Rainbow Wellies is a campaign created by the University of York Boat Club to create an environment where every individual regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity feels welcome. We had seen how influential the ‘Rainbow laces’ campaign was, but we were gutted we could not be more involved because the shoes in rowing boats have Velcro instead of laces. This prompted us to create our own version. We chose to launch the campaign in February because February is LGBT History Month in the UK.
For the campaign we purchased rainbow wellies for the club and decided to keep them in the boathouse. Rainbows have been a symbol of LGBT inclusivity for decades, but in this particular instance they also represent our new LGBTQ policy on bullying, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. The club worked with Stonewall to draft the policy. The policy includes key definitions, refers to the use of gender-neutral pronouns and clearly outlines the support available for LGBTQ persons within the club and on campus.
The campaign was created in 30 days from idea to launch. It was originally proposed in an executive committee meeting in January 2016. Following the meeting we began contacting various interested parties who we thought might be interested in the campaign. Stonewall was one of the first organisations we contacted as they were organisation behind Rainbow laces so we knew it would be great to work with them on our own version. They loved the idea and they agreed to collaborate with us. After sourcing the wellies online we then had to decide how we wanted to promote the campaign. We decided that we would go for promotional photos and create a video to accompany it.
Our original filming date was January 30th. However we couldn’t access the boathouse to film due to river levels rising over 3 metres high. This was almost triple the height it usually is. Undeterred we decided that we would film on February 3rd instead. Thankfully, this time the weather was on our side. After filming, Mark (senior rower) had the mammoth task of editing all the footage and creating the video. He did a great job and the first draft of the video was finished on the 7th. After a few amendments and some additional filming the final version was given the thumbs up.
We definitely think the campaign will have a positive impact on the club. There have not been any instances of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at the club in recent years to our knowledge. But until now we have never had an LGBTQ specific policy in our constitution. We would love for other rowing clubs and sports teams across the country to get involved and download the policy. We hope other rowing clubs can join us in our continued efforts to make rowing more diverse, more inclusive and more accessible.