WARWICK Rowers are preparing to reveal nearly all again.
The calendar featuring rowers from the University of Warwick Boat Club has become an international phenomenon since first published in 2009 – with celebrity fans including Kylie Minogue, Miranda Hart and Sir Ian McKellen.
The first calendar was simply a fun way to raise funds for the university boat club. The shoot took place in one day, in the freezing cold, and the calendar raised just £300.
When the rowers learned the calendar was becoming popular in the gay community, they embraced the support and were moved by the message from their LGBT fans about the homophobia they had encountered in sport.
This spurred the rowers and their producer to set up Sport Allies, which is now a registered charity funded almost entirely by profits from Warwick Rowers products offered on the Crowdfunder.
Sales of Warwick Rowers products enabled the foundation of Sport Allies, a registered charity promoting greater LGBT inclusion and more gender equality in sport. The rowers – who all class themselves as ‘allies’, believe sport should help people fulfil their potential, regardless gender or sexuality.
Sport Allies will be launching a new report at the House of Commons on October 26 highlighting the perception in the LGBT community that team sport is not inclusive. According to the NUS, 47 per cent of LGBT students who do not participate in sport say they find the culture around it alienating.
Angus Malcolm, producer of the Warwick Rowers calendar and LGBT rights activist, said: “The calendar, book and films are a bit of fun, but the message behind the nudity is more serious.
“The Warwick Rowers are brilliant sports and great allies to the gay community. They’re straight men confronting their privilege and becoming part of the solution. The nudity in our calendar is therapeutic and purposeful. We’ve been contacted by many people who were bullied by sportsmen at school and find that the Rowers have helped them come full circle.”
Angus also revealed what goes on behind the scenes when the rowers are completely in the buff.
He said: “For the first few minutes everyone feels strange, but then it seems entirely natural. After a few days they don’t bother putting clothes on between takes.
“The rowers’ attitudes to people of other cultures and sexualities have always been great, but every year they’re more open, understanding and welcoming of diversity.
“Being one of the rowers has even helped them get jobs after graduating: it shows they’ve got character, and that they’re worldly, modern citizens.”
A range of products are offered on Crowdfunder. In addition to the calendar, there are films and a coffee table book.
Visit www.sportallies.org to find out more about the Sport Allies charity, and www.warwickrowers.org for further Warwick Rowers crowdfunder product details.