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    “Don’t be scared,” says regular BN contributor Roni Fine, “telling people you are a naturist doesn’t lead you to be outcast by friends and family.”

    Ask a company for the best form of advertising and the answer will invariably be “word of mouth”. If you want a plumber or decorator, don’t you always ask around first, hoping someone be recommended? You can always pick a firm out of Yellow Pages but you don’t know what they are like first hand. So what is the best way of getting across that naturists are “normal” people and not the perverted characters some publications and production companies like to portray?

    Us standing up and announcing to anyone who will listen that we are naturists!! That’s how we will get the message across!

    Even before becoming Public Relations Officer for Blackthorns (and using every opportunity to mention the club!), I wasn’t afraid to declare my pastime. I wouldn’t be doing anything I was ashamed of, so it came naturally to me to talk about it. Which is probably why I became PRO - it isn’t a job you can do if you wish to remain anonymous!

    I have had nothing but good responses whenever it has come up in conversation, and I didn’t keep it from my family, friends, or work colleagues.

    I recently had a “temp” working in my office for a day and Blackthorns came up in conversation, and when she said she hadn’t heard of it, I explained what it was. She was really interested and couldn’t stop saying how surprised she was that I was a naturist.

    I’m afraid many have the wrong impression of the sort of people naturists are, and though I’m no spring chicken, she, like many others, still thought naturists were all a lot older than myself! Just by telling people of the age range and the fact that there are families taking part causes them to view it differently. It is sad that they think naturist clubs are only full of very old people, plus undesirables, and rewarding to change their minds and leave them pleasantly surprised that I do it and so do other “normal” people!

    I was delighted to tell her everything and hope she does tell the rest of her office where she works, and anywhere else she goes, for that matter!!

    We want to get this knowledge to non-naturists in order to make the majority, not the minority, able to admit what we are. And we can do it for free!

    The more people declare it, the more normal it will be considered, and when it gets to the stage where people find it boring, we will have reached our goal and be able to practise naturism without the worries of “what if someone finds out?” hanging over us.

    Gone will be the need to hide it from employers and colleagues for fear of sacking or ridicule. Gone will be the need to put off family visits without explaining where you have gone instead. Gone will be the worry that children might leak it to their friends and the parents be disgusted. What freedom for your conscience!! Just imagine it!! Your tension headache will be dissolved without the need for soluble aspirin!

    Rick is another naturist keen to make it clear that naturism is an acceptable pastime: “I feel very comfortable telling friends that I have taken up naturism, as does my wife. So much so that when we are seeing friends who don’t know, there almost seems to be a race as to who can tell them first! I have not had a negative reaction from any of them. A few just nod and smile and change the subject, but most show a keen interest.”

    He explains that he has told some people he meets through work and their response is similar. As for family, he says, “Some family members have been the hardest to tell, though I am not sure why. My only ever negative reaction was from my octogenarian brother-in-law who saw me on a programme I did for Channel 4. It surprised him and he said he was disgusted, but we have never discussed it since and he still speaks to me!” Maybe it just came as a surprise to him that it featured you – after all, what was he doing watching it in the first place if nudity disgusts him so? Ah, now there’s a thought!

    Martin is another like-minded naturist who openly admits, “I even feel like shouting it from the rooftops! However, one has to be realistic and practical, picking what one perceives to be the best time to tell any given individual about one’s involvement, as one is trying to make folk sympathetic to the cause and bad timing could have exactly the opposite effect.”

    Martin has connections with local churches where he lives and says he always gets a polite hearing, but wonders if they fully understand the concept of naturism. However a local church published his account of his nudist holiday in Croatia in their parish magazine. This brought only one negative response. “A Christian lady who clearly did not approve seemed to think nudist resorts were veritable dens of vice. However, I am persistent in informing her that many Christians are in fact, practising naturists, too, and venues and clubs have strict codes of conduct and are carefully regulated, especially due to the presence of youngsters.”

    Quite rightly so, Martin, and did you point out that this isn’t always the case with other clubs and popular places that young people and families attend, so we can argue that naturist clubs are actually safer than public places? Now there’s another thought!

    Martin used to ask his neighbour to keep an eye on his house when away at naturist functions and felt it unfair not to explain his absences, so he asked her to guess and she tried, “Butlins”. When he explained the truth it was his turn to be surprised, as she told him she had practised naturism on holiday at Cap d’Agde! “One never knows just what can transpire when one reveals that one is a naturist!” concluded Martin. They certainly had something to chat about over the garden fence after that weekend of revelations!

    But even Martin feels it might be unwise to publicise naturist interests when in employment that involves young people, and is concerned it could lead to dismissal, but admitted he had not been a practising naturist until his retirement, so he could not be sure of the consequences had he made it common knowledge.

    This is a common misconception, as Dave and Funky would vouch for. I was thrilled when they joined our club and told us they worked in a school and that the school and pupils knew of their naturism interest and, guess what – they didn’t get the sack!

    I asked Dave if he had met any problems when he let it be known that he and his wife brought their young daughter to Blackthorns. He said that they had been naturists for several years, and it was only on joining BN and reading the magazine that they realised there were issues at all! “My wife and I are both employed in a school environment. I teach Religious Education and my wife heads up the Outdoor Education department. Some of our colleagues and many of our pupils are aware of our lifestyle and we have met with almost no adverse reactions – perhaps a little snigger from one or two boys, but generally speaking just mild interest and acceptance. Sometimes questions are posed as diverse as – “The Garden of Eden – so did God intend us to wear clothes?” to “Is it okay if we go skinny-dipping during PE?”

    “The perception of a link between naturism and sex can also be a problem. I know this has been said many times before, but it is an important point. Working with children today quite rightly means that teachers must maintain a lifestyle free from conflict with the law. However, if our lifestyle were more openly discussed it would enable others to more fully understand it. A huge benefit to society could be gained here, because many of our teenagers only see nudity when accessing inappropriate literature or websites. This has had the effect of making many of them extremely self-conscious about their bodies, and lack of self-esteem, or worse, has been the result of comparing themselves to models. If naturist nudity were more widely accepted it would give a much more accurate view of life and the diversity of our bodies. Overall, I suppose some of our colleagues think we are just bonkers! Should other teachers who are naturists tell their colleagues and students? That has to be an individual choice, but the more that do, the more chance we have of gaining greater public understanding and support.”

    Ah, but might they have thought you were bonkers anyway, Dave?! That, we will never know!

    I also spoke to Claudette, a long-standing member of Blackthorns who for years told very few people that she and her husband were naturists. “I used to be quite open about belonging to a naturist club, and my son used to speak about it at school when he was quite little. In fact, his teacher called me in one day to discuss the fact that he drew stick-men pictures with no clothes on, and I was happy to explain it was because he spent weekends with naked people and it was perfectly natural for him to draw them without the obligatory skirt or trousers. His teacher wasn’t sure what to say, but was satisfied with the straightforward explanation. However, in more recent years I have worked for a well known supermarket and felt that the younger members of staff might have found ridicule in the knowledge that I took my clothes off. I didn’t want to risk that, so I didn’t mention it. It just didn’t come up in conversation.”

    She did confide in one close colleague and then it wasn’t mentioned again, but it didn’t alter the friendship. Someone also discovered her secret when she answered the phone one day to a colleague needing to pass a message to another member. She had to explain why she answered the phone at the club! Again, it didn’t alter things, but wasn’t discussed either. It was only on retirement that she finally opened up about it. “When I admitted where I went at weekends they said, ‘Oh yes, we already knew!’ and to think I thought they had no idea!” No one cared enough to question her and, though it would have been nice to have them more interested, at least it proved she wasn’t regarded as perverted or made an outcast. She now talks about it far more freely and as you can see, is proud to be quoted and photographed! Claudette is out of the closet and into the sunshine with a more relaxed attitude, and is ready to spread the word that naturism is a delightful and relaxing pastime, and she has made many good friends whilst doing so.

    So come on, everyone, please make a conscious effort to talk about naturism whenever and wherever you can. Our image has improved vastly in the last few years and it can only get better. Secrecy does so much harm for naturism, so we need to speak up and educate people that what we do is harmless and actually rather nice! It all boils down to the fact that if you are doing something in secret, it is viewed as something that must be shameful!

    People’s minds go into overdrive and think up all sorts of scenarios, but we all know to view our club grounds on a sunny day would prove rather boring in reality - naked bodies, yes, but all pretty motionless save for the walk to the pool or ice-cream kiosk (yes we have an ice-cream kiosk at Blackthorns – doesn’t every club?)

    Please, please speak up for the sake of all naturists and inform people that you are one and find, yes, that they would never have guessed and yes, that they are pleasantly surprised!! Do be sure to mention BN and perhaps for them to get in touch for their nearest club. You might be surprised how many reconsider and want to join in - encourage them to shed their nerves, inhibitions and clothes and find some relaxation and quality time in a lovely peaceful, friendly, safe environment for all the family.

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