A report on the highlights from around the country - thanks to everyone who took part in 2017!
It was going to be a hard act to follow when running year two of The Great British Skinny Dip - after all there was no TV crew this year for a start! So, how would the campaign fare, free from the harsh spotlight of TV interest? Pretty well actually, for those venues who took part! For a start, the weather was generally far more in our favour than in 2016, and there was a much more sustained 'buzz' created by running the campaign for the whole month, rather than trying to shoehorn everything into a single weekend - along with far more opportunities for both organisers and the public to take part.
Just to set the scene, GBSD is not a campaign to promote Naturism as such. It is very much about the health giving benefits of clothes-free activities, and highlighting the positives in terms of removing worries, stresses and body hang-ups. Promoting Naturism in the wider sense was always a secondary - albeit very welcome - benefit. As BN's Andrew Welch put it, "Last year was a great success, but this year we were setting out to build on that legacy, complete with all the attendant publicity, and attracting more people, inspired by the health and wellbeing benefits that costume-free swimming brings.”
One interesting phenomenon noticed this year is the number of events where money was raised for charity. Of course GBSD is not specifically a charity initiative, but it is fabulous to see so many organisers partnering with charities, both local and national, to offer a fundraising event that is just a bit different to the norm. The charities also bring their own marketing machines and reach a different group of people with no further effort from us. It can really pay dividends in getting a wider audience to consider taking part in a socially nude activity. Does, however, the charity angle water down the message we want people to hear about nudity? There’s a balance to be struck.
Firstly, let's look at the 'natural' venues - and by this we mean those that are freely and easily accessible to the public, such as beaches and lakes. Starting off in Devon, the Torbay Sun Club (pictured) welcomed 40 people to their skinny dip at the usually non-Naturist Hollicombe Beach in Paignton. They included a couple from Germany and two women who had skinny dipping on their bucket lists - the whole 'bucket list' phenomenon has been a great way of getting people to try skinny dipping and is something that was seen at several of the events Another beach dip, at Climping in Sussex, didn't get great weather, but organiser Helen was pleased that the nine who attended raised money for 'Safe in Sussex'. Across in South Wales meanwhile, the Monknash Beach swim was also successful, with the sun putting in a welcome appearance for the healthy crowd of people who came and dipped. A super video was made too.
Also in the south west, the swim at Cornwall’s Adrenalin Quarry attracted fifteen skinny dippers, including a woman who arrived with her wetsuit for her usual swim, saw what was happening, stripped off and joined in! The weather held, and the water was a positively balmy sixteen degrees - the sun even put in an appearance to help the event along! To add to the experience, five of the participants even took to the zip wire naked, much to the befuddlement of the instructors on harness release duties at the bottom!
Probably the most rugged and wild location used by any of the organisers was the beautiful Beacon Tarn, near to Coniston in the Lake District, which attracted an increased turnout of twenty five participants this year (last year was pretty wet and, shall we say 'challenging') . The weather was still damp, and the skinny dippers set off from Brown Howe on the shores of Coniston Water in drizzle, however the hardy souls who took part had a great one mile ramble up to the tarn and enjoyed a champagne picnic as well as a bracing dip in this wonderful setting. Organiser Christine Wright says "It's a bit of a niche skinny dip. The walk is very much part of it, and one or two people remarked that they had unexpectedly enjoyed the walk and the wild, lonely country, even though they hadn't expected to." The water in the tarn itself was, says Christine, "bearable" and everyone was able to stay in for a few minutes. Christine has confirmed that the event will be back in 2018.
Further north, in Scotland, at Yellowcraig on the Forth, a dawn skinny dip was held in aid of the Marie Curie charity, organised by Iain and Brian. Another stunning location, the twelve skinny dippers who came along enjoyed the wonderfully calm waters, their experience enhanced by the magic of the sun coming up over the horizon. Thanks were due to the RNLI, who provided safety boat cover.
Another Scottish swim next, this one at Ostel Bay, Cowal, where the usually textile beach was turned over to skinny dipping. Though the passing public did not join in, they apparently weren't fazed by the naked bathers, and were polite. A real plus at this event was that several Naturists who had never met before were able to link up. Still in Scotland, Balmedie Beach saw the day dawn bleak, with lashing rain pounding the shoreline. The swimmers - one all the way from Yorkshire - braved the swell, being careful not to go out of their depth, and a good time was had, though the chill began to take its toll! Ex-SANER regional co-ordinator Ivan Gill was interviewed about GBSD on community radio and presenter Kate Reid even hosted a show in the nude (we’re told), and talked about Naturism interspersed with a clothes-free themed playlist.
Another event in support of Marie Curie took place at Studland beach in Dorset and attracted 22 people, many of whom were first time skinny dippers. People gathered at 7am and the temperature soon warmed enough to give a very pleasant swim and the opportunity for a post-dip chat on the beach afterwards. Garth and Christine, historically quite private about their Naturism, reached out to friends to sponsor them, and said "It really should not have come as a surprise that not one of them objected, and in fact encouraged us. That surely must be a lesson learned..."
BN club Avonvale held a combined skinny dip and MacMillan Coffee Morning, attracting around 60 visitors, including some newcomers. As well as a great welcome, members were able to offer information about other clubs and swims, which resulted in visits to the Southampton and Barton swims. A resounding success from the club's perspective, a repeat is already pencilled in for September 1st 2018.
Arcadians at Billericay in Essex, enjoyed hazy but warm weather for their skinny dip in their pool, which was heated to a wonderful 29 degrees, and welcomed nine happy skinny dippers, including a newcomer.
Diogenes once again partnered with the local charity, Rennie Grove Hospice Care and hosted a sponsored skinny dip at the club, enjoying beautiful sunshine. Many of the 13 participants were newcomers and loved their first time experience. Around £1,400 has been raised for vital local services and Rennie Grove have already asked if the event can be run again on September 1st 2018.
Indoor swims were quite well represented in the list of events, with a fantastic mix of regular swims and brand new venues. Spectrum Club who swim at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, held a GBSD event right at the end of the month and were delighted to receive ten visitors, all of whom were keen to return. Organiser David says "We shall be considering the feedback forms we gave them along with their information packs, and considering our next move, which could be to repeat the exercise not just in 'Septembare' but during the year. We are also considering putting up posters around the hospital.”
Wigton Baths in Cumbria was one of our brand new venues. A chance conversation with the manager by a BN member led to them running their own GBSD event, which attracted 14 people, including a few newcomers. There is now talk of running regular nude swims and attendees George and Julie Booth said, "This was a complete success, just what we want. New people trying organised Naturism and going home feeling they can't wait for the next event." A brilliant result and potentially another Naturist swim!
Reading Naturist Group also badged all of regular swims as GBSD events and report a success, with the hope that more people will join them at their new venue, the Meadway Sports Centre in Tilehurst.
Oxnat joined in and relaxed their usual rule that swimmers can’t just turn up on the night - there were no issues as a result and feel they have set a useful precedent.
In Eastbourne 27 people came along to the specially GBSD labelled event, with seven newcomers, some of whom enquired about membership. Some valuable publicity in a local magazine is imminent, all of which helps get that message out there.
Noah's Ark swim aimed their marketing squarely at encouraging women, in essence combining the twin aims of GBSD and 'Women in Naturism'. An very impressive ten new women came along and organiser Malcolm reports "Time will tell if that temporary one month blip translates into many return visits, but all made the right sort of comments at the time, appearing to embrace the concept." Great stuff!
At the regular Naturist swim in Sheffield five newcomers were welcomed, and each given an information pack to take away - just the sort of practical step that helps people to remember their swim and maybe come back again.
In summary, was GBSD 2017 a success? In terms of the participation increasing that's an emphatic 'yes'. There seems little doubt that spreading the event across a whole month paid dividends. While we didn't have any TV crew this year, and in fact media coverage was generally very low, it is clear that our marketing did achieve results, with many new people experiencing the wellbeing and body confidence benefits of clothing optional swimming.
Keep an eye out for details of GBSD 2018!