Ahead of this week’s Minicine at The Mills film night, featuring roller derby resurrection doc Hell on Wheels, we wanted to share a few words with you from local roller Naomi, or ‘Nomzilla’, about her derby experiences to date.
In 2009 my friend Zoe AKA Bruise Buffer, the current captain of the Wakey Wheeled Cats (Wakefield’s totally kick-ass roller derby team), approached me. “You should come and skate with us. We’re looking for more girls to join the team.” Unfortunately I had to turn her down as I was planning to move away to Leicester to study illustration at De Montfort University.
Back then, roller derby was a still a new sport in the UK, with only a dozen or so teams formed since 2006. I learnt about the sport from Bruise initially and I didn’t really get it, but it seemed fun so I was genuinely disappointed that I couldn’t get involved. Then the following April Whip It was released in cinemas in the UK and that was it, I was hooked. I knew that Leicester had its own league, the Dolly Rockit Rollers, but something was stopping me from going along to their intakes. I suffered a lot with anxiety and depression for the majority of my life and it was rife during my university years. I watched Whip It over and over, I talked about roller derby with my friends and we even decided what our ‘derby names’ would be one day while in the pub. But not once did I go along to a training session or even to watch a bout. Social situations became daunting and hard for me to deal with, as much as I didn’t want them to be. It’s a thing that happened and at the time I felt pretty helpless about it.
Needless to say the following years became a lot easier after I graduated from University. I moved myself to Nottingham and began to put myself out there more, joining various social events within Nottingham. Slowly but surely the anxiety started to be less apparent. It was only recently this year that Roller Derby came back into my life; I became friends with an awesome lady, ‘Stormageddon’, who skates with the Haunted City Rollers (Derby’s team – yes the place Derby). Storm took me along to watch my first bout and it was amazing. She tried to persuade me to join and told me who my local teams were, the Nottingham Roller Girls and the Hellfire Harlots, but even though I felt that the anxiety was no longer an issue I worried about my Chronic Fatigue.
The turning point came after watching a few more bouts and a lengthy conversation with my older brother, (who is in the process of training to ref for the Wakey Wheeled Cats.) He advised, his sagely older sibling manner, that it would likely help rather than hinder my Chronic Fatigue. I thought back to how long I had actually known about roller derby and how much I wanted to do it. I wanted to be like those cool, strong women I had seen at the bouts I had been to and the pictures I had seen. So I did some research and found that the Hellfire Harlots were opening their doors to new skaters at the start of April. I have never written and sent an email so fast in my life.
I’m only three sessions in as of now but it is so incredibly hard, so much that muscles I didn’t even know I had hurt for a week solid after the first training session. But I have loved every second of it so far. I skate along side 30+ more girls in these sessions, all of varying ages and skill levels but there isn’t a feeling of superiority. You will see an intermediate level skater holding the hand of another skater who looks like Bambi on ice, you will have every person there falling over with you and cheering on every girl, no matter how well they can skate, during a fun relay activity. There’s no judgment, because we are all in the same boat. I made friends before my first session began. I started conversations and I couldn’t believe I was there. A year and a half ago I would never have done that. Roller derby doesn’t just feel like a sport, it feels like a big family on wheels and I am so glad I am finally a part of it.
-Naomi ‘Nomzilla’ Hudson
Hell on Wheels screens at The Palace Picturehouse in Armley Mills Industrial Museum, this Thursday at 7PM. Read our full preview here.