Last weekend, and for the first time in nearly 20 months, the Body Love Sketch Club made its triumphant return to in-person events – on a boat, no less! – and Britain Uncovered had the pleasure of being in attendance for this immensely joyful and body positive reunion. Held on a barge in Haggerston in London, the event certainly made a splash, so we’re now presenting this exclusive overview of how our day unfolded!
I initially had the good fortune of discovering Rosy and Ruby’s Body Love Sketch Club events just days into 2020, and with yet-to-be-broken New Year’s resolutions prompting me to sign up and explore all things new, I plucked up the courage and decided to take the plunge (yup, we're continuing with the nautical theme I’m afraid).
While you can read more about my initial thoughts from these Shoreditch sessions in the review posted on our site last year, the events undoubtedly lived up to their billing of being “Joyful workshops in creative empowerment, body positivity and a celebration of our bodies their (optionally naked) glory.” Additionally, as someone who wouldn't consider themselves an artist by any stretch, and completely lacking experience in this regard, I felt particularly at ease upon discovering that the art element of the day isn't actually that cruicial; and the events are really just a good excuse to have some fun in the name of promoting self-love and body positivity.
Sadly, just as these uplifting and empowering sessions looked set to become a regular fixture in my calendar, Covid-19 reared its head and brought things to a grinding halt – and once the workshop in March 2020 was postponed, and with the situation continuing to escalate throughout the year, it was becoming harder and harder to fathom how and when the in-person events could ever make a comeback.
Fortunately, our glamorous hosts, Rosy and Ruby, had a back-up plan, and they did a really remarkable job of transitioning the classes to an online setting via Zoom – and at a time when so many other events across the country were being cancelled or postponed, it was really reassuring to have access to such a wonderful body positivity community during such a fractured time. These online sessions have been (and continue to be) every bit as enjoyable as the real world events in my view, and with people all over the world having the opportunity to attend, it’s opened up the club to a brand new audience – and it’s great to see these online sessions thriving and resonating with so many who may not have had the opportunity otherwise. At a particularly difficult time, these events really helped me on a personal level too, and I’ve lost count of just how many I made it to during the year (and you might recall that we even had our very own private session for Britain Uncovered readers too!)
The hosts kept themselves busy and were successful with a variety of other endeavours during lockdown too: Ruby published her first ever book, Sex Ed: A Guide For Adults, to well-earned fanfare and acclaim; while Rosy was busy launching the Revolting Arts Club – a creative lab of rebellious arts for growth, empowerment and pleasure – whilst continuing to host her excellent Smutty Letters events also. But with lockdown over and life gradually returning to normal, we started hearing rumblings that the in-person classes were set to return, and once the details were confirmed, we snapped up our tickets and started counting down the days!
For the record, our hosts also ran a sketch club session as part of Lydia Reeves’ incredible My Vulva And I exhibition in London at the start of September – which was open to “all women and vulva owners” – but the ‘Boaty Love’ sessions, which were open to all, felt like a true homecoming and it was no surprise when tickets sold out within a matter of days (resulting in the creation of a second session earlier the same day).
Having managed to snag a ticket for the afternoon timeslot, I had a relatively leisurely journey into town – but not being at all familiar with the area, I decided to head over fairly early so that I could to find my bearings (and, as it turns out, a pretty chilled-out bar by the river called Signature Brew too; which is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in this part of town).
Setting off in quest of our barge for the day – named ‘Xenia’ and officially part of The London Barge Company – I was a little concerned that I might struggle to find it amidst all the other boats dotted about the area; but as fate would have it, I happened to glance along the river and spotted Ruby’s bright pink hair on the horizon, shining like a beacon in the night and guiding me home!
Climbing on-board (which was undertaken with far more concentration and paranoia than I should probably admit to), I felt at home the very second I stepped foot onto the floating body-positive vessel, and it was amazing to see so many familiar faces from events gone by (both online and IRL), as well as the hosts themselves who greeted us at the entrance. I hadn’t realised just how much I’d missed being in this environment until I was actually back there and part of it again, and after such a long absence, it felt especially rewarding to be back in such a warm, creative and inspiring space with a real mix of like-minded individuals.
We were invited to grab our drawing materials on our way in, with sheets of card and all manner of crayons, chalks and charcoals available for people to freely use as they deemed fit; and the main space inside the barge was configured so that there were 25-30 seats around the perimeter, leaving a large area in the middle where people would be able to pose.
Once everybody had settled in and grabbed a drink from the on-board bar area, Rosy and Ruby ran us through a few housekeeping notes – once again reassuring us that the day wasn’t about our artistic capabilities, but instead slanted towards being a joyful celebration of bodies and all things body positivity – and shortly thereafter, the festivities officially got underway!
In true Body Love Sketch Club tradition, the session started with Rosy and Ruby’s energetic naked race – in which the person who is slowest to undress has to pose first – although Rosy jokingly noted that it “seemed arbitrary” due to the fact that nobody quite understands the rules or implications after all this time!
The two then took turns posing, but with some specific rules and guidelines to throw us off our game, help us loosen up, and remind us not to take the art side of things too seriously. Firstly, we had to draw Ruby with one continuous line without taking our hand off the page; and we then drew Rosy using our non-dominant hand, which always produces some pretty interesting (read: disastrous) results. Once completed, everyone held up their work for everyone else to see, and we were encouraged to look around and compliment other people’s work if we liked it – and it was a great way to get everybody feeling comfortable and ready for an afternoon of drawing in a calm and supportive environment.
Following these initial sketches, it was now the attendees’ turn to pose, and all-in-all, 12 people bravely modelled in various states of undress throughout the day. Some were nude, some were topless, and some stayed dressed to a degree, but the hosts always reiterate that this isn’t a contest to see who can be the most naked. Once you’ve started drawing, you’re so focused on the task at hand – creating a decent piece of art that you and your model will be happy with and that does them justice – that the nudity is almost an afterthought and not something you're really thinking of after the first few minutes of the day (despite the body confidence element being a significant element of the session).
The models posed in pairs, with one person at each end of the barge, and I was quite fortunate to find myself right in the middle of the boat so had the luxury of being able to choose whichever of the two models offered the best pose or vantage point from where I was sat. As always, Rosy and Ruby guided us through each of the six-minute poses with some encouraging (and almost meditative) words, and some really enlightening and uplifting body positive content that always encourages us to check in with ourselves and take the time to reflect and enjoy the process of drawing. Their narration provides the perfect soundtrack to festivities and always helps me enter into the exact state of mind I’d want to be in, and in many respects, I find this content just as valuable and rewarding as the arts/drawing side of things. Always lots of food for thought, and I definitely feel like I take away something new each time I attend.
Once the six rounds of poses were over and we reached the end of the day, Rosy and Ruby asked us to each relay three words of gratitude to describe how we were feeling after everything we had experienced – which always provides an interesting mix of reactions – and a few bars of vegan chocolate also made their way around the room while this was taking place for anyone who fancied a little indulgence, which was a nice touch. By the time all was said and done shortly before dusk, I headed back out into the streets of London with a newfound sense of calm and peacefulness, and the event yet again lived up to its billing of being joyful, creative and empowering – and I can’t recommend the experience highly enough. Here’s hoping there won’t be another 20-month wait for the next installment!
The Boaty Love Sketch Club event described in this review took place on Sunday, 18th October, from 2.30pm-4.30pm. For more on Rosy & Ruby’s events – both in-person and online – please visit their Eventbrite and Instagram pages for regular updates, ticket info, and some really great body positive content to boot.