Roni asks, ‘Could highlighting foreign travel be proving detrimental to our clubs or are Naturists ruining it for themselves?’
There appears to be a rumbling and a grumbling on the Naturist grapevine that too much focus is put onto BN events and foreign destinations and not enough said about the various clubs dotted around the country that, some say, are the back bone of the whole movement. I think it’s true that the clubs were the foundation of Naturism in Great Britain and if it weren’t for them, Naturism, as we know it today, would not exist, but have the clubs developed over the years or stagnated and are they passed over by people wanting more than a camping trip in the school holidays?
There! That’s set the cat amongst the pigeons!
Young Naturists started communities back in the '60s when it was all very avant-garde, exciting to be doing something different and a little daring. The club I attend was one of those: they bought land and set up camp with nothing more than a generator in a shed for a kettle and light but as time went by they installed all the present day amenities that we take for granted. They never had the luxury of a water or electric supply let alone toilets, showers or a heated swimming pool. Who would now join a club without all of that? We have a lot to thank them for!
The enthusiastic pioneers were happy to talk about Naturism and share their delights of freedom and then it all changed. Many clubs had members who didn’t want the world to know what they were doing or even where they were doing it. They appeared to hide away behind tall fences and hedges and left outsiders wondering what they got up to in their secretive world. I appreciate they thought they had valid reason but it didn’t help Naturism become acceptable. I also understand how some lost their enthusiasm for further development, as they had worked hard to achieve their goal and why shouldn’t they sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labours?
Package holidays started and airlines flew relatively cheaply to Spain so those who were fed up with the changeable British weather, looked further afield for their annual holiday. As foreign travel became more prolific, businesses sprang up to cater for us.
Given the choice of setting up a Naturist holiday complex would you choose a site by the North Sea or the Mediterranean? So the hotter climes have developed faster and been more favoured than ours.
I understand how this would affect attendance at our clubs but after a fortnight in Spain, what did they do with the children for the rest of the school holidays?
So why did numbers fall? Was it just that they expected more for their money and wanted entertainment rather than just a sunny day and a game of cricket?
The clubs that had thought they could continue with the minimum of change weren’t attracting sufficient numbers to keep going and I’ve seen many changed to textile caravan parks to get the income needed for the business to survive. The successful clubs are generally the ones owned by the club itself as they don’t need huge profits, just a steady income to cover costs.
When I started as a Public Relations Officer I realised, to increase membership, we needed to catch the public's interest, explaining who we were, what we did and more importantly, why! Unfortunately people had let their imagination run wild and they conjured up pictures of naked people cavorting around the woods and could only connect nudity with sexual intention. It’s taken us years to rid ourselves of these old rumours and explain it’s actually a non-sexual, family orientated, safe and friendly environment.
I'm afraid club life has not always had a brilliant reputation and some are put off joining as they had found, or heard, that clubs can be very cliquey. Likewise young adults aren’t keen on belonging to places that they think are full of old people, restricted by stuffy rules. We all know some are needed so that people know the boundaries but sometimes the basic reason for which the club exists, to enjoy the simple freedom of social nudity, can be swallowed up by bureaucracy. These groups of Naturists are more likely to attend BN events without having to join a club and get involved with the internal politics. This means clubs have to work hard at showcasing themselves as brilliant places to belong to.
Just as I thought we were getting the public to accept Naturism, clubs have been brought to my attention that are actually shying away from it! I know, isn’t that madness?!
There’s more than one club that obviously wants to be a ‘Sunbathing Club’ as they consider that is the only time nudity is acceptable. There's increasing numbers that want to ban nudity in the evenings. The worrying part of this is their obvious discomfort with the naked body after a certain time of day. I don't understand that - where do Naturists get the idea that nudity is only a day time activity? I was under the impression that Naturism is a lifestyle not a part-time hobby.
It’s this sort of attitude that will kill a club as the majority join to undress whenever they can and where else would they think it was safe and understood, than within a Naturist club?
It seems that dining naked is frowned upon in many a club or resort. Surely a Naturist, perfectly at ease with nudity on the beach or in the pool, could dine alongside naked people? It seems not! Would a clothes optional ruling help? Probably not as what actually happens is that more Naturists cover up than would have done so if left to their own devices. Supplying an option seems to make them feel it's perhaps wrong to be naked after all.
Have you read the recent article that has sprung up on Facebook and websites, about ladies wearing sarongs at a French Naturist resort? They said they felt uncomfortable when other women were covered and they also felt more feminine and attractive when wearing pretty colours. I've always advocated naturism is all about the feel good factor not a fashion show. It even had a further knock on effect when men felt obliged to wear shorts. Naturists are falling like dominoes in a row.
Personally I consider the practise simply requires sufficient warmth to be comfortable and a suitable place, not the local pub garden for instance! It's something we should all want to be doing whatever time of day it is but far too many Naturists now think otherwise.
Clubs also need to be more welcoming to one and all. There’s always been a negative attitude to “single men” joining a club and I think it is an unfounded worry that they might be unsuitable. Whilst some Naturist events and beaches that are open to the public might attract what we commonly refer to as the “meerkats” who want to be voyeurs, the vast majority of men are ordinary, decent people who are single, married, divorced or widowed and joining alone does not make them an instant threat to our community and it’s insulting to suspect otherwise as well as being against equality laws! We should all be judged on our actions not on a misguided assumption because, let's face it, single women are never turned away!
I have always recommended clubs as the starting place for new people especially if they are a bit nervous but with increasing negative outlook to nudity and too many rules, it is no wonder that many do not feel welcome or find the relaxed atmosphere they seek.
Clubs generally need to attract new members to keep the club in existence as they constantly need volunteers to carry out the maintenance and admin required to keep running costs to the minimum. The more the members can do, the less subscriptions need rise each year.
To reach the people who were yet to discover the wonders of social nudity, I used many of the local, free publications, full of local interest and adverts, that are popped through letter boxes and left in public places. I wrote articles for magazines and got interviewed for national and local press and spoke on local radio stations. I just took every opportunity to get the word out there!
By constantly updating our facilities, giving people what they were looking for, we were able to attract new interest and encourage people to give naturism a thought when they hadn’t done so before. No longer was it basic camping but a place with a clubhouse holding discos and live music, a kitchen providing meals, a heated outdoor pool, a sauna, children’s play area and their own clubhouse, communal barbeque and all the sports we associate with Naturist communities, even a crazy-golf course!
Wi-Fi became an essential part of club life as in any other place as there are ever increasing numbers of smart phones and tablets that come attached to their owners so that they can communicate not only with their friends, but people across the internet universe. What wider audience can you get than that? So we enhanced our website as many people find us that way and set up a Facebook page to showcase our club and get people interacting and learning about us. A group of members belong to a closed group on there and share light hearted banter, as well as keeping in touch with club news.
Naturism has leapt forward in the last 14 years that I’ve known it which is down to BN and individuals campaigning to get a mention in local and national newspapers, on radio and television and in any publication that shows an interest. We have hugely changed people's perception and they are no longer looking for a giggle at nudity, at our expense, but show a keen interest in our chosen lifestyle. It is now completely acceptable for such places as Alton Towers to dedicate a weekend to us and of course there are beach days, open gardens, Nudefest and clubs and spas, countrywide.
The World Naked Bike Ride, though not strictly a Naturist event - it began as a protest to the overuse of oil and cars - is well attended and has highlighted the growing acceptance of the naked body, as has the Great British Skinny Dip. I’ve often met people who enjoy a daring, skinny dip on holiday but deny being a Naturist! That’s okay; they’ll find their way to us in time.
People now know what Naturism is about and there are lots, like myself, who will happily talk about it and remove the myths of what those “crazy, naked people” actually do, though it might be a bit of a let-down when they find we just do all the normal things, minus clothes when it’s warm enough!
So who thinks BN concentrate too much on foreign holiday destinations and don’t do enough for the British part of the movement? BN likes to cover news of Naturist events and destinations everywhere so the magazine may seem biased at times but BN can only report on those who choose to present themselves and will happily feature them both in the magazine and on the website.
For those clubs wanting to promote themselves, but not sure how to go about it, remember that BN offers a variety of opportunities:
• You can list your club in the BN magazine with 150 words and an image which can be changed every issue if you wish.
• Advertising space involves payment but it would in any publication and this way it is targeting existing naturists looking for places to go.
• You can have a page on the BN website with a pin in the UK map and list your events on the website calendar.
• If you have an interesting event that is newsworthy, send a report for the magazine.
• There are resources for internal newsletters or websites, including articles and pictures.
• If you need help with press releases they will support you in any way they can.
Every Naturist event is important to us all as the publicity, however small, builds the greater picture to showcase Naturism as a normal, ordinary thing to undertake, especially when it involves families and all ages from all backgrounds. People are always interested in a lifestyle they have heard of but never dared try and it all helps to encourage someone new to give it a go.
So to all the clubs out there; get in touch with BN or your Regional people and get yourselves on the map along with all those foreign, sunny places. Speak up about what you have to offer and reach out to people to make them want to come and benefit from your Naturist facilities. Even those who are not keen on change need to understand some is inevitable in order for their club or business to survive the years ahead. See it as an investment in the future so that you, your family and theirs, can all benefit from the hard work that goes into forming and maintaining a thriving Naturist business. It would be a tremendous waste of everyone's work and dreams to let it drift into disuse and sacrilege to let it be turned textile to pay the bills.
There is a need for Naturism in Great Britain, alongside places throughout the world.
Picture: Peter Braddock