It’s only the 30th of December, which means you’ve still got time to run out and grab yourself a lovely new wall calendar for 2019, and what better way to start your days than looking at men in the buff right?
The Warwick Rowers have gained worldwide fame over the last 10 years for their annual calendar where they all willingly strip off and show us all whats really going on underneath all that rowing action…
The project started in 2009 as a fundraising calendar for the university boat club, and once they had started to reach new levels of success, quickly turned their buff bodies into a fundraising initiative for gay/straight alliance advocating for social equality and LGBT inclusion, catalyzing the movement for male mental health.
This year, the rowers are honoured to welcome special guest star, Olympic athlete Robbie Manson to the calendar. The openly gay, two-time Olympic athlete from New Zealand holds the world record for men’s single sculling, officially making him the fastest rower on the planet! When asked about his participation Robbie stated:
“As an LGBT athlete, I value the straight ally message of the Warwick Rowers. They prove you don’t have to be a gay or female athlete to believe passionately that sport should be for everyone, and that sport can show leadership in promoting equality. So, when the guys invited me to join them in their tenth anniversary calendar, I got on a plane!“
We caught up with the Rowers to find out more about them, the project, and what we can expect from this special anniversary edition:
We know the initial calendar concept was set up as a fundraiser for the university boat club, and has now reached global success, meaning it can now fundraise for a lot of other causes too, did you ever think it would gain such vast popularity and why do you think it has?
Definitely not!! But then we recognized that male nudity could be used to get a message across about gender equality, LGBT inclusion, and the impact on all of us of toxic masculinity. We saw that we as straight men could maybe do something to show we cared, too. Then we just picked up the ball and ran – naked!!
How did the first meeting for the calendar come about, did the rowers approach you as a photographer or did you contact them?
Our photographer/producer, Angus Malcolm, met one of the rowers in London. Angus suggested doing a calendar as a fundraiser for the club, and it has raised a huge amount of money for the rowing program at Warwick University. Now, however, profits go to Sport Allies, the registered charity that was inspired by the story of the Warwick Rowers and is still funded mainly by our sales. Sport Allies is doing great work, including a partnership with London Film School and SKY Sports to make diverse voices heard in sport through film for social media, and serious research into the LGBT experience of team sport. Sport is often seen as being behind the curve – still racist, still homophobic, still misogynistic. But not all of us in sport feel that way, and the charity (Sport Allies) has been able to take the learning from our project to politicians, academics, and leaders in sport. It has produced an amazing collaboration of people working together at different levels – from, naked rowers to advisors at 10 Downing Street – to achieve the goals.
Have the rowers attitudes towards being shot in front of the camera changed at all? Were they shy at first, and now are more confident, or has the global success of the calendar made them even more nervous do you think?
The impact and reputation of the calendar have definitely changed how guys approach the project. In the early years of the calendar, frontal nudity would have been out of the question. That changed when we saw that we could make a serious point through getting naked – hiding behind oars started to feel like we literally didn’t have enough skin in the game! Now, aside from the calendar, which is safe for your granny to put on the kitchen wall (though this depends on your granny, really), we don’t hide our nudity. This started with incidental nudity in our films, but we are particularly proud of our books, which feature a lot of frontal nudity – not because we want to be explicit but because we want to make the point that our commitment is real! Our fourth book has just come out, and we think it’s our best yet.
More and more athletes are being open and honest about their sexuality, and lifestyles with the public, do you think the calendar has helped to create an environment where they can do this, and if so, how?
We are particularly proud that our tenth anniversary calendar features guest star and Olympic rower, Robbie Manson. Robbie is officially the fastest rower in the world right now, and he is also LGBT. He contacted us to say how much he as a gay man appreciated what we were doing, and told us we could count on his support if we ever needed it. So of course we asked him to get naked, and we are delighted that he agreed – we think he’s hot, and we’re supposed to be straight! (Laughs) In our film content for 2019, Robbie talks about the importance of the project to making sport more LGBT friendly, and how important it is that sport plays a part in creating a more inclusive world. For us, it’s the perfect way to celebrate our tenth anniversary as a straight ally project, to have an LGBT athlete who is a hero in the rowing world stand naked alongside us.
Finally, this is the 10th anniversary of the calendar, an incredible achievement so well done, what’s next for you and the rowers after this?
We are incredibly excited about the future. We introduced guest stars for the first time this year (Robbie is not the only one), and that is just the beginning. This project and this message is bigger than one sports club at one university. We want sportsmen everywhere to become part of promoting better male mental health, greater gender equality and a world where everyone is supported equally to explore and enjoy their sexuality. Sport Allies has big plans, and we want to be there to support them in that work. That means a lot more hot athletes are going to have to get naked, and we’re already working on it.
Well we call cannot wait to see what hot athletes strip off next, and we absolutely love the message and the work these guys are doing for the LGBT community and beyond.
What do you think of the calendar? Is this one going up on your wall anytime soon…? Ours is already up and it’t not even January 1st yet – OOPS!