The second of our regular feature setting out what has been going on at management level within British Naturism.
It’s been a busy autumn!
Firstly, we report the decision of the Chair, Jim Russell, to retire. We salute Jim for coming forward to help lead the organisation at a time when nobody else had volunteered. As a veteran Naturist, club member, and long-standing member of BN, Jim had considerable experience to bring to the table and we thank him for his contribution.
The Annual General Meeting
Over 200 members signed up for the AGM the most anyone can remember, certainly the most in recent times. In terms of attendance, therefore, being forced to hold the event online actually paid dividends – even if it meant we were not able to welcome interested members to Sunfolk for the AGM.
Unsurprisingly, there was a debate on the annual report. Many of these related to financial questions. We were particularly grateful to Paul Martin, who is currently advising the Directors and the EC on finance issues whilst the Finance Director remains on sabbatical, for fielding various of these questions.
The AGM also featured an inspiring “state of the nation” address from the President, Mark Bass, which highlighted in the increase in membership during the course of 2020, the success of online events during the pandemic, the place of clubs within the organisation, and the work with the British Heart Foundation as charity of the year. It also covered some less positive developments, some of which are reported below, and ended with a call for unity.
There was also an informative and illustrated presentation about BN’s plans for Sunfolk from Jon Williams – more of which below.
An online Question Time
The discussions at the AGM ran longer than had been foreseen, which cut down on the time allowed for questions. To compensate, we arranged a further question and answer session during a “Forum Live” session on 12 October chaired by Edwin Kilby. Over 100 people joined this event. The event was so well received that we have decided to repeat it quarterly. The next session, during which you can fire questions at the whole Executive Committee, will be on 14 December at 7.30, via Zoom, as usual.
Waterworld and the follow-up
As members and practising Naturists, it’s hard for us to imagine why anyone should be against our lifestyle. Unfortunately, there are those who misunderstand us. A demonstration outside the family Naturist swim in September at Waterworld in Stoke on Trent turned ugly, and some participants found themselves jostled and shouted at as they left the venue. The protest appeared to have been stirred up by ill-advised coverage in the local paper, and it was disappointing that the police who attended did not intervene more assertively.
We have made a formal complaint to Staffordshire Police. We also complained to the local paper about the need to avoid giving coverage to unfounded conspiracy theories. Given the propensity for such theories to spread quickly on social networks, we are now working with a firm of crisis and reputation-management consultants with a view to anticipating further problems and generating more positive perceptions of Naturism in the media.
It’s important to emphasise that problems of the sort encountered at Waterworld are rare, and appear to be localised. We’ve previously reported issues at Blackpool, but elsewhere in the country family Naturist events proceed regularly without issue. Although there are calls in some quarters to limit Naturist events to those aged over 18, this arguably is contrary to what Naturism is about.
BN has been working with the Law Commission, the body that advises the government on law reform, on their review of hate crime. This has been an eye-catching campaign, among other things, featuring Mark Bass and Pam Fraser interviewed naked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
An offence is treated as a hate crime if it is motivated by hostility towards a particular class of people. Currently this is limited to just five protected characteristics: race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
The Law Commission has now issued a consultation paper, in which input from British Naturism features prominently. Questions in the consultation include whether the scope of hate crime should be widened. We think there is a strong case for bringing Naturists within the legislation, especially in the light of the post-Waterworld incident.
We’re always planning for the future - and trying to predict what 2021 will look like has been made all the more challenging due to the uncertain environment in which we are all now living. One of the most important elements, is how we manage our finances. It’s something we take very seriously - our income is a few hundred thousand. Since mid-October, Tracey Major and Paul Martin have been leading the work on the Annual Budget for 2021. Inputs and contributions to the process have come from many sources to ensure that all BN activities are fully included - and assessed - in the plans for next year. As we go to press it is about to be discussed, debated and, ultimately, approved by the Executive Committee, for the benefit of everyone.
Sunfolk, the former Naturist club on the borders of London and St Albans, and one of the oldest established Naturist sites in the country, was given to British Naturism earlier in the year, amid ambitious plans to make it a gold-standard Naturist facility. A considerable amount of fairly unglamorous work, including removing dangerous branches from trees, has already done to the site to make all of it safe for visitors.
The relaxation of the Covid-related restrictions in the summer meant we were able to open Sunfolk to visitors from the beginning of August. With the benefit of warm summer weather this proved highly popular, and on some occasions overnight camping reached capacity. The visit of the BBC World Service mentioned elsewhere in this issue was a bonus.
Plans are forming, with the benefit of expert advice, to extend and modernise the clubhouse, and to provide enhanced facilities including a hot tub and a renovated sports court. Some of these improvements will require planning permission and will take time to deliver, but we are confident of delivering a fantastic facility for Naturists in the coming years.
The office building in Northampton has been put up for sale and we are confident of achieving a quick disposal. The telephone number still works, and any mail is diverted. A new registered address for British Naturism will be announced soon.
Nudefest has been, for some years, British Naturism’s flagship outdoor festival – a week-long event held in Somerset, run by an experienced team of volunteers. Like so many other events, it had to be cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic. We’d love to see it take place in 2021, but we need to make sure that the financial risks attaching to such plans, especially with the continuing uncertainty around what influence Covid-19 will have next summer, are effectively managed.
As Directors we have particular legal responsibilities to manage the company’s finances – in other words, members’ money – and there’s no getting away from the fact that the measures we proposed to protect BN, the event, and the volunteers, from financial risk, gave rise to disagreement with the volunteer team and some misunderstanding on the BN forum.
So we offered the volunteer team the opportunity to run the festival independently, giving them flexibility to operate it as they chose, and removing the risk from BN. Very understandably, the team believed the risks of doing that in 2021 were too great.
BN will aim to run Nudefest in 2021 if we can, but given the pandemic the most we can say is “watch this space”.
Relationship with Clubs
Naturist clubs around the country arguably represent the grassroots of Naturism. Some of them are up to 100 years old. Over 90 are member clubs of British Naturism. Some of them are “landed clubs”, with their own facilities, others are “swims”, which meet periodically at local facilities.
Clubs are run autonomously by their own committees, and by being members of British Naturism they benefit from advice and assistance when they need it, as well as insurance at a reduced premium.
Together with the regional co-ordinators and other volunteers, members of the Board have been leading a review of how the organisation interacts with the clubs, and how the benefits of the relationship might be enhanced. This began with a questionnaire sent to all clubs in the spring, followed up with conversations with regional co-ordinators more recently. Work is now under way on recommendations, which we hope will be available early in the new year.
A new Equality and Diversity policy
As a part of its work on updating internal policies and procedures, BN has adopted a new Equality and Diversity policy setting out how the organisation will make sure it operates in a way that treats everybody equally and avoids discrimination. We are grateful to John Gelder, the Volunteering Officer, who has been leading on this project for all his hard work and advice on the new document. Find the policy in the website downloads section.
An online Global Naturist Forum
With the success of BN’s online events during the pandemic year, we took the initiative to propose and host an ambitious online conference with global reach. Bringing in speakers including the presidents of the INF and of the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), this pioneering event was aimed at bringing together the international Naturist community. It was a lot of - satisfying - work.
The BN shop reopens
You will have seen elsewhere in this issue that the BN shop is open once again. The use of “print-on-demand” suppliers to provide goods for the shop mean we can offer an expanded range of BN-branded goods and we are looking to extend it still further early in 2021. Huge thanks go to Jon Williams and Mark Walsh for all their work on making the new shop a reality and making it easy for everyone to purchase items.
And finally: your BN needs YOU!
We are an active and ambitious organisation, and we have fantastic volunteers around the country. But we currently have two vacancies on the Board, and that’s not sustainable if we want to deliver great things for BN members.
We are keen to recruit new people to the EC and the Board of Directors. We know that many members have the skills to help and would wish the organisation well. Please think about whether you might be able to offer something. Since, after all, you have reached the last paragraph of this article it’s clear you’re interested in how the organisation is run!
If you think you have something to offer and would like to be involved in helping look after the future of Naturism in Britain, please do come forward. Any member of the EC would be happy to speak to you.