WARWICK ROWERS UNDERGO NAKED REBOOT TO CHALLENGE HOMOPHOBIA
AND BREAK DOWN BARRIERS IN SPORT
The Warwick Rowers have stripped off again for the sixth edition of their world-famous naked calendar. And the calendar got a very stylish send-off last night when the May Fair Hotel in London hosted the calendar’s first ever formal launch with special guest, actor Ian McKellen.
The boys were deeply honoured that McKellen agreed to host the calendar’s launch. A keen supporter of Sport Allies, the charity initiative the boys set up in 2013 to challenge homophobia in sport, McKellen commented:
“I was delighted to be asked, and more than happy to help the boys with the amazing work they are doing through Sport Allies. Though I did ask them to make clear on the invitation that I would remain clothed throughout the event.”
The dedicated student athletes, by contrast, are rarely seen clothed and trained for six months to make sure they were camera-ready for this year’s shoot. As rower Paddy West said:
“Having the calendar shoot coming up gave us all an extra incentive to get down the gym and get out in the boats, and we spent six months getting in shape. We really wanted to look our very best for our supporters when the kit came off!”
The boys have also put the calendar itself through a major boot camp for the 2015 edition. Twice as big at A3 size, with enormous pictures, a sheet of four generous tear-out postcards and a full-colour tear-out poster that is almost A2 size, the calendar is a radical reboot. Veteran calendar star, Matt Dabell, who is making his third calendar appearance this year with solo shots for July and the full-colour poster, summed up the feelings of his team-mates:
“We were blown away by the response to the calendar last year, and we wanted to show our appreciation for all the support we have received. Of course, making Sport Allies a reality and a success is the best thank you we can offer, but people don’t buy this calendar just to support a good cause – they want a nice calendar! We had a good look around at the National Calendar Awards last year, and we have done everything we can to give them not just the best calendar we have ever produced, but one that can hold its head up against any other calendar on the market.”
But it’s not all modelling shoots and awards ceremonies for the hard-working sportsmen. Members of the rowing club have been working with other students, including representatives of Warwick Pride, the university’s LGBT organisation for students, professionals from EY (Ernst & Young), and leading figures in the voluntary sector to roll Sport Allies out nationally, and to begin the process of creating an independent registered charity.
At the May Fair launch the team gave an update on progress and key findings from research commissioned by Sport Allies and funded by the boys:
- Homophobia among young people is often about gender as much as sexuality – if you don’t conform to male or female stereotypes, you may be labelled LGBT
- Team sport is a key arena where this “gender policing” takes place
- Using sexuality as a shorthand for gender sends a clear message that heterosexuality is the “correct” sexuality
- This “hetero-normative” culture in sport makes it difficult for professional athletes to be out, thereby depriving all of us of LGBT sports role models, and reinforcing the existing prejudices.
Working on the calendar project has brought the need for Sport Allies home to Laurie Hulse, one of the calendar’s models, who said:
“Working closely with the LGBT community we’ve heard first hand of their experiences of bullying and the struggle to come to terms with their sexuality. As well as funding our outreach work we also hope we can make a statement with these calendars. We are happy to get naked for everyone to enjoy. If everyone could be more positive and accepting of other people’s sexuality, the world would be a better place. And top end sport could offer the role models to LGBT youth that they desperately need and currently lack.”
Ian McKellen is not the only one to recognise the work being done by the boys. The team became an international hit last year following appearances on Good Morning America, The Jonathan Ross Show and E! Entertainment News. The Good Morning, America appearance prompted more calendar sales in the following 24 hours than during the previous four years of the calendar.
Validation for the boys’ efforts came from the calendar industry itself in January 2015 when they were named Charity Calendar of the Year at the UK’s National Calendar Awards, where they also picked up the People’s Choice Awards.
The calendars (£14.99 RRP in shops and available for £12.99 plus P&P at warwickrowers.org) are supported by an online viral video and will be available to purchase alongside a range of merchandise including t-shirts, hoodies, limited edition prints, wall posters and greeting cards. The range is on pre-sale and can be purchased on www.warwickrowers.org. The Calendars will also be available in Calendar Club in the UK and Kitson in the US, among other selected retailers.
Coming up next… The boys’ next big adventure is a promotional tour to the United States, where they will be visiting Los Angeles, New York City and Miami. As well as promoting the calendar to the media, the rowers will be doing personal appearances, calendar signings and shoots for the 2016 calendar. The tour begins in late November and runs until mid December.
- The first Warwick Rowers calendar was created in 2009 and sold only on Warwick University campus. Since then, the calendar and associated products have sold to over seventy countries.
- The 2015 Warwick Rowers calendar measures 420mm x 297mm and is wire-o-bound. It weighs around 380g and contains: 12 months of A3-size calendar pictures; 4 A5-size postcards; and one A2 size full-colour wall poster.
- The Warwick Rowers 2015 range also includes: premium quality tshirts at £19.99 and hoodies at £49.99. Both garments are produced in the United Kingdom and carry the Sport Allies logo, the hashtag #WR15 and the slogan “I’m party of the story”; purple silicone wristbands with the Sport Allies logo and the hashtag #WR15 at £2.99. Purchasers can also buy from the existing range of limited edition art prints, greeting cards, wall posters, bonus image downloads and film downloads.
- Warwick Rowers viral video trailers have received over three million plays from over 15 million page loads. All can be viewed at http://www.warwickrowers.org.
- The Warwick Rowers are @naked_rowers on Twitter. Their Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Warwick-Rowings-Mens-Naked-Calendar/496964983654487?ref=ts&fref=ts and they are @warwick_rowers on Instagram
- Celebrity supporters include: Stephen Fry; Ian Mckellen; Gok Wan; Kylie Minogue; Antony Cotton; Caggie Dunlop; Victoria Baker-Harber; Binky Felstead; Boy George. A selection of endorsements can be seen at the following links:
Stephen Fry – https://twitter.com/stephenfry/status/409495679648931840
Kylie Minogue – https://twitter.com/kylieminogue/status/467415979308646400
Victoria Baker-Harber – https://twitter.com/VictoriaBH/status/427107458918920192
Caggie Dunlop – https://twitter.com/Caggie_Dunlop/status/339745502205730816
Binky Felstead –https://twitter.com/BinkyFelstead/status/395552501636034561
Antony Cotton – http://www.celeb-tweets.co.uk/tweet/426749785190985728/
- University of Warwick Boat Club (Warwick Rowing, website warwickrowing.org) was founded in 1966 and has been officially recognised as one of the university’s best sports clubs for its unique combination of accessibility and competition focus. This year (2014) the club was nominated for Warwick University Sports Club of the year and British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Club of the Year. Warwick Rowing has produced some of the most outstanding rowers of recent years, including Tom Solesbury (Current British Olympian and World Cup Championship medallist, Boat Race winner with Oxford in 2009) and Ben Ellison (2011 Boat Race winner with Oxford).