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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 the 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.
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