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Honey Island Rollers – Malta’s first Roller Derby League

Founder of The Honey Island Rollers is Ġiġi - Ġiġġifogu,1565. She explained to me how in Roller Derby people go by their derby names, which are names they make up for themselves and are thereafter known as.

“Roller derby is a high-speed women’s contact sport on skates, played on a flat track. The rules are complex, the training is challenging, the excitement is epic. It's a grassroots sport that originated from the camp 70's version of derby that started in Texas, was largely a show much like WWE just on skates and on a banked track. The modern version is a real sport that got a big boost in the late noughties early 20's, where it was for many years the fastest growing women's sport. “ - Ġiġi

What makes the ‘Honey Island Rollers’ a queer-friendly sport? “Roller derby is a queer sport. It has always been so. Who knows why? Maybe because it’s so alternative, the punk ‘DIY’ mentality of it tends to draw in people who were on the fringes of society. Maybe it's camp origins, the use of names. Maybe because it’s self-managed, so it becomes a safe space. It’s not uncommon for MOST of a roller derby league to consist of LGBTQ+ people.”

The WFTDA (Women's flat track derby association) needs only a light glance through its website to see how queer-friendly Roller Derby is - bios are accompanied by preferred pronouns, and the definition of 'women' includes women-identified people, which is progressive for a sport. WFTDA is totally in the spirit of derby, has that punk origin, and instructs the whole vibe of the sport worldwide - but it takes the sport super seriously as do all WFTDA leagues. Ġiġi has come across leagues who proudly recruit exclusively LGBT members!

What are your main goals for this group?

Their main goal is to create a fit, strong league that can compete with teams around Europe, whilst also having fun.

“Roller derby is also an awesome, super fun spectator sport - it's fast, the hits are powerful - bouts are a big fun event requiring lots of referees (also on skates, and all gender expressions welcome).”

HIR want to get local people excited about it and foster an interest in the sport in younger people. Their league is currently 18+, with no age limit, but a long-term aim is definitely to have a junior league.

How can one join the team? What words of encouragement would you give to women who are interested in being part of the team but may feel shy or not good enough?

Currently, the league consists of fresh meat (beginners who have no experience and will learn every skill from scratch, the injury rate is higher than other sports as strapped to each foot are 1.5-kilo skates). None the less, you will definitely build up muscle fast and you are definitely in good hands, she explained. Applications are open till Autumn.

Full pads - helmet, mouthguard, knee-elbow wrist pads - need to be worn.

This will set you back 200-250 Eu. It is in itself a way of separating people who are serious from people who are not. In truth purchasing the skates is only a small commitment in the big scheme - when you join a league, you are also expected to take on an admin role (of your choice) as needed - there is no league without the skaters who run it, and it is run like a democracy, and voluntarily. When time is being taken to teach rookies for free, you want to know that they have made the minimum commitment of getting gear.

“ I always tell people not to worry because after starting derby they will most likely drop all their other hobbies and become totally obsessed so they'll spend less money on other stuff ”

The Honey Island Rollers are not looking for expertise but for the dedication! Ġiġi herself used to hate sports and she went from hating sports to started roller derby. It definitely was not easy but she was extremely determined and dedicated. Being the worst person in her first league to playing in 6 bouts in my previous derby career, 3 of them seeded WFTDA bouts. So in short, she stated that if she could do it, so can you!

Bonus Quote from Ġiġi herself:

“So if you feel you want to do this at a cellular level, even if you maybe don't really understand why - are ready to work and put in not only training time but time to make this league run, and if you wanna be at the start of something epic on these islands - come join our league. We're only just starting and there'll 100% be teething issues - but you will also be part of what decides the league direction. As to shyness - there's no reason to be shy we are a bunch of dorks on quad skates. People can be really negative too - don't ask other people if you should join if you're prone to discouragement by others. Just join. It will be the best thing 2020 has offered so far.”

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