Recently, I spent the weekend at the British Naturism National Convention and AGM at Yarnfield Park in Stone, Staffordshire. It’s the third such convention in as many years and the first I’ve attended.
British Naturism, in common with many naturist organisations and clubs, has been facing a gradual reduction in membership, a pale reflection of the people who claim to be naturists in the U.K. which is in the region of four million. We are a niche community or tribe if you’d like to describe us as such but four million is still a healthy percentage of the total population. Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics show the population was at 64.1 million in June 2013, a rise of 0.63% on the previous year.
With this in mind, British Naturism’s current membership standing at less than 10,000 members, only reflects a small percentage of UK naturists but pleasingly I learnt at the weekend, 40% of the members are women. We’re not alone. Other European countries, notably the Germans who are well known as being at the vanguard of naturism/nudism in Europe, are reporting a decline in membership of official naturist/nudist organisations. Most people will be aware of the German FKK movement, namely Freikoerperkultur, Free Body Culture and Expedia’s annual survey of beach customs singles the Germans out at the most likely to sunbathe naked, with 28% claiming to have spent the day at the beach in the ‘buff.’
Kurt Fischer, President of the German Federation of Naturist Clubs (DFK) told the Agence France Press the number of members of Germany’s 145 nudists clubs has fallen to fewer than 40,000, based on a survey conducted in July 2014.
So how relevant are national organisations and naturist clubs nowadays with individual naturists appearing to prefer to exercise their naturism outside organised naturism? In my opinion, very but admittedly I fall firmly within the average age group of 50-60 year old at 52.
I’m a member of British Naturism, Spielplatz Naturist Club near St Albans, Hertfordshire and a dynamic club Diogenes Sun Club in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, which has an increasing rather than a decreasing membership, although the current membership of 300 still has a way to go before it reaches its peak of 340 members.
Diogenes also has a wide age range of members as a family-friendly naturist club or sun club as they’re laughably called in the UK considering the amount of sun we are blessed with. It’s easy enough for people to comprehend why naturism makes sense when it’s hot and sticky but less easy to understand when the weather is cold, damp and raining. We’re not a summer-only community though and one distinct advantage of being a member of a naturist club, swim or organisation is that you’re not confined to the vagaries of the weather in the UK. Most clubs have enclosed community areas where naturists can enjoy their naturism, whatever the weather and organisations such as British Naturism schedule, manage and host wide range of events during the course of the year, in addition to the vital work they carry out, protecting the rights of naturists and liaising with the media. These events allow naturists to spend time together in a naturist-friendly environment, where you know you can relax and enjoy your naturism without prying eyes or base judgements from non naturists, or textiles as some naturists will label them. Not all events are member-only and most naturist clubs provide non member events and some clubs and swims open access, although they will also have their own safeguards in place to deter would-be visitors who don’t share a naturist perspective.
With many naturists first encountering naturism on holiday, skinny dipping or a naturist swim such as the Naturist London swim can often be people’s first encounter with the joys of naturism and the feeling of freedom it confers. Sport is an integral part of the naturist community with swimming, volleyball, running, cycling, petanque, minten (short tennis) amongst other sports,all jostling for position. As naturists we enjoy all the pursuits non naturists enjoy, it’s just that we prefer to be naked.
The internet has certainly made it easier for would-be naturists to discover naturist-friendly places. British Naturism’s website is an excellent resource for planning a holiday which incorporates naturism or is centred around naturism, with dedicated holiday advisors on hand to assist their members or naturists/nudists from overseas.
You’ll soon find if you try naturism/nudism out, it’s a great social leveller. People tend to be more real and honest divested of their clothing. After all, there’s nothing to hide and clothes can readily sexualise or indicate your social standing. The naturist community is a friendly, supportive community. Naturists share a similar outlook and there’s a lot of talent within the community which is very artistic and self sufficient, representing as most ‘tribes’ do, all sectors of society, from the shop floor to the boardroom.
The British Naturism’s annual convention gives members chance to discuss not only the issues that beset us as a community but also the positive aspects of naturism. It’s an opportunity for naturists to spend time together in naturist mode, i.e. naked. Far from being a sexually charged environment which non naturists or textiles sometimes presume, a naturist setting is probably as far removed from being sexual as you can imagine. There’s an easy relaxed accord in a naturist environment you simply don’t find anywhere else and as a woman, I feel far more comfortable spending my free time in a naturist setting as opposed to a non naturist setting. Most naturist men (and women) are more respectful and supportive of their own gender and the opposite sex and there’s a companionship and understanding that’s borne out of shared interests and a common philosophy.
Part 2 about the Convention to follow