The Campaign for National Parks is celebrating its 80th anniversary by running a survey asking people how they use national parks and how they think parks should be managed in the future.
In a section asking respondents what activities they enjoy doing in national parks, there is no mention of naturism.
If as many people as possible mention in the ‘other activities’ sections of this survey, that they would like better opportunities, freedoms, facilities etc., for nude recreation in National Parks, it would at least transmit the message that there is a demand for this. At present the managers of National Parks probably don’t even know that anyone would want to go naked in the countryside. Let’s tell them!
The survey only takes a minute or two, and can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/cnp80yrs
In January 2016, Stéphane Deschênes resigned from the Central Committee of the International Naturist Federation (INF-FNI) in the belief that he was ‘unable to make any meaningful impact’ with his efforts to institute reform. The following month he issued an open letter explaining the reasons for his actions.
NAG decided to contact Deschênes to ask a few more questions, which resulted in the following article. You can also download the open letter “Reforming the INF-FNI’ by Stéphane Deschênes in full in either English, French or German.
Although disagreeing with the direction the Central and Executive Committees are taking the INF-FNI, Deschênes makes no criticism of individual committee members, as some of the issues he is concerned about predate the current management. In the letter he gives 14 recommendations for a reinvigorated international organisation, which can be summarised as:
- The INF-FNI is naturism’s equivalent to the United Nations and should be about facilitating communication between the national representative bodies.
- The INF-FNI is instrumental in developing naturism as an ideology or philosophy, and one of its purposes should be communicating that ideology internationally.
- The INF-FNI needs a small professionally staffed office to enable it to function, with greater involvement by its members, with managed expectations on both sides.
Although Deschênes says in the letter its contents is his personal opinion, as co-owner with is wife, Linda, of the Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, producer and presenter of The Naturist Living Show podcast and a past President of the Federation of Canadian Naturists, in addition to his involvement with the INF-FNI for the last three years, his depth of understanding is therefore not inconsiderable.
Deschênes senses that the INF-FNI is undermining the national representative bodies by accepting individuals as members and that there needs to be boundaries between the national bodies and the INF-FNI. He explains: “People that get involved in the INF are… in the habit of dealing directly with naturists because they all come from [member] federations. They have to be reminded that the job of the INF is different.”
This argument was picked up a few years ago, when INF-FNI membership was debated by some in BN, who stated that INF’s membership rules allowed individual naturists and clubs and/or resorts to by-pass their national federations and thereby weakening them. Naturism needs strong national representative bodies to lend their strength to the INF-FNI if it is to have any sway with other international organisations and national governments.
How Deschênes sees the INF-FNI is as a place where naturism could be developed further as an ideology or a philosophy, by allowing different ideas to be communicated internationally. The INF-FNI has created a definition that has served naturism very well and has been altered over the years to expand the concept beyond what the likes of Richard Ungewitter believed naturism to be. Whether it is an ideology or a philosophy is yet to be determined. This does not mean, however, that Deschênes thinks the activities of individual naturists or that of clubs and resorts should not be supported, but perhaps this lies better with the appropriate national federation.
Perhaps the most surprising revelation in Deschênes’ letter – to this writer at least – is that the INF-FNI is sitting on a pile of cash: €500,000 (US$550,000 at the time of writing) to be precise. While much of this money has been allocated to specific accounts, it has not been earmarked for any projects. He then explained that the INF-FNI does not have “even one full-time person working for [them],” and believes that its over reliance on volunteers is detrimental to the organisation. Deschênes justified his view by explaining that he has been involved in several not-for-profit organisations and “the most effective are the ones where the volunteers set the direction and [paid] staff implemented it.” The most common complaint about the INF-FNI is the lack of timely response to communications made to it, if at all but if they were doing their job properly then it will: “only increase.” It would therefore be essential that the INF-FNI establish an office staffed by professionals. He would not be drawn on the functions the paid staff should fill but said they should be “a combination of executive director and administrator”.
Deschênes also thinks that this office should be located at a major transport hub, somewhere in Europe. At the moment the INF-FNI has a central office in Hörsching, Austria, which is 200 kilometres (125 miles) away from its closest transport hub, Vienna. London would be an obvious candidate as a location, but Deschênes believes that with the UK being outside the Schengen area (if not out of the EU altogether after June’s referendum) it would be more difficult for those travelling from mainland Europe. This should not be the case; leaving the EU could throw up some unwelcome barriers, but regardless of the outcome, the most difficult obstacle is likely to be getting a good exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro. Having said that the better European transport hubs could be either Paris or Berlin.
Having a professional office will help to manage the expectations some national federations have about what the INF-FNI can and cannot do. “A common example is that federations want the INF-FNI to come and fight for changes in [national] law,” explains Deschênes. It seems the national bodies don’t appreciate that the INF-FNI has no legal standing in the country, have no knowledge of the issues involved; as outsiders, they would find it difficult to connect with local politicians and people, and despite the €500,000 languishing in the bank, such a legal battle will quickly bankrupt the organisation.
One thing that Deschênes would like to see is greater participation in INF-FNI affairs by its members. He remarks in the open letter that: “The majority of [those sitting on the Central Committee] are from small federations: Austria, Luxembourg [previously] Canada and New Zealand. The federations who contribute the most money, and who, because of their size, have the greatest resources must get more directly involved.” However, most naturists will know – or at least should know – that many of the national federations rely heavily on volunteers and probably have their own problems in filling committee roles. Below that, other volunteer-based groups or organisations in naturism are also struggling to fill vacancies on committees, et cetera. Yet, as Deschênes says: “You can’t complain about something but then refuse to get involved in fixing the problem.”
To quote American comedienne Lily Tomlin: ‘I said why doesn’t “somebody” do something about that? Then I realised, I was “somebody”.’
Naturally Deschênes hopes that his letter sparks a debate, if not within the INF-FNI’s Central and Executive Committees then among its member organisations. As indicated above, members of British Naturism have already called for their national representative body to resign from the INF-FNI in the past. On that occasion they were defeated, but who is to say that BN’s membership will not raise it again or that members of other national representative bodies will not do the same.
Chairman, Naturist Action Group
11th March 2016.
click on the above for details. The meeting is open to all naturists.
John Paine, Management Collective
Some of you may recall that a while back NAG jointly with BN started a project to address the problem of the assumption within some people’s minds that children would in some way be harmed by the sight of innocent adult nudity – “What about the Children?!”. This seems to be a pervasive and powerful myth which goes unquestioned and underlays many of the attitudes and actions of officialdom, as well as becoming a part of the ‘accepted wisdom’ of public opinion by the subtle process of social ostracism of anyone who dares to question it. The fact is that this assumption has no evidence to back it up; and what evidence there is (of the effect of non-sexual, non-aggressive nudity on children) points in the direction of psychological and social benefits to their development, rather than harm.
We felt this whole question needed addressing in an objective, evidence based way, and that a proper academic study might be a good start. So discussions have been taking place for some time with a few interested academics to see how this could best be approached, funded, presented and so on. This has taken a long time as finding the right people who are prepared to put their precious time in to it for no money is not easy. Good people are usually busy people. As a result, there has been little to report until now, and it may be that silence leads people to think nothing is happening. This is not true, but in the nature of such discussions, it can be damaging and unethical to pass on details of things which are unformed work-in-progress. However, in order to reassure you that things are going on in the background, we can say that at a recent meeting with some authoritative professional academics a plan of action has emerged which we hope will move this project forward later this year, and in to the public domain. It would be wrong at present to give any more detail, but those involved are encouraged and optimistic by developments, so watch this space and be a little patient.
With most issues the first step in addressing them is to stimulate discussion, but this has to be done in the right way. This is especially so with anything to do with children in today’s social climate, so the public relations aspect of this whole project will be an important aspect. Our hope is that it will lead the opinion formers to start to look more objectively at their own attitudes. This important not only to naturists, and for the acceptance of naturism, but it underlays many aspects of life, including the formulation of laws, media regulation, child protection, education, and other areas of public policy. It is a big agenda, but you have to start somewhere
As with last month, News from NAG – published in H&E Naturist is month – is here to provide links to interesting blogs and websites. If you don’t already subscribe, please take a look and give support to the world’s oldest Naturist magazine, having been in continuous publications since 1900.
Membership New Zealand
Two items published by Stuff.co.nz last December might be pointing to a brighter future for naturism – at least in that part of the world. Canterbury Free Beach Nudist Club told Georgina Campbell that while the over-60s still made up the largest portion of its membership, about a fifth of their group was made up of the under-30s.
Sunbathing at Hikuraki Bay, Fiona Guest told Stuff.co.nz that she found naturism to be: ‘empowering for women to shake off the modern expectation of what the female body should like,’ and in later life she was: ‘free to have a bit of tummy flab.’
The article said there were only 100 members of the free beach club. This is less than half of the current membership for Auckland Outdoor Naturist Club, which number about 250. Back in the 60s though it had more than three times as many members and the current caretakers of the club – husband and wife team, Don Boughman and Minca Englebrecht – told Ciara Pratt that they were keen to expand the park and ‘get it back to its glory days.’
Boughman remarked to Pratt that: ‘There’s a saying that the first lie you tell is the clothes you wear – take those away, it’s just you.’
Both these clubs are reaching out to the under 40, what harm could it do if you reached out too.
A Lady Bishop for Nudists
In November, with typical Daily Mail outrage, we are told that the next Bishop of Sherborne is Karen Gorham with the headline: “Bless me! It’s Britain’s first NUDIST Bishop” and the eighth woman selected by the Church of England.
Archdeacon (as I write) Gorham was brought up in a naturist family but the article suggested that she is no longer a practicing naturist, have stopped ‘disrobing in public’, during her teenage years, which isn’t, sadly, all that unusual. However, by all accounts she continues to be a strong advocate for the lifestyle.
Archdeacon Gorham told journalist Jonathan Petrie that: ‘Naturism is often misunderstood, so people jump to the wrong conclusion.’ Not everyone is please with Gorham’s selection, however, with the Rev. George Curry, former chairman of the Church Society stating that her ‘comments made her unsuitable to be a bishop’ adding that naturism was against ‘traditional teaching’.
Naturally, the Daily Mail and Rev Curry were not the only ones to pass comment on Karen Gorham’s advancement. For it reminded Fr. Dwight Longenecker, an American Evangelical minister turned Anglican vicar turned Catholic priest, of a post he put up on Patheos.com in 2009. Using an ultra ego of Rev Humphrey Blyterington, Fr Longenecker tackles in his own way the subject of nudity and faith, and might be worth reading regardless of the depth of what you believe – from non-existent to very deep. Could the Adamites make a comeback?
A book on Christian ethics and social nudity written by Karen Gorham, 15-years ago with Dave Leal: ‘Naturism and Christianity: are they compatible?’ can still be bought through Amazon.co.uk.
Ethics are not just the preserve of the religious. A post on the Young Naturists America website pointed me towards The Humanist Experience, a podcast by Seráh Blain and Evan Clark, and this episode is focused on the issue of body shame how it is viewed in American culture. Although Blain and Clark are work colleagues and share a house, they are not a couple so when it came to seeing each other naked for the first time, they were – not unnaturally – a little nervous. It was a quite charming to listen to really and just as you don’t have to be religious to read Fr Longenecker’s skit-blog, you don’t have to be an atheist to listen to the podcast.
CO beach could be worth Aus$50 million to Queensland Economy
I’ve mentioned before that the State of Queensland, Australia is the only one without an official nudist beach, but not for much longer if the Australian Sex Party – yes you read correctly – has its way.
The ASP has proposed that Alexandria Bay, in Noosa National Park be deemed as a ‘clothing-optional beach’ according to Noosa News.  The Australian Sex Party’s acting president for his Queensland branch, Dr Mark McGovern, said it would only be making official what has been happening there unofficially for the last 70-years, and could be worth Aus$50 million to the Noosa economy. In its submission the ASP said that more than 80 per cent of the local community supported the creation of a legal clothing-optional beach. Although it should be noted that according to the website Beachsafe, this particular beach is only approachable by foot and has hazardous swimming.
Tourism Noosa is committed to Queensland rebranding itself as “Australia’s Nature Coast”, in an effort to entice more tourists, Europeans especially. The ASP submission said that given the greater acceptance of nudism by Europeans, having a CO beach would assist in that drive for more tourists, it also cited The Economist magazine, stating that 18 per cent of Europeans would ‘highly value’ access to a nude beach. The article said that Tourism Noose, themselves, were not available for comment.
For some months now, NAG has asked people to support our campaign for open space naturism in London, taking its inspiration from the German parks like those in Munich. We have received a lot of support, not only from those in the London area but from many other parts of the UK and Europe too. It has got to the stage where we need to do something with the data we’ve collected and in order for us to do that without having a moving ‘target’ NAG’s Management Collective have decided to bring the petition to a close.
We thank everyone who has participated and will let you all know what we shall be doing with the information once we’ve scrutinized the entries and compiled the report. In the meantime, the links on our website to the petition have been disabled and its appearance will be amended in time.
Member of NAG’s Management Collective, Duncan Heenan wrote in response to Daniel Finklestein, who argued that although he has not done anyone any harm, Steve Gough deserves being locked up. As I have remarked before, Steve Gough divides opinion among naturists, not only society, but I disagree as does Duncan and he made his opinions known through a letter in The Times.
In case you’re wondering, The Thunderer is a nickname for The Times newspaper published in London.
Happy holiday season everyone. We are having a bit of a hungry time with regards to news reports featuring the ups and downs of naturism, and if you follow us in H&E Naturist you would have seen that in the December issue I had a brief round up of other bloggers you might like to read. I have done it again for the Jaunary 2016 issue and to save wordage in the magazine, I am providing the hyperlinks here.
Antidote to Apathy
First, a quick apology: The Naturist Philosopher has written about the need for engagement as stated in the text printed by H&E Naturist, but what set me thing about it again was another blogger entirely. The mistake is all mine.
Apathy is something I have tackled before in the article “Engagement” following a blog from The Naturist Philosopher but US blogger Larry Darter, writing as Dallas Nudist Culture, continues to ask why more naturists are not agitating for change in the US when they are loosing clothing optional sites to be nude at. It isn’t just in the US; the UK is also having similar problems. The solution this time – according to the Philosopher – is to increase membership numbers for the US representative organisations, AANR and TNS, stating: ‘If an organisation assumes to be the national face of Nudism in America it seems to go without saying it has a responsibility to give people a reason to want to join.’ How very true.
Nudist Club Photography
They say, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ when it comes to engaging with people, except when it comes to naturism. Before the development of the digital camera and cameras on mobiles, this magazine (HEN) would be filled with readers’ photographs. Not any more. People and clubs are afraid that any photos taken will end up on the Internet. Co-founder of Young Naturists America, Felicity Jones thinks differently and argues that clubs should have a simple policy: Don’t take phones of other people without their consent. It required a huge dollop of trust through and lots of common sense being exercised by both photographer and club.
The thing is, engagement means you need to meet those you are trying to engage with at least half way. Unfortunately, all too often the greeting received is not as welcome as it could be, even to other naturists. Events such as the volleyball competition described by Stéphane Deschênes for the podcast Naturist Living Show that has been run since the 1970s and organisation of which has been taken over by a group of younger naturists who have given it a new lease of life. By reaching out to the general public, they have been able to bring a new generation to naturism and possibly secure its future for many years to come. Of course, one event isn’t going to cure all the ills in naturism, either here or in the US, but it’s a start and it gives the non-naturists a reason talk about naturism, and that is what engagement is all about.
Blogs, are like little essays, exploring different avenues about naturism and the ways and means to advance the lifestyle. You may know of others of course and, if you do, then by all means send me an email (reg.barlow at naturistactiongroup dot org) with a link. Much obliged.
Following the General Election in May 2015, the Naturist Action Group wrote to Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, asking for clarification on her party’s policy on naturism and the discrimination felt by many naturists.
Although the dust from the election had not quite settled, at the same time we also wrote to David Cameron, the Prime Minister, Harriet Harman, then interim leader of the Labour Party and leader of the official opposition, Tim Farron, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party and First Minister of Scotland, and Angus Robertson MP, deputy leader of the SNP and party leader in the House of Commons. None of the letters were identical, but were all broadly similar to the one sent to Natalie Bennett.
I would just like to take a moment to give a brief explanation of how HM Government functions, if you already know this perhaps you would prefer to skip the remainder of this paragraph and the next. Located in central London, Government for the UK is headed by the Prime Minister on one side, with the Loyal Opposition on the other. MPs from other parties usually sit on the Opposition benches in the House of Commons. Since 1999 however, some matters specific to that nation have been devolved to parliaments in Scotland (Edinburgh) and Wales (Cardiff) with a Government led by a First Minister, who can be from a different party to the Prime Minister in London. Northern Ireland is different again. A more detailed explanation can be found from Wikipedia.
We wrote to the Prime Minister (Conservative), the leader of the Loyal Opposition (Labour) and to the leader of the third largest party in the House of Commons, the Scottish Nationalist Party. We wrote to the Liberal Democrats because they are still considered a major party in UK politics, even though they only have eight MPs and the Greens because one of our supporters wanted to attempt to change their policies in favour of naturism. All are based in London. As the leader of the SNP – Nicola Sturgeon – is a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) and not an MP in London, we wrote to her in Edinburgh.
Of all the letters sent, only those to the Prime Minister and the First Minister were acknowledged and full replies subsequently received.
The reply from Downing Street came via the office of the Rt. Hon Mike Penning MP, the Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims. It is a brief letter and said:
“Nudity in public is not an offence where there is no [intention] to cause harassment, alarm and distress. There are powers for the police to deal with any such acts and how they enforce the law in any particular case is an operational matter for the police.”
This is making reference to section 66, Sexual Offences Act 2003, which states:
(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.
Penning would not comment on any individual case, namely Steve Gough, and we would not expect him too. It is a pity, however, that he would not comment on the wider point we raised about the unequal treatment naturists get from the justice system when the Conservative Party had a manifesto commitment for: “Promoting equal treatment and equal opportunity for all in society proud of its tolerance and diversity.”
In our letter to the First Minister of Scotland, we said that while the SNP had a comprehensive policy for gender equality and discrimination, nowhere among their policies could we find a specific mention of a right to a private life and a right to choose how they might express themselves, which could include public nudity.
The reply came from Ronnie Fraser of the Criminal Justice Division of the Justice Directorate in Edinburgh, and is somewhat more substantial than the reply received from Penning and refers to Scots Law. In it, he states:
“[T]here is no specific statutory offence concerning public nudity in Scotland, but under Scots Law, exposure of the naked body in certain circumstances may be considered by the courts to be a breach of the peace. This is because the conduct, although not indecent or aggressive … may yet be likely to cause fear and alarm or distress to a reasonable person.”
The text for the Sexual Offences Act in Scotland is identical to England and Wales. It is therefore interesting that Fraser uses the word ‘likely’ a lower test than in the Act itself, which states that alarm or distress should: “be caused….”
Naturally, it is up to the court to determine if the provisions of the Act had been broken and will need to consider the individual circumstances of the case but Fraser referred to the Appeal Court case of Webster v Dominick 2003. He summed it up by stating that public nudity “is criminal only where it affects public sensibility”.
A discussion about Webster v Dominick is outside the scope of this article, but I believe it does point the way for future campaigning and not only for Scotland.
We know that the Crown Prosecution Service have published guidelines for police services and front line officers in England and Wales to consult when dealing with incidents involving public nudity. What NAG has learned so far is that it is not compulsory for them to use the guidelines but if training based upon it and developed by the College of Policing is given to station custody officers then maybe fewer files involving naturists will be passed to the CPS for prosecution. That, after all, is the general aim of the guidelines.
With its separate judicial system, the CPS Guidelines do not apply to Scotland, so getting something similar there is one avenue we could explore. In the meantime, I can reveal that BN have produced an information sheet explaining public nudity in relation to Scottish law, similar to the one they produced for England and Wales, and it will be launched at their AGM, this October. It will fold down to credit card size and would be useful for anyone who’s right to be nude in a public place is challenged.
NAG is beginning to work on getting training on the CPS Guidelines included for custody officers’ but it is clear that the Conservative-led Government is continuing with the austerity started by the previous coalition Government, so Chief