Thoughts on organised nudism
A few weeks ago I trekked across the country to attend a Young British Naturists gathering at the Clover Spa in Birmingham. Twas a pleasant day nakedly not doing much of anything, catching up with a couple of people I’d met elsewhere before, and meeting a few nice new people too.
I didn’t decide to go until quite last minute, as none of my usual nudist companions were available to join me, and Birmingham is rather a long journey from Lincoln. Alas as organised social nudism goes, that’s about as close as it gets, especially when further refining the specification to it being an event with people my own age (rather than the old man collective that makes up much of nudist circles). The fact that there was to be live music was what finally swayed it for me, as that gave the event some sort of point, as opposed to just travelling across the country purely to sit in a room full of other naked people.
That very issue has for a long time been a point of apprehension for me when considering more involvement in organised nudist activities. If those events consist of nothing more than sitting around twiddling one’s thumbs, then I really don’t see the point. I often use some sort of variation of the following to illustrate this concern: If I happened to be very enthusiastic about wearing purple hats, would I travel across the country to sit in a room full of strangers who also liked to wear purple hats, and hope that one preference of dressing is enough to generate an interesting social situation? Most likely not. Indeed the same argument is why I, despite being quite absurdly fanatical about Star Trek, have never been to a Star Trek convention, and have no desire to do so.
Yet there I was, indeed traveling across the country to meet a bunch of strangers with the same preference for undressing. It was nice, but would I do it often? I’d think not; once or twice a year would be sufficient to enjoy the novelty without the inactivity becoming tedious.
Now I have been to other nudist/naked events before. I’ve done two naked bike rides so far, and been to a few nudists swims. I have enjoyed all, and have every intention of doing more. The difference with these activities is that there’s more to it than just going somewhere and getting naked. I feel the thing you do when you go somewhere is what needs to be at the core of nudist gatherings, not the fact that they are a nudist gathering. I also feel prioritising it that way round would make it more inviting for newbies to get involved with nudism: Surely the invitation to go and have a go at archery, or go to a life drawing class, or a movie marathon, or chocolate sampling, etc etc, is an easy sell, catering to many different tastes. Oh, and yeah, it’s clothing optional by the way, you’ll love it!
So who organises these things? Well I admit, despite the idea bubbling in the back of my head to try and recruit all my friends into naked shenanigans, I never seem to get round to it. I’m quite sure that’s got more to with my innate social ineptitude more than anything else though!
This particular event was organised by the youth arm of British Naturism, which specifically caters for young nudists up to the age of thirty. I talked for some time with one of the Young British Naturism leaders (for want of a better term). While I found the discussion and insight into the politics of British Naturism fascinating, I felt undersold too. YBN offer discounted membership to BN, at £10, the primary benefit of which, as far as I can tell, if that you get access to a private message board… Ok, so I know there is more to it than that (not that it was communicated to me, YBN really need to work on their sales patter), British Naturism seem to devote a fair amount of time to making sure there is legal protection for Naturism, I think members might also get a magazine (purple hat wearers monthly, woo), and of course they organise events.
The trouble is, as I mentioned, Birmingham is about as close as it gets to me for big events, and even closer smaller events are generally impossible for me to get home from on public transport back to Lincoln. YBN seem to do something about monthly, in locations dotted around the country, which will geographically exclude most of the membership most of the time, even if you don’t live somewhere quite as isolated as Lincoln.
There seems to me to be a fundamental flaw in the idea of nationally organised naturist events. The scope of most nudist gatherings is small, even if you give them some sort of angle as I suggested above, no sane person is going to travel for hours to attend something they could do locally, or at home, just to do it naked. Therefore such events will only attract fanatics, and thus exclude the more casually interested who might give it a go if it were more convenient. In the case of YBN, you’ll even be excluding the fanatics too, as many of my age range (students, unemployed, part-time workers, people with young families) cannot justify the expense of distant travel to minor events.
I think the future of nudism lays with smaller groups organising more small events at a much more local level - No doubt with heavy use of social media to make it happen. This can happen, this does happen, organically, without British Naturism doing anything. Indeed there are many regular swims dotted around the country organised by bands of local enthusiasts. I think there could be an important role for BN though, if they shifted their focus more towards supporting and encouraging such local groupings.
I did enjoy my day at the Clover Spa, it was a pleasant enough place, with nice people in attendance. I’m glad YBN made it happen, and I may well go again some day. But I think naturism could be much more accessible, and much more fun, if a greater variety of activities happened in a greater variety of places. Making that happen is down to me, down to others like me all over the country who want to rope in their friends, and if they want to play a part, down to British Naturism to give a guiding hand in organising such things.