Ladies that rock: Patti Smith

I just finished reading Just Kids, the masterful autobiography by legendary writer and rock-n-roll star Patti Smith. This book tells the story of a truly unique and inspiring woman who has lived life to the full, compelled by her art and strong self-belief against all the odds.

Patricia Lee aka”Patti” Smith was born December 30, 1946. She is a singer-songwriter, poet and artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses. Her most widely known song is Because the Night, which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen in 1978.

Just Kids traces the progression of Smith’s life from her suburban American childhood, to the futility and frustration she felt working in factories in her late teens, having an abortion as a young woman and her break for freedom moving to New York in the late 60s with barely a penny to her name. It follows her through her early days in New York, working in bookshops and sleeping rough, meeting the revered photographer Robert Mapplethorpe with whom she entered into a long and complex, but ever-loving companionship and collaborative partnership, their mutual struggle to pursue their own work against great adversity and their combined and individual successes, relationships and development as artists.

The most interesting part of the book was discovering what an accomplished artist Smith is, in a variety of different media. Her music was a fusion of rock and poetry, but she was a poet and visual artist for many years before the thought of becoming a musician even entered her mind. This comes through very strongly in her discussion of those who influenced her and inspired her from Louisa May Alcott and Arthur Rimbaud to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Though inspiring, her narrative does seem romanticised and almost fantastic at times. Passages where she saunters in and out of rooms casually bumping into the likes of Janis Joplin and William Burroughs, Andy Warhol and Gregory Corso are not uncommon and seem slightly unbelievable to those of us who dream of such a romantically bohemian existence. And, though infidelity and drug use were commonplace in the social circles she existed in throughout her adult life, these instances are largely omitted or glossed over with the haze of bohemian artistry. Perhaps this is for the benefit of the American readership, but who knows.

The transparency and eloquent communication of the development of both her’s and Robert Mapplethorpe’s work told through her own personal story, and the fluidity of their mutually supportive relationship, and the many friends and acquaintances in the art world that influenced their work, is quite remarkable. She has really paid homage to Mapplethorpe’s work and documented his progression very carefully and thoroughly, revealing the personal and professional influences at play throughout his life which led to his accomplishment as one of the 20th century’s greatest photographers.

I would definitely recommend reading this, just to allow yourself to dream if nothing else. I find the significance she gives to superstition pure genius too-everything seems to be connected to Arthur Rimbaud’s birthday or the day Jim Morrison died.



Studio albums

Roller Derby Clothing, Skates and Accessories

Need new knee pads? Wanna be the hottest rollergirl or guy on the track? Here is a most comprehensive list of roller derby suppliers for all your derby needs.


Roller Derby Clothing


Wicked Skatewear



Dolled UpDerby


Beserk Clothing

Broken Cherry



Roller Bomb

Derbyor Die

Café Press- roller derby gifts

Opus Oils – roller derby perfume

Skate Asylum

Team ColoursUK  (bespoke uniforms)

Skulls and Rainbows



DerbyLittle Secrets

Free Radicals HQ


Tatty Divine



Skates, Pads and Other Kit



Sure Grip

Vanilla Skates

Smiths Scabs



Atom Wheels


Radar Wheels

Bones Bearings



Skate Attack




Rollergirl Skates



XSports Protective

Planet on Wheels

Pro Designed

Cruz Skate Shop

Just Skates

Rocky Mountain Skates


Net Skate

Low Price Skates

New Skates

Connie’sSkate Place

Skate Buys

Skates n Such


Fast Girl Skates


Proline Skates (UK)

Roller Guy Skates

RollerDerbyVirginia Beach

Fit Test Training Programme for Rollergirls

Summer is supposedly here but there’s still time to get in shape as we have yet to experience that heatwave here in London town. I know I could definitely do with this as I’ve been stuck indoors working too hard lately and it’s been taking it’s toll on the track.

You can download the Insanity Fit Test Card here:

Perform the moves listed on the Fit Test Card. Do as many reps as you can in one minute then record your results after every exercise. In a few weeks you should really be able to notice the difference!

Happy training.

SlutWalk London: Roller Slags

Yesterday myself and several other aspiring rollergirls of London took to the streets to march in London’s very first Slutwalk. Approximately 5,000 people were on the march in support of the movement started by Anastasia Richardson, 17, in Canada.

The movement started after police constable Michael Sanguinetti, who had been giving a talk to a group of students in Toronto, made the following comment:

“I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

We decided to represent the roller derby community by marching on skates brandishing a placard that said ‘Roller Slags’. Many people had made great banners and signs to get the point across and chanted ‘whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!’. I was very pleased to see quite a few men demonstrating too.

Having spoken to quite a few people about the march before it happened, it seems to me that the whole thing is widely misunderstood by the general public. One man’s initial reaction was ‘what are you going to wear on the march?’ and one woman, who calls herself a feminist, expressed the extremely short-sighted reaction that ‘you have to be realistic about what you can wear in public, there are a lot of bad people out there’. This is wildly missing the point as the protest wasn’t staged because we all want to walk around naked all the time or wear ‘provocative’ clothing. It isn’t about WHAT you wear- this is the WHOLE POINT. It’s about the fact that it seems to be widely accepted that a person’s outfit can be used as an excuse for rape.

This is precisely why the march was so important- there is no excuse and the more people that become aware of this idea, the better.

Talking My Language: Roller Derby Jargon

Jargon is  something I have always found fascinating. The notion that certain groups of people can appropriate certain words as their own and assign new meanings to them or change their existing meanings so those words can be made specific to the group’s purpose. There is an awful lot of jargon used in roller derby, so much that to an outside ear, it often sounds like a secret code. There are even sub-categories of roller derby jargon specific to individual leagues and teams.

I have made this list but I’m sure there are plenty more terms out there, if you think of some more, leave me a comment. One day I will think of something creative to do with it. Until then, I will keep adding to it.

Hip check- a hip to hip contact hit

Hip whip- when one player pulls on player’s hips to aid acceleration round the track

Arm check- a shoulder to shoulder contact hit

Fresh Meat- new skaters

Pack- A group of skaters, 4 from each team.  This includes 3 blockers and 1 pivot.  The pack skates together (most leagues require they stay within 20 feet of each other) and their goal is to assure that their team’s jammer is helped through the pack while preventing the opposing team’s jammer from getting through.

Whips- An assist move in which a skater extends her arm and whips her jammer around the track, propelling her with momentum

Waitress whip- a fancy type of whip where one player spins around and stops in order to pull the other player around her to aid acceleration

Leg whip- when one player uses their outstretched leg to whip another player round the track and gain speed

Inside whip-where one player assists another to accelerate around the inside of the track

Outside whip- where one player assists another to accelerate around the outside of the track

Cross over- crossing one foot over the other when skating to aid acceleration

Toe stop run- running on the toe stops of the skates in order to build up speed

One knee fall- a safe method of falling onto one knee so that a fast recovery can be made and a skater can get up quickly

Two knee fall- a safe method of falling onto one knee so that a fast recovery can be made and a skater can get up quickly

Four-point fall- a safe method of falling where the skater falls onto their shins, knees and forearms

Forearms- blocking illegally using the elbows

Boot camp- an intensive roller derby training session that can last up to several days

Cut track- Crossing the infield to rejoin the pack after you fall

Pivot- Defensive skater position designated by a stripe down the middle of her helmet and known as the front pace setter for the pack

Jammer- scoring skater position designated by star on her helmet. Her objective is to score one point per opposing blocker she laps

Lead Jammer- The jammer in the lead and the only one that can call off a jam.

Blocker-Defensive skater position. Blockers set up plays to help their jammer or block the opposing jammer

Positional blocking- blocking opposing players without hitting

Hit-to block using full contact

Derby stop- a stop involving turning around and stopping on the toe stops of the skates

25 laps- a speed test that involves skating 25 laps in 5 minutes

Plough-a method of stopping on skates where legs are wide apart with the heels turned out

Minimum skills-A specific skill requirement established by WFTDA and OSDA.  These are the minimum skating, game play and rule knowledge skills a skater must posess before they can play competetively.

T stop- Dragging the back skate perpendicular to the front skate.

Pad stink- the smell of sweaty knee and elbow pads

Zombie fairy- taking tiny steps picking both feet up off the ground while wearing skates

Duck runs- a method of running on skates where the toes are pushed outwards and the skater [picks up their feet in order to aid acceleration

Inside line- the interior line of the track

Outside line- the exterior line of the track

Ellipsis- the fastest route around an oval track

Bout- A roller derby tournament or game is referred to as a bout. A bout is usually broken up into two 30 minute halves and those halves are broken up into 2 minutes races called jams.

Back block-where a skater hits another skater in the back

Panty- helmet covers marked with a stripe for the Pivot or a star for the Jammer

Call off- the lead Jammer can ‘call off’ or cancel the jam at any time

Penalty box- a designated area where skaters who have committed 1 major or 4 minor penalties are sent to sit out for 1 minute

Star pass- when the Jammer passes her helmet panty to the Pivot who then takes over as Jammer

Zebra- referees and NSOs are referred to as zebras because of their black and white uniforms

Chicks That Rock Playlist

Kickstart your week with some awesome girly power tunes. These ladies really know how to rock out! Great for working out, chilling out and rocking out.

L7 -Shove

Dance Hall Crashers- Mr Blue

Save Ferris-Everything I Want to Be

No Doubt-The Climb

The Pixies- Debaser

Bonnie Raitt- Pride and Joy

Letters to Cleo-Pizza Cutter

Sonic Youth- My Friend Goo

La Tigre- Deceptacon

Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Heads Will Roll

Roller Derby Books

The rising popularity of the roller derby revival has provided much inspiration of authors of both fiction and non-fiction to take on this subject and write it for the world. This is the most comprehensive list I could compile of roller derby literature for all the bookish skaters out there. And I’m sure there will be more on the way very soon…

Keith Coppage. Roller Derby to Rollerjam: The Authorized Story of an Unauthorized Sport. Santa Rosa, California: Squarebooks, 1999.

Keith Coppage is one of the original roller derby photographers from back in the day. Another great book for researching the history of roller derby.

Jim Fitzpatrick. Roller Derby Classics… and more! 2005.

Former professional Roller Derby skater, referee, photographer and fan, Jim Fitzpatrick spent years compiling a huge collection of memorabilia of the original Roller Derby and this book is the sum of his collection. Includes a foreword by Ann Calvello and many rare and never before seen photos.

Melissa Joulwan. Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track. 2007.

This book is the personal story of one of the revival’s original rollergirls, Melissa aka ‘Meliscious’ Joulwan. She writes the story of the formation of the first women’s flat track league in Texas, their split into two leagues and the establishment of other leagues that followed in quick succession across the US, the development of WFTDA and the establishment of the sport as we know it today. A great introduction to roller derby and full of great stories.

Catherine Mabe. Roller Derby: The History and All-Girl Revival of the Greatest Sport on Wheels.  2007.

Another great introduction to the recent roller derby revival, including a Foreword by derby legend Ivanna S. Pankin. This is one of the best contemporary illustrated books on roller derby out there.

Jennifer Barbee and Alex Cohen. Down and Derby: The Insider’s Guide to Roller Derby.  2010.

This is a great beginner’s guide to the sport. It explains everything you need to know if you are thinking about playing roller derby, from the history to the rules, skates and protective gear, how to join a league and info on referees, this book covers all the basics for getting started.

Shauna Cross. Derby Girl. 2007

Written by the LA Derby Dolls’ former skater Shauna Cross aka Maggie Mayhem, Derby Girl is the novel on which Whip It, the derby film we all know and love, was based. Telling the story of teenager Bliss Cavendar’s escape from her small town life through her discovery of the exciting world of roller derby in Austin, Texas.

Pamela Ribon. Going in Circles. 2010.

Another novel embracing the subject of roller derby. Going in Circles tells the story of Charlotte Goodman, suffering from severe anxiety during the breakup of her marriage finds salvation in roller derby after being introduce to the sport by a friend.

Toni Carr. Knockdown Knits. 2008.

This is one of my favourites. The Naptown Roller Girls of Indianapolis, Indiana, share the patterns they use when they’re knitting in the off-time. Full of roller derby inspired knitting patterns, this book features 30 fab knitting projects for all levels.


Herb Michelson. A Very Simple Game: the Story of Roller Derby. 1971. A history of roller derby from 1971.

Frank Deford Five Strides on the Banked Track: The Life and Times of the Roller Derby. 1971.

Written during the 1970s, this book is a real eye opener to the history of the sport. Written in an archaic, often hilarious and unmistakably male voice, this book is an account of the history of roller derby up until 1971. It pays particular attention to roller derby’s historic ‘star’ players such as Anne Calvello and Joan Weston.