Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Rear Of The Year

The Rear Of The Year competition is a typically British institution: fun, cheeky, anal. The current holders are Shobna Gulati from ‘Coronation Street’ and John ‘tonight’s going to be a good night’ Barrowman, see below. Worthy winners who, in an amazing coincidence, are wearing the same brand of trousers.

The competition actually dates back to 1902, and was created by a civil servant called Lionel Crane. Crane wanted to ‘make the Empire smile once more’ after the death of Queen Victoria, and thought looking at people’s arses and judging them would help to do this.

Initially, the competition was open to the public, and the response was overwhelming, particularly from the working classes. Scores of inspectors were dispatched around the country to mills and factories to check out hopeful applicants in a process not dissimilar to today’s mass talent show auditions, marking their physical attributes using a simple but thorough checklist of Crane’s devising (over a hundred years later, the Crane Scale is still used in beauty contests to grade bottoms).      

After much publicity and speculation, the first ever winner was Lady Christabel Flinders, a controversial choice in that the decision was most likely based on social class rather than physical form (in society circles, Lady Christabel was nicknamed ‘The Flinders Mare’).  Stung by criticism, Crane restricted subsequent competitions to those ‘who lead the headlines or are on the lips of the nation’. The next winner was a jubilant H.G Wells, who described the accolade as ‘perhaps my greatest achievement in the public sphere to date’, although he may have been taking the piss.

In this new series, we’ll look back on some of the previous recipients of this illustrious award, a long list which provides a fascinating insight into social trends, past tastes and the ever-changing ideal of what constitutes the British idea of ‘beauty’. Right, let's begin --


For obvious reasons, the competition was suspended from 1939 to 1944, but in August 1945, with the war in Europe over and the war in Japan drawing to a close, the powers that be thought it would be a boost to morale to reinstate the event, with the winner eventually being named as economist John Maynard Keynes.

'Right, who wants to see it? Do you, Sir? Supply must equal demand, you know'
It is telling that Keynes beat Field Marshall Montgomery in a closely contested final, with contemporary commentators recognising that the people of Britain were already beginning to make the transition from war to peace: indeed, Keynes’ economic theories would prove to play an integral role in the creation of the welfare state, the most far-reaching social innovation of post-war Britain.

Sadly, Keynes died only a few months later, in April 1946. His last request was to be buried face down.

1 comment:

  1. Trivia: I read a biography of Keynes in which his Rear of the Year win was explored in some detail. Apparently, he attributed his victory to a solid oak chair that he sat on each night while working in his study. Taking the advice of his wife -the Russian ballet dancer Lydia Lopokova- he'd removed the chair cushion to improve his posture and correct a lifelong back problem. The gradual firming effects on his backside were completely unintentional, but noticed by many of his friends, including the literary giant, Bertrand Russell, who first suggested that Keynes should make more of his arresting physical asset by wearing tighter trousers and a shorter blazer.