Naturists Campaigning for Naturism

Nudism

Steve Gough and Human Rights

Shortly, Steve Gough will be returning to Kirkcaldy Sherriff Court following his Breach of the Peace conviction and another assessment his mental health.

On 26 August 2012, Bernard Boase – a long-time naturist and a campaigner for Gough’s release – had an article published in The Daily Express, which argued that his continued incarceration would be against his human rights. Regardless of whether you think Gough is a hero or a villain, we believe his re-imprisonment amounts to a cruel and extraordinary punishment and it shows the distance between society and the Scottish judiciary when it comes to simple, non-sexual public nudity.

With the author’s permission, we reproduce the article HERE.

Support Your Local (Naturist) Hotelier

I have just caught up with the first episode of The Hotel Inspector, Series 9. Before it was transmitted (5th July 2012), naturist forums were buzzing with mild excitement about this show mainly because the red tops wrote in large banner-type headlines that its presenter, Alex Polizzi, was going nude for the show. If naturists, and non-naturists, watched in expectation of seeing a member of the Forte family – the aristocracy of the hotel world – naked then they would be disappointed. As she admits in a self-penned article for The Daily Telegraph promoting the new series, her ‘naked’ appearances were down to some clever camera angles.

Like any review, this is just one person’s opinion and as I’ve never sampled the delights The Clover – as I will call it – has to offer, it is hard for me to judge. Yet, I cannot help thinking that the advice Polizzi gave was good advice, born from her own and her family’s long experience in the hotel trade and should not be ignored lightly. Her judgement was confirmed by the changes she made to a garden that was little more than a large lawn, into an asset that the guests could use and enjoy in more ways than just laying down to soak up the sun.

Polizzi’s main concern was the strict nude all areas policy. Tim Higgs, the proprietor and naturist for 30-years, believes that this is what his guests demanded, somewhere they can be naked from entry to exit. Only, his guests are far and few between. At the beginning of the programme, Higgs showed the camera his bookings for the week ahead; there wasn’t any. The advice that Higgs received was to widen his target audience by relaxing his insistence that guests are naked during their stay, and potentially attract new comers to the naked lifestyle by allowing them to be dressed in the dining and living rooms. This is not radical thinking, as it is common for guests to be dressed while eating at European naturist resorts.

We know, from leaked details of an unpublished survey by British Naturism earlier this year that there remains approximately 2 million people in the UK who enjoy the naked lifestyle, mostly it would seem while on holiday abroad. For them to sample the lifestyle in this country there must be some form of ‘halfway house’ where they can stay without making an overt commitment. The Clover then, seems to be ideally placed to entice these “newbies” as Polizzi called them, if Higgs followed her advice.

Although the programme at first put Higgs’ objection down to pig-headedness, it later transpired to be more practical. A simple door separated the living room area of the hotel, where Polizzi suggested guests should be clothed from the spa area, where they could be naked; where then could the guests dress and undress? What was really needed here was a compromise, why not have the dressed areas clothes optional? The debate about when and where to allow people the option of being nude or wearing clothes has been blowing hot and cold for sometime in naturist circles, without a conclusive answer. Stéphane Deschênes, the owner of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park in Canada (www.bareoaks.ca) and host of The Naturist Living Show (www.naturistliving.bareoaks.ca), has argued that allowing the option of wearing clothes in clubs such as his would undermine the ambiance he is trying to create, one where social nudity prevails. Letting guests wear clothes for reasons other than for comfort in cold or wet weather could lead to a situation where none of them are naked at any point during their stay, as shown by what has happened, is happening, to Cap d’Agde. In that case, why promote yourself as a naturist venue?

The argument is a strong one and for establishments that are a mixture of club and resort, like Bare Oaks, I can see the point. The Clover, however, isn’t a club but a hotel and it needs people to occupy its rooms. For a naturist to argue against social nudity may seem odd, but in these circumstances I believe a softening of the policy is justified if the hotel is to survive. The figures do not lie; the UK naked-tourist market is just not big enough to sustain a hotel of the kind Higgs has created, even if it only has seven rooms. Higgs admitted that in creating the hotel, his heart ruled the head a little bit. Yet, if he had given more thought to where his guests are most likely to originate from before he embarked on the substantial changes to a large residential house were made, the alterations would have taken it into account. The reception could be strictly clothed, the dining and living rooms could be clothes optional, with the rest of the hotel – the larger part incidentally – strictly clothes free. It isn’t a matter of all nude, dressed or clothes optional, but what is most appropriate in any given circumstance.

Another part of the hotel operation that rankled ever so slightly with Polizzi was Higgs’ version of fine dining. As Polizzi admitted, it was good tasty food but it all come out of a packet and the kitchen resounded to the ping of a microwave rather then hiss of a gas ring. Having spent, by his own calculation, the better part of £1 million to create his hotel, why Higgs hadn’t engaged a part-time chef to create the evening meals from scratch is a question I waited in vain to be asked. At least that would be more in keeping with the niche hotel that Higgs was trying to create, with rooms costing between £70 and £140 per night.

What we must recognise, however, is that Higgs and others like him are pioneers. Nude tourism barely exists in this country. Yet there is a nascent industry developing, mostly B&Bs, as evidenced by the website Naturist Accommodation UK (https://naco.org.uk), and little is done to encourage further development, increasing the number and broadening the range of accommodation offered. In an article for the travel section of the South African-based Independent Online, Journalist Cynthia Johnston was able to quote the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) as stating that US nude tourism is worth around $440 million annually and that it had risen by 10 per cent over the last decade. Can anyone tell me what the British nude tourist industry is worth? I fear not, as this data is not collected.

I know it is a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine, but I cannot shake the gut instinct that nude tourism has a place in UK naturism too, providing an extra revenue stream for clubs. The history of UK naturism differs markedly from that in the US, of course, where the profit motive has been used to increase the range of facilities provided. In the UK, almost all of the clubs have developed to satisfy the needs of its members and tourism has played little or no part in its development. It may be decades away, but like any new industry, UK nude tourism must start somewhere. Some data about what already exists would be helpful, a quality assurance scheme, similar to that already offered by the British Tourist Board for B&Bs, would be even better, as it would confirm and drive up standards. Yet, the two organisations for which this role would be a natural home are silent on the matter.

In creating The Clover Spa and Hotel, Tim Higgs has placed his family’s life’s savings at risk and it would be a pity if this brave adventurer were to go under. Maybe Higgs needs to listen to the voice of experience in Alex Polizzi, but UK naturism should definitely give him and others, more support.

[CORRECTION: I have been told by an impeccable source the BN survey referred to above showed that potentially there are 4 million naturists in the UK, not 2 million as I wrote. Surely, with a potential market this size for niche hoteliers, B&Bs and clubs with holiday accommodation it only needs the right kind of support, to get established. RWB 21/08/12]

A footnote on the “did she or didn’t she” argument about Alex Polizzi’s “naked” appearance in the show. The programme’s narrative suggested that she did sample the hotel naked, but it wasn’t filmed. It is just a shame that high profile personalities are so reluctant to admit even a brief dalliance with naturism.

Demonstrators Wanted (part 2)

It has been pointed out to me that in my enthusiasm for taking The London Question beyond the naturist community that I have been clumsy with my words. The use of the phrase “flash-mob type” has given the wrong impression to people for which I apologise.

This year, London has already played a major part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and, of course, we are currently enjoying the Olympics. For both events the Metropolitan Police Service has – is – mounting large security operations and we saw no strategic advantage for naturism in adding to their woes. This summer we shall be conducting a “proof of concept” and quieter demonstration at a time and date yet to be determined, with just a few selected participants. Next year, well that’s another matter entirely and NAG will not rule out civil disobedience as a means to gain publicity for issues that effect UK naturists.

I am sorry to disappoint anyone, and hope you are still interested in helping us to put naturist issues before the public then contact us with your email and/or mobile number. Please read our privacy policy and be assured that your details will not be passed on to third parties or used for any other purpose. Thank you for your assistance.
Yours sincerely
Reg Barlow,
Chairman, Naturist Action Group

Abbey House Gardens

You may be aware that Abbey House Gardens, at Malmesbury in Wiltshire, is a beautiful large garden that holds ‘clothes optional’ days throughout the summer. AHG is the home of the Naked Gardeners  Ian and Barbara Pollard, their ‘clothes optional’ days are loved by naturists who, when the weather is good, flock to AHG in their hundreds.

 

NAG supporters will be able to meet up at AHG on Sunday 12 August 2012. We know that some are planning to attend from London, Oxford, Bristol, and Spielplatz are organising a minibus, will you also be there? AHG is open from 11.00am – 5.30pm for a modest admission charge. To find out more about AHG, postcode SN16 9AS, you can check out their website www.abbeyhousegardens.co.uk

Food is often available at the gardens, but an assortment of drinks and snacks are always available, and the town centre with all it’s amenities is just a short walk away, or you can take a picnic!

 

Parking – The car park is free on Sundays and bank holidays, but please check the signs by the pay and display meters, the local parking wardens love to pick off naturist’s vehicles parked without tickets or parked on double yellow lines!

US Artist wins BP Portrait Award with Nude

Not strictly naturist, but the winner of this year’s BP Portrait Award has been announced. NY-based artist Aleah Chapin’s Auntie is a full-length portrait of an “older” woman. The portrait is just one of a series of portraits of women created by Ms Chapin, all of whom are real and not altered to appear ‘perfect’.

You can see the picture by going to The Independent article, or to the artist’s website.

The nude has been a staple of artists for centuries of course, but does this selection signify that society is becoming used to the naked body, and is it a good thing? Does it improve our chances to gain greater acceptance for naturism, or do you think nothing has changed? Tell us what you think.

Change S5 Campaign

After the publication of the article on Steve Gough in April a few comments were made here, which were broadly supportive. Oddly enough, not long afterwards – and purely by coincidence – Gough came up as a topic of conversation on the Yahoo group forum, naturists UK that confirmed my opinion on how divisive he is among naturists and I don’t suppose it will end any time soon.

I have no intention to go over old ground, however I would like to pursue an idea that was put forward (by Peter Knight, as it happens) among the comments; that we should use Gough’s plight in Scotland to gain publicity about the wider problems naturists have when they encounter the justice system. We could, and I believe we should.

Gough is held under the common law offence of breach of the (monarch’s) peace, which the Court of Appeal in R v Howell, has defined as: ‘an act done or threatened to be done which either actually harms a person, or in his presence, his property, or is likely to cause such harm being done.’ [1] However, following Bibby v Chief

Clothing Optional: the way forward?

Towards the end of March the Daily Telegraph reported that Welsh naturists wanted part of Newborough Beach in Anglesey to be designated nudist. The article said the beach was often described as one of the best beaches in Wales, and it went on to say how it included Llanddwyn Island – named after the patron saint of Welsh lovers – and that it had been used in filming the romantic thriller Half Light in 2004 (and starred Demi Moore) and Clash of the Titans in 2009. But what really got the journalists’ nose twitching is that Prince William is stationed as a RAF Search and Rescue helicopter pilot not very far away and held out the prospect of our future King and Queen encountering naked subjects while walking their dog.

The beach has been attracting naturists for a number of years and the article stated that British Naturism claimed that ‘official status would make a big difference and benefit local tourism’. Does it? I have in the past agreed that it might provide a boost to the local tourist industry if a town embraced naturism but at the same time I called for research to back up such a claim. Just saying it does, doesn’t make it so and if BN or anyone else is going to be quoted stating that naturism makes good commercial sense then the local authorities will want to know how they arrived at that conclusion. If they cannot point to the research then their statements will ring hollow and any future pronouncements made by them will be dismissed without a second look.

Phil Penson, the landlord of the Joiner’s Arms in the neighbouring town of Malltraeth was quoted as saying that the beach was for everyone’s use and he saw no problem with naturism, as long as ‘it is kept under control’. Control? What did he mean by that! A clue might come from a quote by BN’s Commercial Manager, Andrew Welch, throwing that organisation’s weight behind the designation as ‘It takes away the hassle factor because a lot of people see naturism as illegal.’ They might, but is seeking some kind of “official” status the right way to go about informing the public that there is no law banning public nudity? I contest that it isn’t, in fact I’d go further and suggest that it will only make matters worse.

There is a disparity between the law, allowing public nudity and British social norms that causes much ringing of hands by council officers. A Carmarthenshire council spokesman told the BBC News website that: ‘If genuine naturists turn up and aren’t causing distress, life goes on. … [but] there are other group types who would possibly commit acts of gross indecency or lewd behaviour in front of our visitors.’ In order to “control” these “types” of undesirable people, councils have taken a sledgehammer to the problem by banning naturism from their beaches. A few though have designated certain beaches where nudity is permitted; usually well away from their main beaches and hence from any facilities like toilets or places to obtain refreshments.

The thing about designating a beach, or some other secluded public area, for naturist use is that it suggests to the non-naturist that it is not for them, while at the same time it acts like a magnet to every undesirable scallywag within driving distance. These can range from the almost harmless voyeur to the equally pathetic dogger who sees the naturist designation as permission to excite their otherwise dull sex-lives by fornicating in a public place, which is illegal. Naturism and naturists have been complaining about these hangers on for a very long time, but their protests have largely been impotent simply because the distinction between the legitimate naturist and the illegal dogger has been blurred, and the police can not tell the difference. After all, one naked body looks like any other when it’s running around trying not to get caught.

Yet, in some ways I cannot help thinking that we (naturists) have not helped matters by allowing a “live and let live” attitude to prevail within that portion of the naturist community who prefer open fields and beaches. By not challenging what we would consider as unacceptable behaviour in any other walk of life, we are in essence, accessories to an illegal act and it is up to us to tell these fake naturists that they are not welcome.

Back to the main theme of this piece however, the Naturist Action Group has chosen a different path to BN and our policy is that ALL beaches should be clothes optional. This way the clothed and unclothed, and

Is Naturism really just for the ‘old’?

What prompted this question was an article written by journalist Douglas Belkin, and originally published in The Wall Street Journal. I know; it’s like the Financial Times publishing a long article about British naturism by… oh picking a name at random, Stephanie Flanders. Anyway, the WSJ article told its readers how the memberships for The Naturist Society (TNS) and AANR had either flat-lined or declined steadily over the years, and what they were doing to correct the situation.

Of course, this is not a new problem and it is not confined to the US. Mark Storey looked at the issue for N Magazine and found declining memberships around the world. British naturism hasn’t been immune either. As I understand it, the latest membership figures for BN continue to show a slow, steady decline year-on-year. This is for individual memberships of course; the number of clubs is more-or-less static.

From the US perspective, Nicky Hoffman of The Naturist Society made perhaps the most telling remark. ‘The problem is, most… resorts aren’t geared [towards] young people. They’ve become like retirement homes; they’ve sort of calcified.’ What Ms Hoffman meant by this is that many of the resort (or clubs in the UK) have remained static offering nothing to entertain the more energetic beyond Miniten or volleyball. In the end, such places become somewhere for the very old and the very young as grandparents look after their children’s children during the school holidays. Meanwhile, those between are either too busy with their careers or prefer to be with people of their own age. Belkin wrote of a young man (22) who visited a resort for the first time in 2010 and said he enjoyed being naked until he spotted someone he knew from work and roughly his father’s age. He then spent the rest of the day avoiding him. ‘It’s not that I have anything against old people,’ explained the young man. ‘I just don’t really want to hang out with them at the pool.’

Well! There’s nothing like plain speaking I guess. Being someone born more than 50-years ago and likely to be a contemporary of that young man’s father, I guess I’m now officially old!

The answer that TNS and AANR have hit on is to let the ‘younger’ members tell people of their own age what naturism is like. The young have also done something for themselves using methods, like the different forms of social media.  For example, Young Nudists and Naturists of America – again according to Belkin’s article – held a ‘naked dinner party in a loft in New York’s financial district to recruit members.’ Having naked dinner parties are not new of course, or original, but it is where they were holding it that mattered and the people it was likely to attract. Can you imagine something similar being done in the City of London?

One Facebook site that readers might remember is Skinbook, which at one time boasted a membership reaching into five figures, but was then closed down by the original owner, for reasons not all that clear. A new Skinbook has emerged, with the same goals, but it is just a shadow of what it was, although it is still comparatively new. Another young naturist doing his bit for the cause is Andre Lawson-Walters with his website, iNaked.

So, it seems the young have plenty of ideas, could it be that the older generation isn’t listening? If not then I find that rather ironic, as people in their 60s and 70s now, were the first “teenagers” and rebellion against what went before is in their blood. Some might consider the actions of teddy boys and rockabillies to be the beginning of the end as far as society goes. Then again, others may think it was a big mistake getting down from the trees in Africa! The point is we were all young once, finding our way in a world that seemed not to be made for us. If naturism is to advance at all, then we need to encourage the younger generations to come forward and, in time, take control. But first, we must listen. Now, what would YBN suggest to help British Naturism, if asked?

Michael Farrar

I cannot let this moment pass without a few words of appreciation for Michael Farrar. If you’re not familiar with the name, he was chairman of British Naturism until last June, when his resignation was announced, a year earlier than planned, and after many years of voluntary service to BN. We may not have agreed with his actions, however he did them believing them to be right, and that is the best any of us can do. So, thank you Michael, for all your hard work.

 

Measure for Measure

Not so long ago, I came across two surveys that reportedly gave an insight into British sunbathing habits and supported the notion that nude sunbathing is as popular as ever, if not more so. The first was by CruiseCompare.co.uk, which asked 1,271 people if they had ever sunbathed nude while on holiday, and astonishingly, nine per cent said they had. Of that nine percent, over half (59 per cent) then went on to say that they felt more comfortable (secure) sunbathing naked while on a cruise ship.

In the same survey, 17 per cent of all respondents said they had visited a nudist beach while on holiday and a further 11 per cent said they would like to, just out of curiosity.

The other survey was much more straightforward. This came from TripAdvisor.com who simply asked their respondents: would you bare all at a nude beach? Of its UK respondents, 49 per cent said yes compared to 30 per cent who said no, with the remainder undecided. They got similar results for Australia, US, Canada and Europe (which presumably means everywhere but the UK). Perhaps surprisingly, all five regions surveyed provided positive results in favour of nude sunbathing. Both Europe (55 per cent) and Australia (52 per cent) saw more than half of the respondents answering yes, while the US equalled the UK’s figure with Canada trailing just one percentage point behind. In the US, just 32 per cent of the respondents said they wouldn’t ‘bare all’ and in Canada it was even fewer, 29 per cent.

These figures are quite remarkable, considering all the negative news we hear from North America, and suggest that naturism – or at least sunbathing in the absence of clothing – is becoming more commonplace in much of the old world and English speaking nations.

Only lets look at those two surveys again. While they certainly give a positive spin on the idea of social nudity, the first is obviously an advertising puff by CruiseCompare.co.uk to support its business; to get more holidaymakers onto cruise ships. A question you would have to ask is where did the company find its 1,271 respondents? From its own customer database! Then of course the majority of its customers, who admit to sunbathing nude, will say they prefer doing so onboard a ship. The second survey from TripAdvisor.com is hard to understand because there seems to be no logic to it or its publication. The Internet site allows individuals to post reviews of where they have been on holiday or ask vox pop questions. This particular question was asked by someone who admitted to being in the undecided camp, fearful of getting “a nasty sunburn or… sand stuck in a sensitive area.” So we are left with a survey that has an unknown number of respondents for each region surveyed, who selected themselves for an unknown reason other than to get the Internet site’s name mentioned in the news media, which some would say was reason enough.

To put it bluntly, these two surveys are so full of holes they could be used as a sieve, if necessary and are of little use to naturism. That does not mean, however, that a survey will not be beneficial.

News that British Naturism will be going ahead with a new survey about the acceptability of naturism in the UK has slowly leaked out and this is very welcome news. It gives them, and naturism in general, the means to better understand the British psyche when it comes to nude recreation, which is so important when campaigning groups marshal their arguments in support of the lifestyle.

I have long advocated the repeat of the 2001 survey for two main reasons. First, it acts as a check against the original results, now a decade old, to see if more or fewer Britons find social nudity acceptable. Secondly, it allows BN an opportunity to refine the survey, to obtain more accurate results. I know I’ve mentioned this before but one of the weaknesses of the first survey was how it asked a good opening question but didn’t get underneath the answer given, which would have provided a stronger result. For example, one of the questions asked if the respondent had ever swum or sunbathed naked. The way it was asked, the answer yes could be given, even if they were a 20-something at the time and were now in their 40s or 50s, if not older, and had never been nude in public again. This – unfortunately – puts doubt on BN’s claim to represent 1.5 million naturists in the UK.

But lets end on a positive note. For all of its faults ­– and there aren’t many – BN’s survey is important because of what it represents, a move away from subjective arguments in favour of naturism to objective ones, based on field work conducted by experts. The reason why the Naturist Action Group is an evidenced-based campaigning organisation is because objective arguments make it easier to persuade politicians and businessmen and women to listen to us than if we used arguments that relied purely on conjecture or someone’s opinion. Naturism could follow those commercial surveys mentioned above, of course, but any flaws in them will soon be discovered and exploited by our opponents.

NAG continues to gather the data that will enable us to understand the justice system’s attitude and current practice when it comes to legal public nudity. This will enable NAG to put a strong case to organisations like ACPO and the Home Office that, while naturism may be lawful, the different parts of the justice system treat naturists who come into contact with it, inconsistently. This is not a project that will be quickly resolved; diligent work is slow and painstaking. We are also considering information gathered from the London Question which, if successful, could have implications far wider than just the capital. To be successful, however, naturism will needs to show the

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