Since we have created a new website for the Naturist Action Group, answers to some questions posed by naturists may have been lost in the migration and no longer available to everyone. So here they are again, with few updates.
Do we organise events?
The simple answer to that question is no. The Naturist Action Group’s only purpose is to campaign for better recognition, better facilities, more facilities, so naturists have more options to practice their naturism.
There has been chatter on the Internet about a post-WNBR event this year in London but the last thing NAG wants to do is spoil the organising committee’s good relationship with the Police and Park Authorities. We are considering having our own gathering point, but still within the area set-aside for WNBR participants, for NAG supporters and subscribers to meet and perhaps get to know each other. We may even have some body paint available for some suitable messages to be written on the human canvases. Things like “nude not lewd”. (Sorry, I know it’s a classic line, but I can’t think of anything better at the moment.) This all depends, however, on the level of interest we get.
Are we just a “London and the South East” group?
Again, the answer is no. The organising committee is spread from Yorkshire, in the north, south to the Isle of Wight. As a small group though, we do need to consider where and how we expend our energies. The more help we get, either in terms of spare time, and to a lesser extent, spare cash, the more we will be able to do.
Currently, our biggest project is, of course, The London Question, and John Paine is making great strides on that. However, there is only so much that one man can do. London has seven million inhabitants and while British Naturism continues it’s search for a suitable central London venue for a swim and sauna session, a single location will not be able to serve all of London’s estimated 140,000 naturists. Hence The London Question. Could Munich’s English Garden be a role model for us to follow? That’s the question, now we just need to find the answer.
Is NAG a members’ organisation, like BN?
Sorry to be repetitive, but again no. We survive because of the generosity of others, who give their time and their money, and of course, we can always use some more.
Wouldn’t it be better to have just one organisation for British naturism?
Yes that would be the ideal, but we need to consider how we can get more people actively involved in promoting naturism to a non-naturist world. British Naturism does a great deal to further the cause of naturism as a lifestyle; organising events like Nudefest and beach events around the country, while representing the views of thousands of naturists to national bodies, local authorities and national government.
However, as we saw recently with Charlie Simonds’ article in H&E Naturist, not all naturists are of the opinion that a representative body is necessary. Some may not see themselves as naturists at all, preferring to participate in social nudity casually, when their mood and the situation make it seem right. While others will not join BN under any circumstances, for reasons that are their own, despite wanting to see naturism accepted more widely. As an independent organisation, the Naturist Action Group is able bridge this gap between formal and informal naturism. As we don’t have members, we have no vested interests and as we don’t organise events, we do not have any competing calls for our limited resources. Any naturist who agrees with our objectives can make a difference by sending us a donation or volunteering some of their spare time.
What campaigns are you conducting?
One of the projects we’ve had from the outset is an aim to open dialogue with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) but for this we need supporting evidence that our claim that the police have been inconsistent with their treatment of naturists, to show that it is not just hearsay.
Not only do we need information about incidents that happened last summer but for this summer too. It goes without saying that any personal details will be kept strictly confidential. It may also mean trawling through court records, so someone with legal experience (A barrister maybe) would be a benefit. Once we have the evidence, then we can talk to ACPO from firmer ground. Likewise, we could open dialogue with the Local Government Association if we can prove to them that catering for naturists would be to their advantage, especially in the current economic climate.
We also cherish the idea of creating a database of naturist friendly solicitors around the country. If naturists find themselves involved with the law enforcement agencies, then any legal advice is better than none at all and this can be arranged for free from the police station. There is no guarantee, however, that the solicitor on duty will know about the legal aspects of public nudity as a human rights issue, without refreshing their memory. A database of naturist friendly solicitors would enable the right kind of support at a very distressing time.
Naturism can only survive because of volunteers willing to spend a few hours each week to help their club or group, even British Naturism relies heavily on the use of volunteers. Without them, naturism would be nothing. If you want to volunteer for one of our projects then please contact us.
We realise though that many people are time poor these days, so if you’d prefer to spend what free time you have on the beach or wherever it is you go nude, we understand. If one of the projects outlined above interests you however, and you would like to donate some money to help then please, click on the donate button on this website. If you want your donation to be used specifically for that project then please tell Duncan Heenan via his contact link. We shall be happy to oblige. All donations will be acknowledged.
An edited version of this is blog will appear in the May issue of H&E Naturist.
I was looking at religion as a theme for this column when, by coincidence, Barry Freeman took almost the same idea for his article in the March edition of H&E Naturist. To boil Barry’s argument down to a sentence or two, he suggested that for those of us it is not important, in the 2011 census form we should put our religion down as naturist rather than leave that question blank. (This question is the only one that is optional.) His reasoning being was that this would provide some form of legitimisation for naturism as a whole. After all, by his own admission, for the 2001 census some 390,000 people (0.8% of those that answered) in the UK put their religion down as ‘Jedi’, a phenomenon that was seen in a number of English speaking countries. At the time, it was considered to bit of fun poked at the Government or a means to raise an objection at having to answer a question about one’s faith, but it has led to a few organisations trying to create Jedism as a religion, although there seems to be no, or very little, new philosophy behind it.
Naturism, of course, has long denied it is a religion although that doesn’t mean that public, or social nudity has no place in religious rituals.
Perhaps the first one that would come to most peoples’ minds is Witchcraft – or Wicca – where, depending on the tradition followed the rituals are performed ‘skyclad’ throughout the entire year or robed for a part of it.
Witchcraft is an ancient religion, concerning the spirits of the natural world around us. In his book, Witchcraft (1952) Pennethorne Hughes surmised that the concept of Witchcraft evolved from the early centres of civilisation, the rivers, Nile, Tigress and Euphrates, and spread north and around the Mediterranean. He often drew an analogy with the animist beliefs that still prevail in Africa today, or Voodoo in Haiti, and while it cannot be said with certainty that the two are completely disconnected, the passage of time and influences from elsewhere would have removed any link with these supposed origins.
In The Witches Way (re-published as part of A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook in 1996), Janet and Stewart Farrar wrote that there are good reasons why witches work skyclad: first, it is an antidote to ‘a false dualism of good-versus-evil’ that dominates the Christian church and being ashamed of one’s nakedness is an expression of this duality. In Witchcraft, we humans operate in a multi-layered world of mind, body and spirit, and in order to express all these levels fully within us then it should be done with confidence and respect, for ourselves and for others. A Witch, by being naked at their Sabbat, she or he are re-affirming their belief in this philosophy, while striving to make it a part of their everyday awareness.
Another reason for working skyclad is that Witches believe that the senses can pick up impressions about their surroundings and to draw on psychic power more easily when the body is naked than clothed. It is this, the authors suggested, is the origin of shamanistic nudity, and Farrar and Farrar explained that ‘sensory impressions’ could be explained by the pheromones released into the air. A clothed body releases fewer pheromones into the air than a naked one, therefore a Witch working skyclad will obtain a deeper impression of their surrounds from the other Sabbat members, leading to the group, as a whole, being more sensitive to “the psychic Gestalt which they are trying to build up” (p197).
The final two reasons are perhaps, more familiar to naturists and are inter-related. According to Janet and Stewart Farrar, another reason for Witches to work skyclad, is psychological and to do with self-image. They wrote in The Witches Way (p197) “Consciously or unconsciously, how we dress is how we say to the world, ‘This is myself as I want you to see me’ before we even open our mouths. Taking off our clothes is a psychologically powerful gesture of image-shedding, a symbolic milestone on the road to a self-realisation.” All that means; we project our real selves to those around us when naked, there is no pretence. This leads us to the last reason, which is that by being naked it is difficult to make assumptions about the other members of the group. The person next you in the circle (or the beach or club lawn) could be wealthy or a pauper, it makes no difference.
By their own admission, however, Janet and Stewart Farrar have stated that they have ‘created’ some of the rituals they are performing, or have added to the scant information contained in the Book of Shadows, which is the foundation of much of what is known about the neo-pagan sect. Written by Gerald Gardner sometime in the 1940s or 1950s it was used by him with his coven in Bricket Wood. Stewart Farrar stated that one of the reasons why he wrote his first book on the subject (Eight Sabbats for Witches) was because Gardners’ book lacked detail about the rituals to be performed, with Gardner claiming to have compiled it from information gathered from folk-memory.
Another possible explanation why witches go ‘skyclad’ as much as they do today is, perhaps, more cynical. Ritual nudity is quoted in the Old Testament: “And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in a like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets.” (1 Samuel 19:21) So the idea of other incidences of ritual nudity is not beyond the bounds of possibility, such as the collection of herbs using a bronze sickle at full moon, naked existed and these incidences were embellished and made “evil” by Christianity as it moved north and west, seeking converts from the old religion as it went. In an age when few people could read, the easiest way to get your message across is to draw them. Therefore images of witches naked at a Sabbat have been part of the art world for centuries. Despite claims to the contrary, there is little evidence that modern Wicca is anything to do with a pre-Christian belief, but is an early 20th Century, neo-pagan re-imagination possibly influenced by the earlier artwork.
The Christian Church has not, however, been devoid of ‘Holy Nudists’ as one article I’ve read put it. An early Christian sect that flourished between the 2nd and 4th Centuries AD, were the Adamites, which were eventually deemed heretical by the mainstream church. The origins and practices of these Adamites, as described by Augustine of Hippo, were that they called their church “Paradise” and that its members claimed to have returned to the innocent state of Adam and Eve. It is, no doubt, these practices that led others in the church to consider them as heretic, as it denied that we were perpetual sinners. We should remember, however, who Augustine of Hippo was and when he lived. He is considered a cornerstone of Western Christian thinking, with his writing influencing both the Catholic and Anglican traditions, and he lived between 354 and 430 AD, towards the end the sect’s influence but when it was coming under increasing pressure from the mainstream church.
Augustine of Hippo was in turn inspired by the writings of St Anthony of the Desert, who is believed to have lived in the 2nd Century AD and, following the example of Jesus, lived in the Egyptian desert as an ascetic – one who lived a life of abstinence – in pursuit of a religious life. Such individuals existed today, such as the Naga Sadhu (a Hindu sect) or Jain monks, both of India. It is through these early desert-dwelling Christians – both male and female, and known as Desert Fathers or Desert Mothers – that led to the monastic system being developed as those considered particularly holy gathered followers. For some ascetics, it is believed, their abstinence also included the absence of clothes, perhaps following a similar ritual described in the First Book of Samuel. There is no evidence to suggest that St Anthony of the Desert, or any other Desert Father or Mother was one of these ‘holy nudists’, but the absence of evidence does not mean any one of them couldn’t have been. It has been suggested, therefore, that the Adamites of the early Christian church were “misguided ascetics”. Again, we should remember, the winners get to write the history books.
Later reincarnations of the Adamites appeared during
This Sunday – 20 March 2011 – NAG will hold a private meeting about The London Question at 3.00pm – 5.00pm in the Function room upstairs at The Oxford pub, 256 Kentish Town Road, LONDON NW5 2AA The main issue is how naturists living in, and near, London can work together to get better facilities for naturism. Please bring a towel to sit on.
It is possible to have a Sunday roast lunch there, if required (pub tel: 020 7485 3521).
NAG would appreciate it if you could let me know that you intend coming to this meeting.
John Paine 01865 513103
The London Question NEWS UPDATE Issued Saturday 26 February 2011
The Naturist Action Group is pleased at the response received from naturists to The London Question. A second meeting organised by NAG, in a quieter room, will take place in Kentish Town on Sunday afternoon 20 March. It would be possible to have a Sunday roast lunch there, if required (pub tel: 020 7485 3521). Please pass on the following details.
A private meeting about The London Question will be held on Sunday 20 March 2011 at 3.00pm – 5.00pm in the Function room upstairs at The Oxford pub, 256 Kentish Town Road, LONDON NW5 2AA Please bring a towel to sit on.
The main issue is how naturists living in, and near, London can work together to get better facilities for naturism.
Newsletter No. 1
Welcome to our first NAG newsletter!
Our inaugural year
NAG launched in March 2010. We are not a members’ organisation, and do not organise social events; NAG provides a platform for naturists to raise issues and campaign in the interests of UK naturism. NAG can help you to gather support from other naturists without the restrictions or the ‘baggage’ that are present with some other naturists bodies. The Naturist Action Group works with many other naturist bodies in Britain. Our twin aims are to:
- Campaign on behalf of naturism to the Government and national representative bodies
- Educate the public and promote awareness about naturism
The concept of NAG had been discussed for a while, but the decision to go ahead was taken only early in 2010. We took as our model they way in which The Naked London Bike-ride is organised. We felt that it was better to start NAG and do some of our planning ‘on the hoof’, rather than spend a very long period trying to get it perfect and thus risk a stillbirth. Consequently we plead guilty to not being as well prepared as we may have wished at our March 2010 launch!
We always knew that the issues of public perception and anti-naturist prejudice, which NAG aims to tackle, are huge tasks. They need a long-term approach, with a lot of research and groundwork. To be successful we felt that NAG approaches to