Nudism is Spreading
Following the success of The Bunyadi restaurant in London, according to The Independent (04/08/2016), Seb Lyall, its founder is now looking at a similar pop-up venue in Paris.
‘The French expressed a lot of interest in the London restaurant,’ Lyall told reporter Kate Nelson. But they told him he would have to do it. When asked why, Lyall said he was told that ‘[the French] don’t have the mojo. Experimentation is not a big thing in France.’
The Bunyadi itself closed in August but Lyall told The Independent that he was hoping to open a permanent venue, ‘perhaps as a members’ club’. So, as they say, watch this space.
Other naked dining experiences can be had in Japan and Australia.
A Town like….
What do you do when you’re 74 and already lived a full life? Sell up and go and live in a restored Catalonian village, operated as a naturist commune, that’s what.
In her previous life, Fina – the subject of an article by vice.com (04/08/2016) – worked as a taxidermist, selling the results of her work to individuals and museums. She told vice.com that her late husband was a hunter so keeping a part of the animal “alive” through taxidermy somehow counter-balanced his actions. According to the article this is the essence of Fina’s naturist spirit. So when her husband died five years ago, she sold up and moved to El Fonoll, a naturist community that Fina maintains is: ‘the closest she has ever come to seeing paradise’.
If you want to see what El Fonoll looks like, there is a video (in Spanish) but it has set me thinking, is there an abandoned village somewhere, ripe for development by British naturists?
British Man Charged in France
The Telegraph (16/08/2016) gave a timely warning to its readers that evil can be found under the sun. An unnamed, 40-year-old British man has been charged with child pornography offences after being caught secretly taking photographs of women and young adults on a French nudist beach, and also minors. The man was staying in Port-Leucate with a female companion, also thought to be British. When he was arrested, police found ‘dozens – perhaps hundreds – of photos… on his phone’, says the article. The suspect was later released and is now back in the UK, facing trial sometime next year, and if found guilty his stay could be extended by up to five years.
“I went to work naked….”
“When you remove sexual activity… bodies lose their meaning”, wrote multi-talented Jo Stanley, for Stuff.co.nz. Among other things, Stanley co-hosts a breakfast radio show in Melbourne, and inspired by The Bunyadi in London, for one night only they hosted a naked restaurant for their listeners. It was, wrote Stanley, ‘an exercise in complete body acceptance. In shaming the body shamers’.
Stanley admitted that she couldn’t quite bring herself to join her listeners at the restaurant, but was taken by the notion that through a shared vulnerability, she might find self-acceptance. So she agreed to do a radio show naked, with three equally naked (female) guests instead. Despite the pre-nudity nerves she felt, Stanley says she had ‘a magical transformation’. Her perspective changed. She found, even with all its self-perceived faults, her body is beautiful and the naked radio show was ‘wonderfully therapeutic’. Perhaps we could use that to sell naturism more widely?
59 per cent
I think I’ve made it obvious in the past that I am sceptical about industry inspired surveys but Lastminute.com has come up with one that gives us some interesting findings. Annabel Fenwick wrote for the Daily Mail that the survey found more than half of those asked (59 per cent) would be willing to either go on a nudist holiday, sunbathe naked or visit a nudist beach. But typically more than twice as many men said they would strip off than women.
The more worrying statistic found, however, was that a third of those asked would keep their participation in social nudity a secret ‘from their friends, family and colleagues’. This is a sad comment on British society that while naturism is apparently commonly accepted no one is prepared to admit to actually taking part.
Highlights from the survey by Lastminute.com are
- 35% of men surveyed and 17% of women would bare all on a beach,
- More than one-third of nudists keep it secret from colleagues, friends and family; and,
- Online searches for nudist beaches in Europe up 52% since January
Maybe some of the 59 per cent that live up here in the north of England and northern Wales might like to consider visiting the Liverpool Sun and Air Society (LSAS), the existence of which has ‘been something of an urban legend for those growing up in Whiston, according to the Liverpool Echo (31/07/2016).
‘The society provides a venue… where you can get some quality down time,’ says the society’s Jane Caunt. ‘There is an air of safety inside the gates… you don’t need to worry about your belongings,’ she added.
The society’s website says it is one of the UK’s oldest naturist clubs, having established itself on a 10-acre site since 1936 and through the article invited ‘genuine naturists’ for a day visit or longer, if they wished to camp.
Yet, by taking to the print media to gain publicity – and presumably visitors – it is unlikely that the club will remain a ‘secret’ for much longer and if some of them become members, can the ‘old-fashioned values’ that the club prides itself in, survive? Plus, if the club revels in secrecy – as the article implies – would it appeal to more than just a few, like-minded people therefore undermining the purpose for this publicity in the first place? Go figure.
Canadian Clubs seeks Younger Naturists
The Van Tan Club in British Columbia, Canada has a similar quandary according to a Broadly.com article (10/05/2016) as it seeks new members, under-30 by preference. Quoting CBC News, Broadly says that at its peak (1970s) the club could boast around 150 members, now roughly 40 years later they are left with 50 or 60 ‘and none of them are getting younger’, it says. One member though made no bones about the reasons why they are seeking younger people: ‘free manual labour’.
Broadly therefore turned to Felicity Jones of Young Naturists America for an explanation as to why younger naturists aren’t joining clubs. A quick advisory note, the answers Jones gives are naturally geared towards North America and are generalisations. Like all generalisations they are not necessarily true for all circumstances, even so, we can extrapolate some detail for UK conditions.
Jones said that both American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) and The Naturist Society (TNS) have been losing membership ‘over the last few decades’ despite a 2015 study by the Naturist Education Foundation that suggested over a third of Americans have tried social skinny dipping or nude sunbathing, and more than a quarter of all Americans would consider visiting a clothing optional beach, including 43 per cent of 18 to 29-year olds.
The problem for Van Tan Club as the article noted, however, is that most young people are reluctant to spend any time with someone who is twice, if not more, their own age who isn’t a relative. Nor, I venture to suggest, are they keen to be exploited as cheap labour.
Another point made by Jones is that many clubs are not savvy in marketing. Surprisingly, a Naturist Living Show podcast from 2013, hosted by Stéphane Deschênes from Bare Oaks covered this very subject. But Jones remarked that most club websites give the appearance of not being updated in 20-years. This may be true it may not. It cannot be denied, however, most if not all of the target age group live through their Internet connected mobile devices, just as back in my day, we lived through our Filofax.
The last point made by Jones is that the pricing model used by the representative bodies and clubs could also be to blame for the lose of members, in particular the younger element, who are unable to afford the estimated $500 (£380 at time of writing) it would cost for a weekend away, forcing those interested in a clothes free lifestyle to seek out unofficial settings.
Organised naturism in the UK is very different from North America with much less emphasis on tourism here (which I believe is a missed opportunity), but what we can take from it is the need for better marketing by individual clubs and by naturism as a whole. We also need to delve deeper into the findings discovered by Lastminute.com and learn more about this ‘59 per cent’. What was the methodology used, how many respondents did they have? There are so many questions that were either left unasked or give questionable answers, and this is why I am sceptical about industry led surveys. Nudity sells column inches or time on the airwaves, which in turns gives the company – in this case Lastminute.com – free publicity. If we really want to understand naturism as a distinct market sector – and I think we should – then we need to do the research ourselves.