Miro Introducing gives new creatives the chance to introduce themselves onto the cultural scene. This guest post is by Anna Tierney, who with company The Pack bring roller derby Skate Hard, Turn Left to Battersea Arts Centre:

I started playing roller derby just after leaving drama school. A hopeful actor, I had done my training and was thrown into the industry, with a lack of understanding for how things really worked and what the “business” wanted from me. And so it went, for quite some time, always wondering what the industry wanted from me, instead of thinking about what I could offer it. Throughout my drama training I was taught that I could transform; be any character; shape shift into whatever the role demanded. But when it came to the big final year showcase, they wanted me in a box, one that would be sellable to agents and I just couldn’t figure it out.

Skate Hard Turn Left Battersea Arts Centre

Anna Tierney (image courtesy of Orlando James)

As luck would have it I made a long-lasting connection just before graduating, when Decca Muldowney (daughter of director Di Trevis, who was directing me at the Drama Centre) came into our rehearsal room to observe. Over a lunch break she talked to me about this sport called roller derby and it didn’t take much for me to want to see it for myself.

Roller derby is a full-contact skating sport, played predominantly by women. It is often described as a blend of rugby combined with the quick-fire strategy of a chess game. It is one of the fastest growing sports, with leagues appearing in almost every city. It is a grassroots sport, run by the skaters, for the skaters.

A space where women were on roller skates, being incredibly strong and unique?

Yes please.

Skate Hard Turn Left Battersea Arts Centre

Lucy Bairstow (image courtesy of Orlando James)

Before long I started playing the sport myself with the London Rollergirls team and it gave me something the industry couldn’t give me at the time – a place to be truly myself, where I could use my body and my voice to it’s fullest potential; but as myself, not as a character or a role. I trained every week, never missing a session. I was hungry to learn and become stronger and every time I went I felt more in my body, less self-conscious and more empowered. My body was expanding and taking up space, it was dropping the preconceived ideas of what I should be to others or should look like as a woman. I was playing with other bodies, of all shapes and sizes, allowing myself to be incredibly powerful and at the same time go to the extremes of my body’s capacity to express itself.

Skate Hard Turn Left Battersea Arts Centre

Rachel Hosker (image courtesy of Orlando James)

I knew the sport had the potential to live a life on stage and with our incredible creative team – producer Sophie Nurse, director Jemima James and deviser-performers Lucy Bairstow, Rachel Hosker and Yasmin Zadeh – we formed our original company, The Pack (a derby term for the group of skaters on the track). Jemima had a very clear vision for the show – to explore what the sport gave the people who participated in it. As a result the show has an incredibly physical language, giving the audience the almost immersive feeling of what it’s like to make contact with all those other bodies and what it’s like to be in that female space, for which there is really no other equivalent in our society.

Skate Hard Turn Battersea Arts Centre

Yasmin Zadeh (image courtesy of Orlando James)

We are an all female and non-binary company, which was key in paying tribute to the progressiveness of roller derby and its gender inclusive policies. Any roller derby league that is part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) has a gender expansive policy for its skaters unlike that of any other sport. Anyone who identifies as female, whether cis, trans or intersex, or non-binary people can play on a women’s team.

Roller derby has become a unique space, a safe space, where people can play and compete at an international level without the judgement or scrutiny that takes place in most other arenas. Roller derby is a life line for many and we felt strongly that its stories had to be shared.

Skate Hard, Turn Left runs at Battersea Arts Centre from 9-13 October. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the venue website.