British Naturism has existed for over 50 years, and organised naturism in the UK for double that. For all that time, naturism has been based on the family values of respect, inclusivity and friendship. A recent internal survey of what people value most about naturism revealed friendship to be the clear winner, with nudity featuring surprisingly low down the list.
A culture of respect, inclusivity and friendship does not occur purely by chance. British Naturism works continuously to promote the family values that make people feel at home, and it is often said by newcomers just how relaxed everyone is in a nude environment. A question often asked by those who have not tried naturism is whether it is appropriate for children. The answer is a clear yes. Young children don’t differentiate between clothed and unclothed. Our 2016 “Children Deserve Better” report (http://www.bn.org.uk/children) identified a host of emotional, cultural and physical challenges that we face through our lives. Many are a direct consequence of modern culture, and the report summarises evidence that the wholesome body attitude learned as a naturist can help us become more rounded and respectful people as we grow so we enjoy greater confidence and health through our lives.
A second common question from adults tempted to try naturism is whether they themselves will feel safe and be treated well. The question is understandable, we all fear the unknown, and trying naturism for the first time might be intimidating. But there is nothing to fear. The family values and community spirit of British Naturism means we watch out for each other, especially newcomers, to make sure everybody feels comfortable.
We must also concern ourselves with the safety of vulnerable adults. In the same way we wouldn’t want to exclude young families, we must accommodate and protect members who, whether through age or for other reasons, need extra help. Health or personal issues can leave individuals vulnerable at any time in our lives, and we as a community are committed to both welcoming and supporting them.
Collectively, this means that British Naturism prioritises ensuring the safety of all who participate, especially children and the vulnerable, so we can benefit from naturism throughout our lives. The question is: How do we achieve safety?
Like all family organisations, British Naturism makes safety the highest priority. Achieving safety means first recognising risk and then acting to minimise it. Our Safeguarding Procedures are amongst the best there are. Our Procedures are reviewed annually and subject to a major revision when new challenges arise. The world changes and a policy that was effective five years ago might be inadequate now due to new circumstances. Vigilance is key. Our Safeguarding Procedures are prepared with the assistance of consultants from police child-safeguarding backgrounds, align with best practice of safeguarding authorities and we consult agencies such as the NSPCC and the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) to ensure our Procedures are the best they can possibly be. We are currently undertaking a major review to replace our existing Child Safeguarding Policy with a more expansive policy that properly encompasses vulnerable adults and bullying so we have thorough procedures to safeguard members throughout their lives.
Verification of Members
Our ability to check members is what sets us above nearly every other organisation. As a paid membership organisation, we are able to ensure that individuals with a record of historical misconduct are not admitted. Our checking procedures are multi-layered and go on behind the scenes, so although you will not see them taking place, new members can be assured that they are joining a safe environment. Even events that allow individuals who are not already members to attend require proof of identity and advance notice of participation to allow checks to be made. Our rigorous commitment to safety makes our events unique compared to nearly any other park, or beach, or swim in a local pool where people can attend anonymously. It means British Naturism events are arguably the safest places you and your family can be.
Stewarding of Events
Although background checks can pick up past misconduct, a good question is what happens if somebody misbehaves for the first time? The answer is simple: Stewards. All British Naturism events have stewards on hand who can be easily recognised by their orange BN lanyards with name badges. These volunteers are members of long standing, who have been reference-checked to show they are reliable at what they do. The most common activity of stewards is to make new members feel welcome and ensure everybody has a good time. But they are also the people to turn to if there is a problem, and they provide eyes on the ground to make sure everybody is safe. On top of our own stewards and venue staff, we work with local police forces so they know that our events are taking place and can react quickly if we need assistance. It is not uncommon to see officers drop by our outdoor events, much as you would at other festivals, such is the strength of the relationship we build with local police.
Working with Venues
Most British Naturism events use public venues, which will of course have their own safeguarding procedures. Rather than replace the venue policy, our policy is applied on top, meaning that there is a double lock on safety procedures, backed up by risk assessments tailored to individual events. It is no coincidence that venues welcome British Naturism events. There are venues that we have been using for over 27 years without incident, demonstrating how keen venues are to welcome us back as friendly and responsible customers.
All people like to take photographs of their holidays and days out, but this is where naturism differs from most social activities. Partly due to mutual respect, partly for safety, but partly because naturism encourages a simpler life, personal photography is not allowed at any of our events. We have a trained and vetted British Naturism photography team to document the atmosphere of our events. The BN photographers are bound by very strict rules meaning that they need permission to include people in an image, and British Naturism requires expressed permission from any recognisable individual before publishing an image. More importantly, any image featuring a child must have written, parental consent obtained in advance, and not contain anything that could be even close to being considered indecent. We want people to relax and enjoy naturism, and our procedures make it so.
Naturism is a Participation Activity
A final misconception is that some individuals might attend naturist events because they want to look at naked people. The reality of naturism is rather different, and not something that people understand until they try it. Firstly, we should say that British Naturism has never allowed spectators at its events: you are either involved or not there, the only exception being an associated family member at a competitive sporting event. But the bigger truth is that when you join the naturist community, the body matters less. Eroticism in nudity is driven by tease and taboo, the temptation of what is hinted at. Once we are stripped bare, that vanishes. Everybody expects their first naturist experience to be awkward because they think when they are naked people might stare at them. In fact, nobody does, and within seconds you forget that you are naked. You engage people by looking them in the eye, and you relate to their character, rather than musing on their fashion choices. This is the simple joy of naturism, why there is so much respect and why it just does not work as a spectator event.
So, in summary, naturist events are a low-risk environment - our places are far safer for children than many other places they go. If you are unsure about naturism, you should just try it. You will never be given more respect for you as a person, you and your family will never feel safer and you will have a great, relaxing time.