A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to sit down with Cheap Skate, aka Ellie Harrison, a Glasgow Roller Derby skater who has undertaken the task of establishing a UK roller derby museum, with the aim of archiving as much about the sport as possible.
Cheap Skate started skating with GRD in January and instantly became hooked. But for her it was more than just skating.
“It came about as a result of learning about roller derby and as a result of being asked to work with the Women’s Library, which has been going for 20 years and is currently based in the Mitchell Library. It’s an archive of women’s history or things that relate to the history of women. Everything in the library has been donated, so the entire collection is based on this ethos of collective ownership – if everyone donates, everyone feels a part of it.”
The library, one of two archives dedicated to women’s history in the UK, is continuing to thrive and will be moving into its own venue later this year.
For the 20th anniversary, Cheap Skate was one of 20 artists invited to work with them, and during her work there, she noticed how much amazing stuff was there.
“I started to question why people weren’t going there,” she explained, “and what I could do to help spread the word and make it more inviting to younger women.
“All of that was happening at the same time as I was learning about roller derby.”
Noticing the similaries between the library’s collective ownership ethos and derby’s “by the skaters, for the skaters” mentality, she realised that it would be a good fit together.
“I also realised that because it is a new sport, and the people who are doing it are so busy doing it, there is no-one making sure this story is told.
Mistress Malicious, one of the founders, recently officially opened the museum in the library.
From bout programmes to merchandise, there is a lot of items being created that run the risk of being lost in the backs of drawers or as committees evolve over the years.
“The good thing about the library is that it’s an accredited museum and is open to the public.”
She added: “Since I’ve started talking to people about this, I’ve learned that there’s so many people who are archivists or librarians, so that’s been a great help.”
Cheap Skate said she wanted every league in Scotland, if not the whole of the UK to be represented in the museum, and in an exhibition they are running from the 22nd of September to the 13th of October, called the “Revolution on Roller Skates”, curated by GRD and ARRG skaters.
“It’s only really going to grow and realise its potential if people donate and keep it going.
“Anything relating to leagues in the UK, we want.”
The museum will have a stall at Chaos on the Clyde in Kelvinhall on the 25th and 26th of August, where skaters and league members can chat to people from the library and possibly be interviewed and photographed as part of the archive.
Ultimately, Cheap Skate admitted that she would like to see the museum live up to its name, and become the National Museum of Roller Derby, which chronicles all of the UK derby scene.
“I hope that the collection will build and build, and leagues will get used to it being there and want to become a part of the documented history of UK roller derby. It will become valuable for the UK, for Scotland and for the women’s library. The collection could then travel and create awareness for the sport and have a life of its own.”
Any leagues interested in being a part of the museum – and really, why would you not? – can visit http://www.nmrd.org.uk for more details. The museum also has a Facebook page.