I met Jerry at MERDC, and suggested to interview him.
Can you introduce yourself ?
My name is John Kirkham and my roller derby name, Jerry Attric, is how I’ve been known by many for the past 6 years as I have got more and more involved in the world of roller derby. For a living I am currently working for a national delivery company in the warehouse, although I am looking for new job opportunities and have a couple of exciting prospects lined up for the future. I live in Leeds but travel up and down the country a lot in pursuit of skating opportunities.
When did you start skating and why ?
I started skating when I was around 10- all of the « older kids » on my street used to have Bauer Turbo quads and I was seriously jealous because I was not allowed to have any. So I used my birthday money when I was 10 to go and buy a cheap pair of inline skates (plastic wheels- awful, awful skates) and fell in love with the feeling of being on 8 wheels. It might sound odd but I just knew that I was going to love roller skating before I’d even tried it!
Which disciplins do you pratice ?
I started out just skating around on the streets and then I got into skating longer and longer distances. I got into slalom for a short while, then into rollerdance for several years before finding roller derby which is now my main discipline. Over the years I have also played street hockey, I’ve done a fair few of the London Friday and Wednesday night skates, I set the record for fastest marathon time on quads at the Goodwood roller marathon a couple of years ago… I’ve done lots of different things to be honest but roller derby has been my most consuming passion on 8 wheels.
Have you tried to dance on quads ?
Indeed I have! I spent maybe 6 years or so completely addicted to dancing on quads! I learned down in London with many of the quad dancers that have been doing it for decades; I started out with no moves and no style but was completely addicted to the feeling of it. I would be practising rollerdance out on the streets for 5 or 6 hours every single day from the age of 18 until about 23/34 when I started to run my own business which was running roller discos and rollerdance classes. Eventually my business dried up and I found that my love for rollerdance had been replaced by roller derby. I still bust out some moves from time to time and I still get to teach rollerdance to roller derby leagues that sometimes fancy learning something different! I do miss my rollerdance days and always hope to get back into it one day, but for now there just isn’t time in the week for me to practise at all.
What kind of skates do you use ?
I was fortunate enough to be selected as the tournament « best blocker » at the men’s european roller derby championships 2013 which came with a prize pair ofderby boots so I am currently giving them a try… I’m not going to pass any opinion on these just yet as I don’t think the few weeks I have been using them is long enough to really give a fair review. However, the skates that I most like to use are rink hockey skates; my favourite boots being Reno Millenium range boots. I’ve used Reno boots for about as long as I’ve been involved in roller derby and I think they’re seriously underrated in roller derby- they’re really solid, comfortable, responsive. The raised heel on hockey boots gives a really nice stance too and they feel really good for agility etc.
Why do you use Rink Hockey hardware instead of Derby hardware ?
I used rink hockey boots from around 2005 following the constant damage I was doing to my hard shell boots which I was mostly putting together myself with whatever plates and parts I could find. I switched to rink hockey boots and have really had a hard time breaking them since then; so I’ve really been sold on the quality and lifespan from the start. I also find that the aspects roller derby are closer matched to roller hockey than to speed skating yet most « derby skates » are closer in nature to speed skating boots. The fast turns, stops/starts, falls, impacts and jumps in roller derby are all found in rink hockey and there have been decades of improvements going into perfecting the equipment used in rink hockey. Roller derby is relatively new and the equipment is still developing; so rink hockey skates seem like a better investment. Finally, I guess I like to get good value for money and the rink hockey equipment seems way more reasonably priced than a lot of the « roller derby » specific gear which can be very expensive.
Do you also have inline skates ?
I do have a pair of inline skates (Salomon FSK’s!) which I did my ICP qualification on. They come out only about once or twice a year when somebody gets in touch and wants to learn to inline skate. I spent about 7 years just on inline skates in previous years but I’m almost 100% quad these days.
How did you discover Roller Derby ?
I think roller derby discovered me! I was running rollerdance classes in Leeds and in 2007 a few London Rollergirls came up to my class when I did a « Ladyfest » fundraiser night to demo roller derby. I didn’t know what on earth was happening and it didn’t really make any impact in Leeds at the time, however about 6 months later there was a collection of ladies in Leeds that had read about the sport in tattoo magazines or on myspace and got in touch with LRG with regards to setting up a team. From what I gather, my details were passed on as being someone to speak to and so when I was contacted I was more than happy to get involved with getting more people skating. I still didn’t really know what roller derby was but I set about learning as much as I could so that when we set up Leeds Roller Dolls I at least knew a little about the sport.
You’re a player, and also a coach. Can you introduce your leagues ?
So I set up Leeds Roller Dolls in 2007 with a few others; I left LRD in 2010 to help set up Hot Wheel Roller Derby with a few others who had different ideas and aims with the sport. Hot Wheel Roller Derby spent the first 3 years as a team with NO stoppers on any skates, I don’t think there are any other entirely stopperless teams out there?? Anyway, one or two skaters have now started to learn to use stoppers as I think it is important that as a team we don’t neglect potential strengths- and maybe stoppers will work out better for some of our skaters. I skate for the nearest men’s team, (IIIIIINNNNNN-HUUUUUUUMAAAAAN HO!) based in Sheffield and have done for a couple of years now. I’ve also fairly recently been appointed as the head coach for my national men’s team.
How do manage to be a league player and coach and also national team coach ?
Like you, I’m against skating with stoppers. According to you, why it is important ?
I started skating without stoppers from a young age so I have never really used them. I started out not using stoppers because I thought it was really cool and decided after wearing out a few sets of krypto stoppers that I’d just stop buying them and force myself to be stopperless. I have to say that I don’t necessarily have a problem with stoppers, the problem I have is that roller derby tends to attract quite a lot of people who are not from a skating background. There is far too much temptation for people who are pretty new to skating to take shortcuts to play the sport sooner, and what this results in from my perspective is quite a lot of bad habits. By NOT having stoppers on their skates, newer skaters pretty much have to learn to get that automatic feeling of controlling their wheels- dead wheel control, dead wheel sprints, powerslides, hockey stops, plough stops… When stoppers are there then a lot of skaters tend to learn to skate and then for everything else use the toe stops. Being stopperless means that you learn to master the wheels and utilize them to get what you want and THAT makes you a far stronger skater in the long run.
How big, do you think, Merby is going to be ?
I think merby is still growing and has some way to go yet but I don’t think it will be as big as the women’s game. I love merby and I love the fact that is more and more growing into a credible and serious sport. However, I think the women’s game is a lot more exciting to watch and will always outshine the men’s game.
What do you think of the level of the French merby teams ?
The French men’s teams sort of scare me. I remember watching the freeride videos that came out of France like a decade ago and as soon as roller derby started to develop in the UK I remember being afraid of the day France discovered roller derby. Outside of London, there really is no skate scene in England. From what I have researched and seen, skating is just a part of the culture in many parts of France. So my belief is that you can all skate already over there so all you need to do is learn the rules and tactics. So what I see of the French merby teams is a very high concentration of talented skaters and so much potential, I think French teams are going to really excel over the coming years and the combination of the men in France coming together for the Roller Derby World Cup is certainly one threat I won’t be wanting to take lightly!
What is, for you the main differences between english and french teams ?
As I said above, I think the main difference is in skating ability and experience. In England there aren’t too many guys getting into the sport with a long history on rollerskates so instead we tend to focus on teamwork and tactics that don’t rely quite so heavily on being strong skaters. I’d say French merby looks much more like a collection of stronger skaters that tend to do more on their own out on track. The Quad Guards have really started to combine their strength as skaters with a greater level of teamwork and the result is becoming pretty lethal.
How’s the level of english teams compared to US teams ?
What do you think of Rink Hockey players playing Roller Derby ? Wouldn’t it be great to have Roller Derby teams in Spain or Portugal, where Rink Hockey is traditionnaly big ?
There are a number of rink hockey skaters in England that have switched to roller derby and they really do stand out and get to a good level quickly. The thing is, rink hockey is it’s own little world and in the UK there is little reason for anybody to want to switch from hockey to derby, and that is with rink hockey being a relatively small sport in the UK. In Spain and Portugal the sport is really quite big so I think there is even less reason for the players to want to switch to a new sport. Maybe there will be a growth in roller derby from ex-rink hockey players and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is how it happens; roller derby does tend to be an « older persons » sport so maybe the Spanish and Portugese roller derby teams should consider targeting those who have aged out of competitive hockey!!
A last word ?
This is probably the most difficult question of all! I can talk about roller derby all day and all night, there’s so much to do and so much to see!!! However, I plan on being around in the roller derby scene for some time yet and one of my goals is to come over to France for some streetskating so maybe I will finish by saying that I’d really like to get the chance to come over to France and experience some of the skate culture both on the derby track and out on the streets.