Spreading the Word
I have on occasion suggested that you listen to The Naturist Living Show, a podcast provided by Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park in Canada, and I’m going to do so again. By virtue of where they originate these podcasts are often North America centric but they still have value for us in the old world and should not be lightly dismissed. For the month of June, the podcast was about marketing naturism, a subject that Stéphane Deschênes – the presenter and owner of Bare Oaks – is more than suitably qualified, having worked in advertising for many years. It is a long podcast – a little over an hour – but well worth the listen.
There is one obvious difference – at least apparently so – between North America and the UK. Whereas many of the clubs in North America are commercially aware operations, a part of the local tourist industry, this is not the case in the UK. Here, they tend to act and think like private clubs – which in many cases they are – and divorced from their local community. Private or public, UK naturist clubs are to the contrary, very much part of their surroundings and this can be illustrated by a story I was told not so long ago. I won’t name names, in order to protect the guilty, but a friend was visiting a club for the first time and her directions got her as far as the nearest village. Making enquiries in the shop and asking for the club by name, my friend was met by blank faces until one realised where she meant and said, “Oh, you mean the nudie place.” When my friend reached the front gate there was nothing to show that it was a club of any kind, not even its name, but the locals clearly knew all about it. My friend had an opportunity to ask some of the members about the lack of notices. The reason given for this was so that none of the locals would know that the club was there. Oh really!
The club may have had a fence to keep out Peeping Toms and the like, but it did not stop the local people from finding out that the club’s members didn’t wear any clothes for much of the time and were left to make their own conclusions from that.
Early on in the podcast, Stéphane explained to whom he promoted his club to most. Not to other naturists, as one might expect but to those encountering naturism for the first time. This may appear counter intuitive, but if the people are already frequent visitors to – say a naturist beach – then they will already be fairly comfortable with the idea of nude recreation. If they do want to join Bare Oaks, I’m sure they are welcomed with the same broad smile under Stéphane’s handlebar moustache as anyone else, but that will be picking off the low hanging fruit. Stéphane puts a lot of effort into attracting the “interested” into Bare Oaks by reaching out to them through some unexpected means, including signs telling everyone that they are driving past Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park. In doing so, not only is he promoting his club, more importantly, he is promoting naturism as a concept: a lifestyle of choice. Not all the passers-by will enter Bare Oaks, but at least it gets them thinking and while they may dismiss the idea for themselves, they may grow to realise that social nudity in hot, sticky weather isn’t such a mad idea after all.
One of the Naturist Action Group’s objectives is to promote naturism and every time we engage with the textile world we are doing that, whether it is a meeting with the local Police Commissioner, being quoted in the national press, or writing to a Minister of State. At its national and regional levels, British Naturism is undertaking similar efforts. But what of the other major stakeholder in this need to promote naturism as a concept, if not for new members? The clubs need to do their bit too. It is important that everyone does their share of promoting naturism to the general public and to dispel any idea that naturism is party to the doggers, swingers and pornographers generally that naturists are so often associated with. In New Zealand, every club has a sign outside giving its name and proudly proclaiming their membership to the New Zealand Naturist Federation, not so here. Why not? It is almost as if club members are ashamed of their lifestyle!
Let me say in their defence that the clubs I have visited have been an idyllic oasis of calm in a hectic world and an ideal environment for those who are new to naturism and getting used to social nudity for the first time. But even contemplative religious orders have to engage with the outside world from time to time, and it is no different for the naturist club. The promotion of naturism is everyone’s job, not just of the national organization of the country concerned, regardless of it being Canada, New Zealand or the UK. By reaching out to their local inhabitants, to the local chamber of commerce or tourism board the club is promoting naturism in a far more practical way than any number of letters to the newspapers or Ministers of State. Naturism has always been a movement of the people and if the grassroots did their part in promoting naturism then our job at the top of the pyramid will be a thousand times easier. So, my message to all club management out there is, listen to this podcast and learn how you can help your club and naturism by letting the locals in, just don’t forget to smile. The handlebar moustache is optional.
An edited version of this blog will appear in the August 2013 edition of H&E Naturist.