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Video: Diversity, unity ... roller derby? The amazing connection between Pride and derby

"Derby is for everybody and Pride is for everybody"

Are there any similarities between what draws a person to roller derby and what draws a person to Pride events? Off the top, many regard these spaces to be inclusive and safe. It goes a little deeper than that.

"Even though we are like, literally sisters ... derby is a sisterhood. Derby becomes your family," said Maeghan McClanaghan, who is joined on the Nickel City Roller Derby team Sister Slag by her actual sister, Miranda. 

Between them, the two have competed in Ottawa, Windsor, Oshawa, Barrie/Orillia and Toronto. No matter where they skate, they have found welcome and camaraderie. Their sister, Elle Hoar, is one of the founders of NCRD.

The club's current vice president, Theresa Taillefer, described the league as a community where all genders, body types and sexual orientations can feel comfortable. While body empowerment, diversity and freedom of self-expression have long been a part of the sport in general, Taillefer acknowledges that an ideal only becomes an active value when mobilized by the people who adopt and defend it.

"People coming from many experiences are comfortable here because the girls make them feel that way. The community in Sudbury has been amazing for that," she said.

Veruc Assaulter (Renée St. Amour) took over as president last year and has been with the league for six years. During that time, a number of "Fresh Meat" camps have come and gone, where people who are new to the sport learn derby and sometimes, how to roller skate.

Fresh Meat happens over a span of 12 weeks. Upon successful completion of skills training, all graduates are placed on a home team. The question "Who can join?" is answered on the NCRD website thusly:

"Any body type, fitness level, skill or experience is welcome. NCRD accepts anyone willing to put time and heart into roller derby."

Last Tuesday night, a new group of recruits began skating together for the first time.

Commonalities were shared between the eight women who registered and turned up. Two women had recently moved to Sudbury, and one had a baby just two months ago. They wanted to learn the sport and felt it would be a good place to make new friends.

"It's also about taking space, right? Being there, making yourself known, having people behind you, being behind people — I see a lot of mirror between derby and Pride," St. Amour said of what brought the women out, and what has prompted NCRD to marshall Greater Sudbury's annual Pride Parade.

As they have done time and again, NCRD will be present at Sudbury's 21st Pride Parade, wearing costumes that are even more colourful than usual.

In addition to marshalling the parade (something they've done several times over the years), a "Pride Bout" will take place at Carmichael Arena at 7 p.m. Athletes will come from regions outside of Sudbury to scrimmage one another on non-binary teams made up that day. It's expected that the event will be less competitive and more about fun than all else. 

"It's like a different kind of experience that way, meaning it's less serious," St. Amour explained. "People get to wear silly outfits. With our derby names they're kinda like an alter ego. I think that Pride kind of helps you play into that because you get to be a little bolder than maybe you would normally be. Both Pride and derby bring that out in people.

"It brings out the celebration aspect I think. Derby is for everybody and Pride is for everybody."

This year's Pride Parade starts at Memorial Park at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 14. The Pride scrimmage event takes place at Carmichael Arena shortly after at 7 p.m. Save the date by RSVPing on Facebook, here.


Allana McDougall

About the Author: Allana McDougall

Allana McDougall is a new media reporter at Northern Life.
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