With their feisty attitude and skater names such as Diamond Slayer and Skinner Alive, Scotland’s roller derby teams – described as “rugby on roller skates”– shook up women’s sport when they burst on to the scene in the mid-2000s.
Now a former skater from one of the first teams established in Scotland has won a prestigious academic prize for her “insider’s take” on the Auld Reekie Roller Girls (ARRG) as they battled to get wider recognition among the public for the full-contact sport.
Dr Maddie Breeze, a sociology lecturer at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, was awarded the Phillip Abrams Memorial Prize by the British Sociological Association for her book Seriousness in Women’s Roller Derby: Gender, Organisation, and Ambivalence.
Roller derby, which originated in the US, involves two teams with four blockers and a jammer on the track at once, with the jammer attempting to pass through the pack and score points.
The ARRG now have more than 100 members and are ranked 47th in the world with three teams competing in international and national leagues. Dr Breeze, was in the ARRG from 2008-9 as a researcher and participant as the women met to hammer out the details of running the club. She said: “We saw ourselves as women playing a sport, not a women’s version of the sport. There was a feeling we were being trivialised with the emphasis on things like what we were wearing.”
Lianne Parry, ARRG All Star team co-captain, and a professional project manager with Hearts, said: “When I found out that Maddie was doing the book it was the most exciting thing. The interviews were fun but reading what she had written up was really thought-provoking.”