Balancing Act: Helen Richardson-Smith

October 31, 2016

Helen Richardson-Smith is a space planning specialist for Virgin Money, designing the office interiors for the bank. In her spare time, Helen is involved in the fast-paced contact sport, roller derby

I design office interiors with the aim of providing Virgin Money colleagues with the best workspace possible. I have to consider layout, interior design, space utilisation and furniture requirements, ensuring that the space is used to its maximum efficiency, as well as being practical, fun and on brand.

Virgin is a cool, fun and exciting brand that is instantly recognisable across the world and it’s important that this comes through in our interiors. We look to innovate and do new and exciting things; we never stand still. I’m always looking at current trends and love finding new, exciting furniture.

It was my husband who suggested I take up roller derby. I attended a beginners’ session in February 2014. It takes 15 weeks to learn the minimum skills required, but unfortunately I failed to make the grade on my first attempt. I was gutted, but by then I had the bug and didn’t give up. I tried again in 2015 and was delighted to pass. It has been a long journey but I have loved every minute.

Roller derby is played on quad skates with teams of five players taking and skating in the same direction. 

Game play consists of a series of short match-ups, or jams, in which each team designates a jammer, who seeks to score points by going all-out to lap members of the opposing team. The other team members attempt to physically block and stop the opposition’s jammer and in doing so assist their own player to score more points.

Like any other contact sport, there are impacts and there is a chance that you could get injured. We wear protective gear to minimise the risk, including safety helmets, mouth guards and wrist guards, plus elbow and knee pads.

I play for Newcastle Roller Girls and train up to four times per week; games are held throughout the year. Our home venue is the Walker Activity Dome in Newcastle.

The sport is growing in Newcastle. There’s a male team called ‘Tyne & Fear’ and a new junior league in Newcastle. There are also teams in Sunderland, Durham and Middlesbrough. We play teams across the UK and have played against American and European sides. Roller derby is a grassroots sport, so the league is run entirely by volunteers and we all work hard to raise funds to cover things like team travel and kit.

Roller derby is suitable for all ages, shapes and sizes, but you do need to be 18 to play for Newcastle Roller Girls or Tyne & Fear.

Newcastle Roller Girls holds a new skater intake each year. For details visit 

Virgin Money

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