Hundreds of Guernsey workers turned up at their offices in Bermuda shorts last week.It was not meant to be a fashion statement. The hope was to change the lackadaisical attitude men take towards their health.
Former Bermuda resident Chris Walker came up with the idea. He was certain that if enough people walked around in long shorts and socks, somebody was bound to question why.
“Women do everything right; they get mammograms, pap smears, tests every year,” he said. “Whether they like having them done or not, whether they want to have them done, they do them. We’re trying to get men to be as proactive as women and have regular checkups.”
The former Athletic Club manager got the initiative going through Male Uprising Guernsey, the charity he has been involved with since 2012.
“When you get to my age — I’m in my late 50s — you tend to have a lot of friends that start getting cancers, unfortunately. It’s a sad situation, but that’s the way it goes. The charity is all about raising awareness of male cancers so we try to get men to be more open about any problems they might have and go get themselves checked out; early detecting increases survival rates enormously. We particularly focus on prostate, testicular and bowel cancer, but this year our main initiative is on skin cancer
“We want to encourage men with any problems; if they notice anywhere where things aren’t working well or happening properly, then go see a doctor or talk to somebody about it. Talk to your wife, talk to your girlfriend, but do talk.”
This was the second year that MUG invited Guernsey’s business industry “to swap their usual work attire for the traditional Bermuda summertime wear of shorts and long socks”. About 500 people participated in Bermuda Shorts Week in 2017; Mr Walker estimates that as many as 600 were involved in this year’s event, held last week.
Butterfield Bank (Guernsey) signed on as sponsors and people paid £20 to take part. The money raised will be used to supply sun cream dispensers in Guernsey schools.
“[MUG] has had a few very successful campaigns,” Mr Walker said. “We try and do things that are different as opposed to a sponsored race or walk or something like that. Ours is more an awareness campaign as opposed to raising money for cancer research.
“One of the first things we did, which we got a little bit of flak for, was a campaign called ‘Check Your Balls’. We ran pictures of guys who were naked holding [various sports items] so [their private parts] couldn’t be seen.
I’m a golfer so I had a couple of golf clubs in the right place; there was a rugby guy who used a rugby ball, a guy with a basketball and so on. We also did a video with a football club that showed teenagers how to do a proper medical examination using words that they would understand and use.”
Bermuda came up as the group brainstormed for new ideas. “Basically, I consider myself from Bermuda,” said Mr Walker who moved here with his wife, Nicola, in 1985 and stayed for 19 years.
“Both our kids [Sasha and Paget] were born there and, having been there for so long, we have a lot of friends there. It’s always nice to come back and see everybody. I came last year for the America’s Cup. I can’t make it every year, but we still send the kids, who are now 17 and 15. I always say, ‘Once you got Bermuda in you, you can’t get Bermuda out’.
“So, we came up with this idea and got all the corporates in town to wear the whole Bermuda office look. It raises money for us so we can do other marketing campaigns. And word of mouth is also extremely powerful. If you’ve got 500 or 600 people walking around in Bermuda shorts and long socks, people will ask questions. And then they say they’re doing it as part of a campaign for MUG.”
Guernsey, a British Crown Dependency and one of the Channel Islands, has many things in common with Bermuda, he said.
“We have a population of 65,000. We’re basically almost an identical island, just a couple of square miles bigger.”
It was incredible to see so many people walking around Guernsey’s business centre in Bermuda shorts, Mr Walker added.
“People are honking horns, waving to each other. It raises huge awareness — when you tell them why you’re doing it, it gets our name out there and gets the whole campaign running.”
It’s also a good advertisement for Bermuda, he said.
“I think people obviously do know about Bermuda, but I don’t think they know a lot about it. It definitely sparks people’s interest. What we want to do eventually, if people raise enough money, is do a prize, which could include a trip to Bermuda.”
For more information on Male Uprising Guernsey visit mug.gg