We wear knee pads, helmets and mouth guards so - touch wood - we don’t have very many injuries. You do end up with a lot of bruises but they are all celebrated. We call them ‘derby kisses’ and it’s seen as a bit of a trophy. If you get a really good bruise you can show it off.”
The Blackpool Roller Coasters gather every week at PlayFootball on Garstang Road West to practice their rollerskating skills.
Claire, who takes part in the weekly derby, said: “You don’t have to be any shape or size to play roller derby. You don’t have to be a size 10 with an athletic build. We have got girls who are 6ft tall and then you’ve got the little girls who are five-foot-nothing. Someone who is small and light on their feet might be better at travelling around the circuit.
“There’s a really good sense of community. When you’re in the game it’s a very aggressive sport but at the end it’s all hugs and ‘well done’!”