It was with utter dismay that I read the latest membership figures from British Naturism, published on 12th February 2014. As of 31st January there was 6,824 members in BN.
At the same time last year, the membership stood at 7,235, a fall of 5.68 per cent year-on-year, and is in line with the steady ‘6 per cent drop’ that seems to have occurred every year for the last 20 years. No doubt it will pick up the usual rush around May, when naturists begin to think about their summer holidays and renew. It will also pick up a few new members over the year, but nothing like the numbers needed to halt this slow decline in membership. As has been noted by former Treasurer Duncan Heenan, in 1994 there were 20,000 members, in 2004 16,000. By my calculation, BN will see its centenary in 2064, but only just, with a mere 310 members. There will probably be sun clubs with more members than that. The point being, if this steady decline continues, when will British Naturism stop being viable as a national representative organisation?
Some might ask: ‘should we care about that?’ After all, do we really need an organisation to give us permission to be naked! Despite the people being prosecuted for practicing naturism in the countryside or other open spaces, many more go undetected. Britain’s coastline also provides ample opportunities to sunbathe naked if anyone wants to, in addition to the official and unofficial beaches that are known about. Given that, is BN really necessary? The same question could be asked about Ramblers (formerly The Ramblers’ Association). Do we need them to take a walk in the countryside or along any of our long-distance and coastal footpaths? The simple answer is no. Yet in its Annual Report for 2012/13, it was able to boast “more than 113,000 members, nearly 500 ramblers groups, more than 550 affiliates and tens of thousands more people who supported our work.” So for an organisation that we apparently have no need for, it shows considerable public support and if it wasn’t for their campaigning on behalf of walkers’ rights many of the footpaths now used by Sunday afternoon strollers would be closed. So what are they doing, that BN is not? How is it that walkers can see the value of having and supporting a national representative body but naturists cannot? The irony is that it is likely that there are naturists among the 113,000 members of Ramblers.
I can imagine some in BN being deeply offended by this blatant interference from someone who isn’t even a member, but I say this as a friend and sometimes, someone outside can say things that few inside an organisation can. I also feel that BN’s existence is important to UK naturism as a whole and all of us shall be the poorer if it should disappear from our lives. And to be fair, the issue of falling membership numbers is not unique to BN. Ramblers lost approximately 10,000 members from 2008/09 to steady at its current level, while in naturist circles it is a problem for national representative bodies worldwide, but we in the UK need to worry about this nation’s national body first.
BN has given the task of reversing the decline to Andrew Welch. Even with the best will in the world, one man cannot make a difference. This is a task for every board member, and members of every regional committee and every club or association, to convince individuals of the value of being part of the wider community. They will not succeed with everyone, but it is important that every part of BN works together for the benefit of naturism and not some other personal or club agenda. I am convinced that Judith Stinchcombe, its current chairman – chairwoman, whatever – is the right person to lead BN out of the doldrums but she needs the support of every member, every committee, pulling in the same direction to achieve that. Membership decline is the most important threat to its existence that BN has. Not the fact that it does or does not offer events like Alton Towers, or Nudefest (without any members these couldn’t be offered anyway). Nor is it, to be considered an effective campaigner, although all of the above are bound up in the picture of success for BN that some of us have, inside and outside British Naturism.
Whatever has been done to reverse the decline in membership numbers over the past 20 years, it hasn’t worked and more of the same will only lead to the same result, with British Naturism slowly bleeding to death. To make BN fit for purpose Chairman Stinchcombe has already installed some small amendments to your structure but this is not enough and something more radical is needed. The changes proposed 10 or 15 years ago and feared at the time would have been less alarming. Now, someone unconnected to BN needs to take a clean sheet of paper and think the unthinkable with nothing, or no one, sacred. Don’t just talk to so-called insiders, those who say they are in the ‘know’, whose limited sources may give them too narrow a view. Talk to your dissatisfied customers, those leaving the organisation too and listen to what they are telling you. And just as important, listen to what others outside BN are saying (not just me); we may see something you don’t. If your own research says there are 3.7 million naturists in the UK, don’t wait for them to come to you (you might be waiting a very long time), go out there and find them, talk to them. Have they heard of you? If not, why not! What will make them join and keep on supporting you after the first year?
Staying inside your ivory tower, wherever it is located, will mean it is unlikely that there will be any 75th, let alone 100th, birthday celebrations and absolutely no one is going to benefit from that.
Chairman, Naturist Action Group
15th February 2014
Aware that anything I may write about British Naturism is considered… controversial at least… by the Executive Council, I gave Judith Stinchcombe a preview of the above and BN the right of reply. You can read “Reply from British Naturism: Doing Nothing has Never been an Option” in full by clicking on the link. It is true that John, Duncan and I were members the EC in 2008 but what it doesn’t say is that none of us completed our terms and we were three people in a committee of 19 or so people all with one vote, and our views were hardly mainstream. If we achieved anything it was often against considerable opposition.
It is great to read that changes in procedures and processes have been made to improve the management information collected, which more often than not was what BNChange (the name we used collectively) wanted. Nor have we spoken out against Nudefest or Alton Towers, which they seem to think and while producing press releases is fine, perhaps the EC needs to count how many are taken up by the media in order to reach the alleged 3.7 million UK naturists not in our national representative organisation. I hope, on re-reading my letter the EC will see that it is far more supportive than they seem to have taken it to be. Although, in hindsight, the ‘ivory tower’ phrase was OTT and I withdraw that.
Just to underscore paragraph 4 above, which seems to have been ignored or missed, the last thing any of us want is for British Naturism to disappear, if it did it will be to no one’s benefit. The way I see it, no BN no NAG so it is in all our interests that the trend in the membership figures is reversed.
For over 2 years NAG has been leading a joint project with BN to address the issue of how the police and Courts deal with naturism. As part of this, we have produced the following report of our survey on the adoption of the new CPS guidelines. This report has now been sent to the Association of Chief Police Officers, The Association of Police & Crime Commissioners, The College of Policing, and the Director of Public Prosecutions (head of the CPS). We have asked for a meeting to discuss our findings. This project will continue by cooperative consultation, and when there are any significant developments they will be reported here.
Apologies for any loss of formatting of the report in posting it here
Joint report on the study of the uptake of Crown Prosecution Service Guidance ‘Nudity in Public –
Guidance on handling cases of Naturism ’[September 2013], by Police Authorities in England & Wales.
- Police & Crime Commissioners do not consider consider ensuring consistent and accurate application of the law in this respect, to be their ‘business’.
- Police & Crime Commissioners do not consider saving money by avoiding mistakes to be their ‘business’.
- Inconsistent responses and intentions from Police Forces.
- Low priority given to inclusion of CPS Guidelines in Police training
- Slow and patchy uptake of the ‘new approach’ generally.
- Little acknowledgement for the need for change within Police Forces, despite the CPS Guidelines.
Background & Reason for the study
There has been increasing concern within the naturist community in recent years, at the attention naturism has occasionally attracted by the police. Though there have been many instances of police reacting proportionately and appropriately to reports of nudity in public places, there have also been incidents, sometimes resulting in prosecutions. As a result we began to gather data on these incidents with a view to approaching the Authorities to seek a fairer and more consistent application of the Law to naturism than we felt had been happening. Personal views of police and judges seemed to be driving events too much, often with little reference to any actual harm done (of which there was none in any incident studied). There seemed to be an informal institutional prudery in police and courts alike, which led to a disproportionate reaction to any incident involving nudity in public, or even some private, places. This caused great distress to those who were subject to heavy handed policing, wasted public resources, and did not serve the public interest. Of those cases taken to Court, the majority resulted in acquittals.
In September 2013, as our study period was approaching its conclusion and a submission to the Authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service published ‘Nudity in Public – Guidance on handling cases of Naturism.’ (Shown in Appendix 1) Effectively this acknowledged that the CPS shared some of our concerns, particularly in the use of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 by police, to try to criminalise non-aggressive, non-sexual nudity. The CPS guidance addressed some (though not all) of our concerns, but it contained no mechanism within it to ensure that its guidance filtered down to police officers who have to make initial operational decisions. We therefore decided to contact every Police Authority in England & Wales to draw their attention to the CPS Guidance, express our views and ask them what plans they had to train their police officers in it. This report summarised the results of that exercise.
On 20th November 2013, letters (shown at appendix 2) were sent to all 42 Police forces, plus the Association of Chief Police Officers (‘ACPO’) and the College of Policing. The same letter was also sent to all 42 Police & Crime Commissioners, plus the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners (‘APCCs’). Responses were received by letter, email and telephone over the succeeding 12 weeks. The responses are summarised and tabulated below. A number of acknowledgements were received but never followed up with a response, and a number of Police Forces and PCCs did not respond at all (as marked).
The results are summarised in the table below. Copies of all responses and other correspondence are available to authorised users on https://www.bn.org.uk/campaigning/wiki.php/_/policing/general-policy-and-training-r35 .
Of the 42 PCCs contacted 4 acknowledged receipt, but did not reply. In addition 25 did not respond at all, making a total of 29 who did not reply.
Of the 13 PCCs who replied, all considered the CPS’s Guidance on Nudity in Public, and any police responses, to be an operational police matter, and made no meaningful comment beyond that. The Association of PCC’s made the same remark, commenting also that national guidance on police training is the responsibility of the College of Policing, suggesting we contact them (which we already had). Only the PCC for West Yorkshire commented on the uptake of the CPS Guidelines within that police service, saying that it was to be incorporated within their training programme and published internally. West Yorkshire Police themselves did not respond.
Of the 42 Police Forces contacted, 6 acknowledged receipt, but did not reply. In addition 16 did not respond at all, making a total of 22 who did not reply (though this number includes West Yorkshire for whom their PCC made a reply).
Of the 20 Police Forces which replied 19 had no stated policy on dealing with incidents of public nudity, other than trusting the local officer to exercise jusgment of the actual situation. One (Cheshire) has a policy which is consistent with the new CPS Guidelines.
The replies from some police forces were phrased in very general terms, and therefore it was not always clear what was meant. In categorising the replies below, an element of judgment had to be used, as there was overlap of intent as well as uncertainty in some cases.
Of the 20 forces which responded (21 including W. Yorkshire whose PCC responded for them), 5 forces had no plans to include any specific training for front line officers to do with the CPS Guidelines. 8 were planning to publish the guidelines on websites or internal bulletin boards, but with no further training. 4 forces were intending to approach the issue by briefing specialist officers such as Diversity Officers or Custody Sergeants as internal ‘consultants’ to provide advice to operational officers involved in issues to do with public nudity. 4 Forces had undertaken, or were considering including specific training to all officers. 5 of the responses included comments suggesting a presumption that public nudity was likely to be a public order issue. 3 forces commented that public nudity incidents were not considered a current or past issue in their area, as there were few, if any, such incidents.
The College of Policing and ACPO did not respond at all.
Police & Crime Commissioners Survey, summary of responses
Policy on Nudity
Training re. CPS guidance
|Avon & SomersetIndependent||No response||No response|
|BedfordshireLabour||6/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|CambridgeshireConservative||5/12/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter|
|CheshireConservative||25/11/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter|
|City of LondonConservative||No response||No response|
|ClevelandLabour||No response||No response|
|DerbyshireLabour||No response||No response|
|Devon and CornwallConservative||5/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|DorsetIndependent||4/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|DurhamLabour||5/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|Dyfed PowysConservative||No response||No response|
|EssexConservative||27/11/13||No response||No response|
|GloucestershireIndependent||No response||No response|
|Greater ManchesterLabour||No response||No response|
|GwentIndependent||No response||No response|
|Hampshire &IOWIndependent||No response||No response|
|HertfordshireConservative||No response||No response|
|HumbersideConservative||No response||No response|
|KentIndependent||16/12/13||No comment||No comment|
|LancashireLabour||2/12/13||No response||No response|
|LeicestershireConservative||No response||No response|
|LincolnshireIndependent||19/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|MerseysideLabour||No response||No response|
|MetropolitanConservative||10/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|NorfolkIndependent||No response||No response|
|NorthamptonConservative||No response||No response|
|NorthumbriaLabour||12/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|North YorkshireConservative||No response||No response|
|North WalesIndependent||No response||No response|
|NottinghamshireLabour||No response||No response|
|South WalesLabour||No response||No response|
|South YorkshireLabour||No response||No response|
|StaffordshireConservative||25/11/13||No response||No response|
|SuffolkConservative||No response||No response|
|SurreyIndependent||No response||No response|
|SussexConservative||12/12/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter|
|Thames ValleyConservative||No response||No response|
|WarwickshireIndependent||9/12/13||No response||No response|
|West MerciaIndependent||No response||No response|
|West MidlandsLabour||27/11/13||31/1/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter.|
|West YorkshireLabour||27/11/13||17/1/14||Police operational matter||W.Yorks police are developing a training programme which will incorporate CPS guidelines. Also published internally.|
|WiltshireConservative||No response||No response|
|Association of P.C.C.s||26/11/13||Police operational matter||College of Policing sets national training standards. Decision should lie with them.|
Police Authority Chief
For the last 3 years NAG has been running a project to monitor the fate of naturists who come in to conflict with The Law, help where we can, and prepare an approach to The Authorities. We met with BN earlier in the year, and as they were charting a similar course we agreed to cooperate fully together in a joint project. The response was altered when the Crown Prosecution Service unexpectedly issues a guideline on the issue just as we were drafting our submission. This altered our approach, but does not remove any of its importance or urgency.
As a result we have just written to every Chief
Is it really nine months since this country held the greatest sporting event on Earth? The Olympics come once every four years, and London has been very lucky (or unlucky, depending on point of view) to hold it three times: 1908, 1948 and 2012. One of the reasons why it is said London won the games for the third time (the only city to do so) was because of the promises made about legacy. These games were to be about the world’s youth preparing to take on the sporting challenges of the future.
Naturism has its own challenge for the future of course; how do we keep the children and young adults in naturism, and perhaps become our future leaders? A question that Roni Fine asked in the latest edition of British Naturism magazine, placing the question in the context of the club, the foundation of organised naturism in this country. “I hear people comment,” writes Fine, “that clubs must have something to attract the children and make them want to attend….” So what does Fine’s club (Blackthorns) provide its under 18s? A clubhouse (somewhere for them to hang out away from the grown-ups), a games console, Wi-Fi and enough sockets to cater for everyone’s laptop and mobile phone chargers. And sport.
“Sport is a major part of club life,” wrote Fine who went on “…we always have a sports day during the summer that involves team games and activities for all ages but it can involve Miniten, petanque, badminton, volleyball and table-tennis too…. We also have crazy-golf, a firm family favourite.”
I am not sure what Fine meant by team sports, but while those listed might be popular with the adult members, has anyone asked the ‘children’ if these are of any interest to them? Lets face it, Miniten is only played at naturist clubs – in fact, it is unique to naturist clubs – and while badminton, volleyball and table-tennis are likely to be available at school, they are not the sports the boys in particular talk about at break-time with their friends. Girls, sadly, are a different matter again. The findings of a study published in the European Journal of Physical Education from 1996 are that 45 per cent of their sample of girls aged between 11 and 14 engaged in no physical activity whatsoever, a problem that continues still in 2013. So it isn’t just a matter of finding the ‘right’ sports to interest the under 18s but finding those that will allow them to talk about it with all of their friends, naturist and non-naturist.
Taking Part, a survey conducted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2012 found that almost 50 per cent of young people between 11 and 15 years participated in Football (including 5-a-side), while a selection of other sports enjoyed by the age group are: basketball (28%), swimming and diving (27%), rounders (21%) and netball (19%), while badminton scored a lowly 18%.
The sports listed as being enjoyed by children between five years and 10 are: 46 per cent swimming, followed by football (including 5-a-side) (32%), gym (including trampolining) (15%) and tennis (10%).
Selecting the right sports is only half the problem of course, getting engagement will be the harder battle, as they will have to contend with the computer games that seem to be everywhere these days, or the compulsion to update their facebook status every ten minutes or tweet every five.
Not that this is anything to go by, but when I was young and during the school holidays, the street was almost alive with games of cricket and football and the frequent refrain of ‘get away from my wall, go and play outside your own house’ from an elderly resident. While the girls would play hopscotch or improve their technique with the skipping rope. Even further back, I have been told of times when a long rope would be stretched across the road and mothers would take turns to whirl it around, while the children from the street – both boys and girls – would dash in and skip a few steps of a skipping game before dashing out again.
It is a truism of life that there is no such thing as something new under the sun and the Taking Part survey also showed whom the children between the ages of 11 and 15 like playing their sport with. Overwhelmingly it is with their friends (50%) – hardly surprising that – and Fine’s article noted this, stating: “In my experience, the one thing that most children want to find at a club is more children.” Adding: “Having someone to pal up with is very important to them.” However, more than 30 per cent enjoyed their sport with their parents closely followed by their siblings
Something else Fine wrote referred to competition, and healthy competition always acts as a stimulus to improving performance, but intra-club competition might not be possible when there are so few children at a club to begin with. Maybe what is needed is a regular competition between clubs in the same region then inter-regionally, picking the best players from different clubs. Perhaps, this is something the YBN could organise and provide an added incentive for those eligible to join to do so. I’m not saying that the next Jessica Ennis, Alastair Cook or David Beckham will come out of the sports enjoyed in naturism, but you just never know.
Of course sport is just part of the answer, the full ‘work, rest and play’ attitude to life in general – and not just in the club – is important, and enjoyed by all, young and old, is the way forward. While most, if not all, clubs seem to have the social side covered, there appears to be a lack of opportunity for children to burn up their excess energy in the way they want to, apart from swimming perhaps. If young people are to enjoy an active life then maybe mum, dad, granddad or grandma need to join in and lead by example. Pass on whatever sporting skills you may have, or teach the intricacies of hopscotch, or the joys of a skipping game to the under 10s. You might also surprise yourself and enjoy it.
Providing a wider range of activities may have other benefits for the club too, regarding the missing generations. Sport could be a catalyst for the generations to engage with each other and not just with their peers. Who knows where all that might lead?
An edited version of this article appears in the May edition of the H&E Naturism.
We’ve just enjoyed a marvellous weekend at Spielplatz and many thanks to Mark and Tina Yates for their wonderful hospitality.
Over the last two days we had separate meetings with different organisations, discussions that were very welcome and promises much. What also came out of those meetings was that naturism as a whole could profit from such talks and that it should be repeated either next year or the year after. Hopefully with many more organisations in attendance, regardless of what form they should take; club, forum, holiday organiser… whatever!
Obviously, with naturism already highly fractured, I don’t think we have any taste for yet another organisation but I think the feelings of the meetings we held was that some mechanism should be found to enable the opportunity for face-to-face communication to occur.
If you are part of a naturist organisation, why not raise it and find out what others think?