Whatever you might think about her accidental ascent to becoming a head of state, Queen Elizabeth II became the formal leader of a major power in the mid 20th century and went on to win the respect of the world. For seventy years, she met all the most important people on the planet. More importantly, they met a smart, yet unpretentious woman who had agency. Her fifteen prime ministers valued her ear and her experience. The way she fulfilled her inherited role created a legacy for women everywhere. We sent her our calendar and we understand it not only gave her a giggle but delighted her as a sign of the progress made during her reign to show greater respect for women and for the LGBTQ+ community whom she embraced so fondly in her day to day life. God bless you, Queen Elizabeth, who quietly guided so many of us through so much extraordinary change.
Here is a letter that we wrote to Queen Elizabeth in 2015
We read that you enjoy receiving correspondence from your subjects throughout the Commonwealth, and we thought we would write to share our story with you.
We are the men’s rowing team at the University of Warwick and for the last six years we have been producing a calendar. Given the state of our student finances, it is a blessing that ours is the sort of calendar where lack of a costume budget has been no barrier to success.
When we began our calendar, it was with the modest ambition to raise a few hundred pounds for much-needed boat repairs. Six years later, we have raised over half a million pounds to support our club and other good causes.
We believe our success lies in the very generous support that we received early on from the gay community, and how we responded to that. Although most of us are straight, we immediately embraced our LGBT supporters. Over time, and somewhat to our surprise, this has led to our calendar becoming an international symbol of challenging homophobia, particularly in sport.
The calendar now sells in over eighty countries around the world, and our tour of the United States last Christmas generated half a billion page views in US online media. (If you google Warwick Rowers, you will see there is a lot out there!)
Since 2014, 10% of calendar profits** have gone to funding the establishment of Sport Allies, a project to make sport more inclusive, particularly of LGBT young people. Team sport is where the problem of exclusion is worst. For example, Sport Allies’ research has identified that LGBT students who engage in sport at university are 50% less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to play a team sport.
As rowers, we value hugely how participating in team sport has benefitted each of us in terms of our personal and social development, and we know that those seeking to recruit university graduates value these qualities, too. In today’s competitive labour market, that can be the difference between success and failure. Our goal, through the message of our calendar and through the work of Sport Allies, is to help young LGBT people access the same life chances that we have. For us, it is nothing more than good sportsmanship and fair play.
Just last month, some of us were lucky enough to travel to New York to help launch an initiative by Visit Britain to attract more LGBT visitors to the UK. We were very flattered to be told that our calendar is an example of how modern Britain is able to maintain traditional pursuits and values yet demonstrate progressive leadership in a swiftly changing world. It prompted us to write this letter to you now.
It is an enormous honour for all of us to be able to make a contribution, no matter how small, to how Britain is seen in the world, and we are honoured, Ma’am, to remain Your Majesty’s humble and obedient subjects – in all our states of attire.
The Warwick Rowers
**Since 2016, WR has devoted 100% of its surplus resources to funding Sport Allies and academic research into healthier masculinity.
This Christmas, as every year, we have posted pictures from 2014 of Tristan and his Warwick Rowers 2015 calendar buddies decorating a tree in Bel Air, Los Angeles.
The pictures have become like the decorations that every family gets out of a box each Christmas – much loved and somehow irreplaceable! But we are always open to change and this year we decided it was time to think again about how we celebrate Christmas.
The thing is, our family is getting bigger. Our first calendar cover as the Roar featured more athletes than ever before and our third calendar features the most athletes in total.
We are now working with sports bodies around the world to ensure that the Worldwide Roar will continue to grow, and at an even faster rate! Supporters will soon be able to get involved in the Roar in ways that we had not thought possible before. The Worldwide Roar will deliver on the promise of the Warwick Rowers by helping everyone to understand their relationship with masculinity, and how that affects their relationship with the world.
We will always cherish our pictures and our memories from 2014, when a handful of rowers went halfway around the world to promote our message of allyship. It was a great moment for our project, and we wanted to reflect the community that we have become as a result.
That was when Lucas, our calendar star and social media guru had a great idea! He invited our Instagram followers to create their own takes on our iconic Christmas shots and send them to us to share on our account. The response was incredible.
There were so many entries that we had to ask people to stop after 24 hours so that Lucas’s own family could have some time with him over the holidays!
You can see some of the results here, and the rest by visiting our Instagram account at @worldwideroar. All wonderful shots from incredible supporters, creating a new Christmas tradition at the Roar.
Thank you to everyone who took part in our competition, and to all of you who have spent many Christmases with WR. We’re family and we’re already looking forward to creating a lot more new traditions in 2022!
The WR calendar started out at one university sports club. For over twelve years, it has enabled dozens of male athletes to become allies in the struggle against heteronormative patriarchal culture.
We know how meaningful our campaigns have been to our supporters around the world. They also mean a lot to the men who take part, and that is why we need your help.
Our WR contributors become a lot more than calendar stars!
Independent researchers have observed how WR participants embark on a journey towards greater awareness of their privilege, a stronger commitment to social justice, and better male mental health.
These young athletes become agents for change in their relationships with their friends, their lovers, their families, their work colleagues and their networks. They have committed to being the change we all want to see.
Great progress has been made in recent years to highlight and challenge the symptoms of hegemonic patriarchy: homophobia, misogyny and structural racism. But that progress is fragile. Our message and our method are more relevant than ever, which is why we have opened up this project to the world.
For the first time, sportsmen everywhere can follow the original WR pioneers on a journey of discovery.
Now we need your support to make the Roar a truly inclusive global campaign with hundreds and eventually thousands of athletes!
Echoing the late 19th century revival of the ancient Greek Games, Worldwide Roar will put sport at the heart of a range of contemporary personal and cultural issues.
Thinking has evolved since the modern Olympics began in the 1890s, but one aspect of the original games has been ignored until now: nudity. WR will reintroduce nudity to modern sport as a way to explore how contemporary culture looks at men, because we believe that how we look at men lies at the root of homophobia, misogyny and racism.
We will ask how a fresh (and yet ancient) perspective on the role and meaning of sport can be part of promoting healthier masculinity and gender equality and combatting structural racism.
When we published our first book in 2015, we took a big step: it was the first time that the WR contributors agreed to appear completely nude in print, defying the implied nudity conventions of the naked calendar.
Our athletes made a leap of faith to stand fully naked in front of the world. That leap has taken us all the way to the Worldwide Roar, and there are sportsmen around the world who are lining up to join us.
Despite the commitment of everyone involved – the men in front of the camera, the team who work behind the scenes, and the many supporters like you who have bought our products – we need more help to make the most of this moment.
So far, we have been funded entirely by sales of our content. It has got us to where we are today, and we are grateful to everyone who has ever supported us. With greater investment, we know we can achieve much more.
Here’s the problem. Right now, nobody at Google, Facebook or a thousand other corporations wants to take our call. In time, that will change. Corporates are already learning that they cannot dodge the difficult issues and stick with the ‘safe’ options – they must show greater cultural leadership. We believe that major commercial enterprises and institutions will one day recognise the fundability of the Worldwide Roar, and we are already developing a strategic fundraising plan to target institutional support.
Our first step to bringing that day closer is funding an independent international academic study of our work. This is something that has been in the pipeline for a long time; WR has been the subject of positive academic interest for several years, and we have found incredible support in academic circles. There are many in academia around the world who value our innovative approach to promoting healthier versions of masculinity.
Now a formal study of WR has begun. It is being conducted by leading researchers at Leeds Beckett University in England and the University of Calgary in Canada.
Inevitably, Covid-19 has caused unforeseen delays to the work, but we are confident that this independent academic exploration of our work will prove the value of the process we have developed over more than a decade. In particular, the study will focus on WR’s effectiveness in transforming the men who take part, and our project’s potential to help redefine the rules of masculinity for a new and more inclusive era.
That is why we now ask you to make a similar commitment to the one made by the many young men who have stripped off for our project.
Here’s the ask! If you are able to, we ask you to help us beyond just buying our products. And here’s why we’re asking…
A lot of our limited resources go into creating the great content you love to see. We’re happy to create it, too. Everyone involved loves taking part in our shoots and they are a key part of how our process works to transform and empower the men who take part.
We recognise our responsibility to make our content accessible to as many people as possible. We do our best to keep costs down, but producing and distributing our content is expensive and absorbs a lot of our revenues. That is why we are asking those who are able to help us with the less “rewarding” costs of funding the academic research and supporting Sport Allies.
The following three points are the basis of our promise to you as a WR core funder:
Become a Core Funder of the Worldwide Roar. Play a bigger part in the change you want to see!