We hinted a few articles ago that there's lots of new Roller Derby leagues popping up still.. and then we discovered that we'd underestimated even then.
Orkney ViQueens are, to our knowledge, both the newest Roller Derby "league" (they style themselves a "Club" currently), and also now Scotland's northernmost, taking the top spot from Helgin Roller Derby (and returning it to the Isles, after Shetland sadly stopped).
Roller Derby in the Northern Isles introduces a number of complexities, in addition to the usual issues of starting a new league, and so we were excited to get in touch with the founders and see what their plans are.
We managed to catch up with founder DeafWish (Ronie Walters) to find out what kind of person would start a league on an Island!
I’ve had a longstanding fascination with Roller Derby ever since I first heard about it. I love the culture, the names, the speed – let’s face it, being able to skate round and play full contact sounds awesome (though I might not still be saying that when I have fallen over a few times!) From my Master's research in applied positive psychology, I know that physical activity is extremely beneficial for mental and physical wellbeing. It’s also known that women in general are less likely to play sport – particularly team sports and contact sports - so I wanted to try and change that.
I love how Roller Derby has benefits on so many levels – physical, social, confidence, body positivity and mental strength. Skating is great fun, and it is a very effective workout. I love that a lot of people start Derby with minimal (or no) skating experience. There's room for a lot of different body shapes and sizes and so it really is open to pretty much anyone.
When I moved from one of the smaller Orkney islands (~130 people) to the larger Mainland island I decided to see if anyone else was interested. I half expected to get no response, so I was pretty shocked when the initial FaceBook post resulted in a closed group with 30-odd members within 48 hours!
The group was set up on the 5th November and since then we have been busy. I am so lucky to have such a great team of people willing to work with me to make this happen. Our committee currently has 7 members, we have a logo (thanks to a wonderful graphic designer who plans to join us) and we have our first event booked for the 28th December – a social and information evening.
We have a venue booked for twice a week skate sessions, starting 17th January. We will do an hour of recreational skating, followed by 2 hours of more structured skate training. 2 of our members have skating experience so they will be attempting to whip the rest of us into some form of basic skating ability.
We have been lucky enough to have our first donation of £300 from my employer [Orkney Micro-Renewables], so that will let us get 3 or 4 sets of basic club kit to lend out, and we are applying to Awards For All for funding to help us establish – we are running on zero budget at the moment! We are also seeking links with local businesses to offer member discounts – the hope is that they will benefit from increased publicity, and we will benefit by making a monthly membership subscription seem more appealing.
We have had some wonderful advice from Krusty and Laura at Granite [City Roller Derby], Natorious Red from Inverness [City Roller Derby] and Hydra-el from Rule 56. We are hoping, once we can all skate at a basic level, to have some of these guys come up and run some bootcamps for us to teach us more derby specific skills.
I think some of the biggest challenges for us are our location, and our lack of derby knowledge. We are all on a steep learning curve over everything from what skates and equipment to suggest and how to stop floors getting marked through to more complicated stuff that is harder to get answers to - like is there an etiquette around when to take a derby name? How do you decide on a number? What the heck is a derby wife and do I need one? And most importantly – deciphering the rules of the game and how to teach them!
We have also had some issues in finding venue space – in Orkney pretty much every sports team comes inside for the winter, so the venues that are big enough for a track are full. We have found a smaller hall for use till April and then we hope to switch to somewhere bigger, ready for when we are more likely to be benefiting from the increased space (and will hopefully have figured out how to lay a track and have it stay there while you skate!)
We have big dreams as a club – we would like to be able to get to a level where we can travel and compete. We are really keen to start developing a junior league once we know what we are doing, and we would love to create a dedicated skate venue here in Orkney!
Once we are at a position to play scrims and bouts we hope folk will be willing to make a trip up here – it’s a beautiful place, and I’m guessing we will be the UK’s most northerly team – and possibly the only island team?
Orkney ViQueens' first ever event is scheduled for 28th December 2016, a meet-and-learn information event at The Bothy Bar, Kirkwall. The event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/346341755740009/