‘Challenging homophobia is more important this year than ever’: We sat down with the Warwick Rowers

The boys are tackling ignorance and prejudice around sexuality


Another year, another calendar. Our boys have gained international fame, appeared on TV and have started getting recognised outside on the streets of London. But they’re still as humble as ever.

We met up with Tom, who is the Men’s Calendar officer and Equality and Diversity officer for the club and the photographer from the calendar shoot, to ask them all the questions you’ve been dying to know the answers to.

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We loved your brand new calendar and it’s fantastic to see how much you guys do for charity. What were you raising awareness for this year? 

Angus: “Our usual message of challenging homophobia feels more urgent this year than ever. Our shoots took place in June, just after the horrific massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The perpetrator was a man who had not been able to come to terms with his own sexuality, and it reminded us all of the work that still needs to be done to dispel ignorance and prejudice around sexuality.

“Since then, the Brexit vote has triggered a 147 per cent rise in homophobic attacks in the UK, and the equally surprising result in the US presidential elections already seems to be having the same impact there. These results are seen as a mandate for hate, so we are out there with our bare arse banners of love and acceptance.”

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What was the photo shooting experience like? 

Tom: “It’s always incredibly fun shooting the calendar, you soon forget you are naked and we always shoot it in the summer just after exams have finished. Everyone is very relaxed and you just have a good laugh with all your mates and you soon it’s not uncomfortable at all.

“In fact, it becomes very natural to be naked around your friends very quickly and any awkwardness is soon left behind. The only issue we had this year was the terrible English weather! It was cold and rainy almost every day of the English shoot which definitely dampened spirits as everyone was very cold, but we still enjoyed ourselves and hopefully that comes across in the calendar.”

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Were there any really funny or awkward moments on the shoot? 

Tom: “I think one of the most surprising things about taking part in the calendar for the new guys is how quickly you end up being comfortable being naked around the all the other guys, so it’s never really that awkward. The whole shoot is good fun and there are a lot of funny moments, however probably the funniest moment for me was when one of the guys got a wasp sting in a very private area. It wasn’t so funny for him, but it was very funny for the rest of us.”

How do your parents feel about the calendar?

Tom: “I think my parents found it quite amusing really. I gave my mum a signed calendar for Christmas and I think she found it pretty funny!”

Has anyone in the club been worried about how the naked calendar may reflect on their careers after Warwick?

Angus: “The most positive thing for me, and this applies to all the rowers, has been how taking part in the calendar has become a real asset in the job market. There was a time when the guys were worried that getting their kit off might come back to haunt them, but nothing could be further from the truth. Taking part in the calendar is seen by top tier employers as an indication of character, commitment and sound values – which is exactly how it should be seen.”

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How does it feel to be famous worldwide? Your Instagram account is huge! Do you have a lot of people trying to get in touch with you? 

Tom: “It’s crazy to think how far this project reaches particularly within the gay community. I’ve attended a few events with LGBT+ networks in London over the last year and the response is always incredible and I’m always amazed at the number of people that know about the calendar and Sport Allies.

“Similarly the exposure we receive from media across the world is phenomenal – we recently did an interview on the largest Australian national breakfast TV show. We get a lot of messages on Facebook and Instagram, and some of the stories we are told are amazing and really remind you why the message the calendar promotes is so important.”

Is it hard to stay motivated and so dedicated to the club when university gets intense?

Tom: “I think you have to make sacrifices to do rowing, or any competitive sport at uni, however I think the benefits of taking part in competitive sport at a university level really teach you a lot about yourself. The life lessons you learn are invaluable and that’s why we are so enthusiastic about the work that Sport Allies does in promoting greater inclusivity and diversity in sports. We want everyone to be able to get the same opportunities and life lessons from sport that we have been lucky enough to benefit from.”

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Do you guys get recognised a lot on campus and have you ever got recognised outside of university? 

Tom: “We get recognised a bit around campus, although I think a lot of people pretend to recognise us during Freshers’ Week so they can get a free calendar. Everyone loves collecting as many freebies as possible during Freshers’. Having said that, Cian and I were in London over the weekend and we were recognised in St James’ park by some calendar fans. I think it was exciting for us as it was for them.”

What’s your personal favourite shot from the calendar?

Angus: “I particularly like the poster shot’s combination of intimacy and purpose. All the guys look very comfortable and relaxed, but also focused and determined. It’s like they’re saying we’re here to have fun, but we’re also here to make a difference. I love it.”

Tom: “Personally my favourite shot is the one with all of us stood in front of the door with blades. I’m not really sure why, but I just think it is a really powerful photo and it was shot on one of the only days where it wasn’t freezing and raining.”

To buy the calendar, visit the Warwick Rowers’ official website.

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