Gregg Homme
We could all name sportsman with great bodies but not all want to show them off to quite the extent of The Warwick Rowers. We're glad they do because there's a serious message behind their nudity. The Rowers raise money for Sport Allies, a charity that helps to make sport more inclusive, as LGBT+ individuals are less likely to participate in team sport than straight people.

To produce their 2018 calendar the students of the Warwick University rowing team took themselves to some beautiful garden locations in the UK and Spain for a ten-day shoot. The result was a series of incredible, high-end images and a naughty campaign video, which you can watch on the Second Page of this OutUK feature.

All Photography: Angus Malcolm

The Warwick Rowers first released a calendar in 2009 to raise funds for the university boat club. The shoot took place in one day, in the freezing cold, and it raised a lowly £300. Now it raises a six-figure sum every year, with celebrity fans including Kris Jenner, Kylie Minogue and Sir Ian McKellen. The calendar goes to around 80 countries every year and their message reaches more than 140 countries through viral messaging. Warwick Rowers have won a large number of awards for excellence, innovation and social impact, including twice being voted the UK Charity Calendar of the Year.

The Warwick Rowers project is now an independent social enterprise that works in collaboration with male rowers and alumni of the University of Warwick Boat Club. Although a significant donor to the rowing programme at Warwick University, Warwick Rowers functions completely independently of the University of Warwick and Warwick Student Union.

In addition to the calendar, priced at £14.99, Warwick Rowers fans can pick up behind-the-scenes films of the photoshoots in England and Spain, as well as a coffee table book, a brand new Warwick Rowers onesie.

Angus Malcolm, producer of the Warwick Rowers calendar and LGBT rights activist, said: This year's project was a huge collaborative effort, but the lads were happy to get naked for ten whole days to make sure we made the 2018 calendar the best one yet.

The Warwick Rowers fan base, not surprisingly, is mainly women and gay men, so every year we give back by donating money to Sport Allies, a charity founded on the back of support from the calendar, to challenge homophobia and gender bias in sport. It is a topic we address in detail in the Sport Allies report that was featured on OutUK, Homophobia, Gender and Sporting Culture.

We've been talking with the guys to find out what it's like to strip off for a good cause and why they decided to take on the homophobes.


Alex, Before you started at the University did you know about the calendar?
I had actually no idea when I took up rowing, but that was three years ago now and I only really understood what the project was in my second term of first year. I think it's really taken off in the last few years with the help of social media and so there's an ever increasing amount of new students each year with knowledge about the calendar.

Tom, Does everyone in the rowing team take part in the calendar?
The calendar isn't compulsory for everyone to take part in and some guys can't make it due to academic commitments (we shoot it during the term time), however a very large majority of the men's squad get involved. It is a lot of fun, as you just mess around with your mates for a couple of days every summer!

Tristan, Is there much competition to be featured in the calendar?
As we let everyone in the team take part I don't think there is competition. We're very competitive as a squad when it comes to fitness and strength, but I think the process of shooting the calendar is such good fun that we want everyone to be involved.

Tristan, Do you have any say in the poses you take in the pictures?
The shoot is a fairly organic process. Angus the photographer obviously shows up with some ideas as to the poses and shots he wants to take, but a lot of shots are on the spot collaborative ideas from the whole team.

Lucas, Did you ever feel shy about posing for the pictures?
I mean, it being my first time 'posing' in front of a camera for such purposes, I didn't really know what to do and therefore I might have been a bit shy at the beginning. But after a while you get used to it and it's all fine!

Will, Whilst there aren't full frontals in the calendar there's plenty more nudity in the movies. Did you find that a worry?
It's obviously a big step for all of us, but we feel it's something that really helps support our message. It's also done in a tasteful way, despite containing frontal nudity our films are tasteful and in no way overtly sexual.

Tom, What do other rowing teams think of Warwick and their calendar?
Warwick is pretty famous for its calendar and we get a lot of jokes about us actually wearing clothes when we get to races with other clubs, but it's all in good humour as they know it supports such a good cause. It's even been known for some people to ask for pictures with some of the rowers!

Tristan, Have you ever had negative comments or people being dismissive of what you do?
Luckily we haven't faced that much negativity at all. Given the amount of exposure we have, we're always going to get a certain amount of negativity from internet trolls and people who don't agree with our message. However this is on a very small scale, and the positivity of our supporters makes it easy to deal with.

Lucas, Are many of the team gay? Have they themselves experienced homophobia in sport?
No, we don't have that many gay members. I know we've had a couple of gay members who have featured in the calendar in previous years. And being honest, I haven't had a chat with any of them to see if they experienced homophobia, as what matters is that they don't experience any homophobia while they are at university.

You can purchase a Calendar direct from the Warwick Rowers Website for just £14.99. On the site you'll also find loads of other items including photo sets, film downloads, signed limited editions and picture profiles of some the guys.

A proportion of every sale is donated to Sport Allies, a charity that aims to combat homophobia in team sports.

More of our Interview with The Warwick Rowers and their 2018 Video

See the Sport Allies website: sportallies.org
Tweet Sport Allies @SportAllies: twitter.com/SportAllies
Find Sport Allies on Facebook here: facebook.com/SportAlliesCharity

 

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