“Good morning. Is that Sheffield County Council?”
“Yes, how can I be of assistance?”
“Well…this is a slightly strange request. I’m organising a naked calendar as a charity fundraiser, and wondered whether I need permission for the shoots.”
“Oh, right. [Long silence]. Where are you planning to take these photos?”
“All over Sheffield. There’s around 20 students participating, and the idea is that each month promotes a fundraiser that we have coming up next year. We’re hoping to shoot on the University Campus, but also in local parks and out in the Peaks.”
“I see…well you’d need local permission for each site.”
“Ah, well I’m hoping to shoot in the next fortnight so we can sell copies for Christmas. Can we just do it at the crack of dawn so no-one sees us?”
“Up to you, but you could be arrested for indecent exposure in a public space.”
“I see. Is this the first time someone has called asking about this?”
It was 6am, still dark. We found ourselves huddled in Weston Park. The cover shot required all of us in the frame, but none of us wanted to remove any layers. Our breath hung in the November air, like the unspeakable fear of what we had to do next. We were only slightly better acquainted than strangers, having just started our fundraising year together.
For the record, getting your kit off is an effective ice breaker. Without giving away too many details, June’s tennis shoot had to be redone as the whipped cream wasn’t high enough. I’ve never seen a man walk his dog so many times around the tennis courts.
Another shoot took us far into the Peak District, clad in walking boots, woolly hats and carrying giant Ordinance Survey maps. It was a foggy damp day, and unfortunately one member of the group had (man) flu and his lips turned an alarming shade of blue. As we found a suitable place to pose and set up the camera, a group of dressed hikers ambled past as we hastily wrapped the maps around ourselves.
Another slight oversight was the fact that although the props hid everything from the camera lens, other angles were rather exposed. Our Krispy Kreme shoot on campus – although early in the morning – unwittingly attracted some attention from the office windows above. Luckily, mooning wasn’t enough to get us in trouble!
There was also the awkward exchange with my housemates when I suggested having two of the shoots at our shared house. The Wii competition and clothes swap frames did not have venues lined up, so I waited for a good moment before putting forward the idea. In fact, they were very understanding and allowed us the lounge for a couple of hours, but when the printed copies became available I became painfully aware of which chairs the naked bums had sat on. Sorry, girls.
One very generous pub owner allowed us to shoot in his establishment before the punters arrived. The pub quiz frame was set and he even allowed us to pour a pint to make it more realistic. Pity he then undid all his good work by developing a bizarre wink that saw us scarper out of there sharpish.
In marketing our calendar, I was lucky enough to secure a foreword from the lovely Georgie Glen who appeared in the movie Calendar Girls, along with signed photographs from Dame Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. Both of these were later auctioned off as raffle prizes at a local Christmas fayre.
Overall, we fundraised over £1,000 for the charity Dig Deep. Although it was a source of embarrassment for some, I think peeling off the layers of prudishness is a big achievement, especially in the depths of winter up north, and even more so for us Brits.
Image – the fundraising group with their clothes on (the Internet does not need any reminders).