What’s up with the Naked Village? Review: Emma James

This was originally posted on facebook on the Young Naturists and Nudists America forum on facebook, in response to a request for my perspective on the Naked Village which I took part in during the summer of 2014.  

The Naked Village is an informative documentary. I was fascinated with the interviews with the founder’s daughter and the old footage but I had hoped it would show more of what we are about as naturists and nudists and why we choose to be part of this community.


Toni Ash and Steve Jones in the club house at Spielplatz

I thought the documentary was well done in the main and far from shying away from genitalia, it was rather a focus, unnecessarily so at times.

I’d like to see a documentary made about our community by a woman and one who is already a naturist/nudist so there’s that understanding there. That said, it was generally sensitive and a humorous portrayal at times but the focus was a bit narrow.

Spielplatz actually has a lot to offer but traditionally they’ve not leveraged their marketing well and far from struggling to appeal to younger people, they have been very welcoming to Young British Naturists (YBN) when they have hosted them for weekends.

Like most clubs they have an events programme and put on regular gigs with some very good musicians. Music is a real focus for Spielplatz just as it is at the Naturist Foundation in Kent, another rural site.

I think it’s a shame more of the energy, activism, charitable and ecological work the community typifies and embraces wasn’t evident and the focus was more upon inter-club politics. I was there for both the naked yoga and body art and I’d no idea someone had been asked to leave.

I know Director Dan and the crew from Daisybeck Studios who produced the documentary for Channel 4 really enjoyed getting to know the community and wanted to give us chance to showcase naturism. There’s no doubt it’s more of a talking point in what is British Naturism’s 50th year so we are topical anyway but it was a rather tired rendition which implied a crumbling, decaying, outmoded community struggling to adapt and change. Most clubs have a dynamic and a sedentary side and this was an affectionate but flat portrayal I felt of somewhere which actually has a lot to offer, a short distance from central London. Sadly it isn’t likely to inspire many people to try naturism out for themselves and the body art section got a bit weird in parts but so much can be inferred through clever editing and the direction the programme takes.

It really mirrored My Daughter the Teenage Nudist in its focus whereas the older and younger naturists do comfortably co-exist at many clubs/events. For a documentary to make a mark though they normally need a point of contention and actually the whole concept of purist naturism or a more relaxed clothing-optional stance for newbies really resonated with my textile friends. So if nothing else it has inspired a debate about the way forward and Spielplatz themselves have received lots of web hits and presumably enquiries.  It may well be aired on Channel 4 in the future which would generate even more coverage so the debate is far from over. That will light the blue touchpaper!

Guardian review by Julia Rayside 12 December 2014 ‘The Naked Village – review: the hopes and fears of a nudist colony laid bare.’  Why oh why do non naturists insist on the outmoded term nudist colony or naturist colony?  We’re not bees!

I forgot to mention the fun we have too in my review above.  After all, if we didn’t enjoy our naturism/nudism, we wouldn’t do it basically.

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Emma James with Spielplatz on tour with Daisybeck at Abbey House Gardens, Summer 2014




17 thoughts on “What’s up with the Naked Village? Review: Emma James

  1. A very nice write-up. I have nothing but respect for the great efforts that the majority of folks put in to try and present both Spielplatz and naturism in the best light. It wasn’t the ideal documentary die-hard naturists would have wanted, but it was never going to be. I guess we should be thankful that objectivity was at least attempted by the producers.

    Two paragraphs caught my attention though. In the paragraph that mentions YBN you have cunningly attempted a little mis-direction. Being ‘welcoming’ is not the same as ‘attracting’ or ‘appealing to’. Here’s a key question…would Spielplatz open their doors to an event where a limitied number of students were invited over (with conditions and policing) from the University of Hertfordshire by advertising openly through the Student Union? The club might get no-one attend…or they may attract the maximum. Lay on party with music etc…A ‘build it and they will come’ attempt. Has this been tried? Would the club be open to trying that? If not…the committee must ask itself what’s stopping them. If the club folds then its all moot but why not try?

    The second paragraph that made me think was the one were you mention the undocumented “energy, activism, charitable and ecological work the club typifies” and how you were sad that this didn’t come across….but…where is this documented already? Point me to the examples on the Spielplatz website that show this. I don’t see this written down anywhere for the outsider to read. If Spielplatz wants to get its ‘energy’ across then it needs to do its own work, and not just wait on others to demostration it for them.

    Genuine energy and direction are the two key drivers clubs need.

    • Thank you for your comment Simon. Director Dan did a great job of showing naturism in situ unusually from within the confines of a club where cameras/film crews are rarely permitted and as we both know, that’s true of the community at large so yes Spielplatz and it’s members have provided a platform for UK naturism , facilitating dialogue and debate and providing some insight into the community to non naturists.

      Regarding your points, I can only speak from direct experience. I know that Spielplatz endeavour to make their guests welcome and they are one of the few clubs in the UK providing day membership access which is vital to single naturists and would-be naturists who can find it more difficult to gain membership of clubs and indeed some naturist swims!

      Spielplatz also strive to lay on age appropriate events/entertainment. I can’t speak on behalf of Spielplatz. You would have to direct your question to them about a group from the University of Hertfordshire visiting. However, my daughter celebrated her 24th at Spielplatz recently with nine girlfriends and they had a wonderful time. The members of Spielplatz made them all very welcome and one of their designated massage therapists came in especially to treat them. They were offered a disco as entertainment but wanted a chilled weekend. I believe she is going to write about the weekend for the next British Naturism magazine. First-time naturist experiences are always of interest to naturists and non naturists alike.

      For your second point, you’ve actually misquoted me. Substitute club for community and that sentence has a much wider context.

      Paul Stead, the Executive Producer of Daisybeck Studios has also input since you commented and is keen as we all are, for naturism and Spielplatz to thrive. Possibilities are already coming forward I’m aware of which will help to secure Spielplatz’s future. Harnessing energy and direction is key certainly, along with teamwork within the community. Companies such as Daisybeck who as I know from the interaction we had with Director Dan and his crew, are keen to work with the community whilst obviously retaining the need to create a programme which people will want to watch. An hour of naked sunbathing wouldn’t even count as performance art 😉

    • Hi Simon, if you have no luck with Spielplatz, then please contact Jackie at the Naturist Foundation, we have a spring bash at the end of May which is very close to your idea. It will also have an open day, so no cost for that day. She should be able to give you ideas on how you can promote yourself at your union, also you may wish to pass this on to your friends at other unions. We look forward to welcoming you to the Naturist Foundation.

  2. Thank you for taking time to review the programme and for your input during the production. It was a huge challenge for Dan to secure the necessary access to produce an engaging, entertaining and enlightening documentary that people would actually want to watch. I take on board all your comments tempered with those challenges that Dan encountered over the summer. Many of the residents and visitors did not want to appear on camera, including board members and shareholders. In the end we can only hold up a mirror – in other words – we can only shoot the story in front of us and I believe Dan did that to the best of his talent and integrity. The programme was well watched and I really hope that Spieplatz and naturism in general can benefit from the exposure in a positve, fruitful way. There is clearly an interest from the viewing public in the subject and we are keen to hear from anyone involved in naturism how we might work together in the future on television projects that tap into this and assist in providing a positive light, bearing in mind though the need to engage and entertain. We’re competing against hundreds of channels and millions of websites to grab audience attention. Work with us in securing fantastic content that delivers bums on seats (naked or clothed!) and we’ll do our best to help promote a beneficial view of your lifestyle.

    Spielplatz is a special, wonderful place and we all hope it thrives and survives. It certainly deserves to.
    Paul Stead
    Executive Producer
    Daisybeck Studios

    • thanks very much for your input Paul. I certainly enjoyed my time with Spielplatz and Daisybeck Studios this summer. I’ve never doubted Director Dan’s integrity, judgement and keen observational eye. Hopefully Dan will take my comments in the spirit which they were intended, constructively and we can all keep the channels of communication open with a view to the future.

  3. Two caveats before I start my comment. First, yes I am well aware that it’s not a TV production company’s job to simply provide free advertising for naturism, and yes, I know that they need to sell a story as well as appease the people who appear in it. Secondly, nobody – at least that I can see – is impugning anybody’s professional skill or integrity, which seems to be one of the concerns above.

    Nevertheless, to engage with the documentary as a final piece, I felt it was a bleak, pinched and ultimately miserable portrayal of naturism. The dramatic focus seemed to be on portraying people as out-of-touch (which may be fair for all I know) but there was little indication at any point of WHY anybody might want to be a naturist. Also, the colour palette was relentlessly grey and damp. I can’t recall seeing a glimpse of the sun at any point. Again, I’m not expecting people to pretend that the weather was something other than what it was, but it does rankle when I know that material was filmed in more pleasant circumstances that was then cut from the final doc.

    Which brings me to my main disappointment, which was the decision to include none of the material shot at Abbey House Gardens. Again, the obvious caveat – it’s particularly disappointing because this was almost certainly the last ever chance we shall have to see it on film, which isn’t the production companies problem. But I can’t help feeling that the reason that material wasn’t included is that it didn’t fit with the editorial view that naturism is about clueless old people who lock themselves away in camps of pre-fab huts on rainy days. I wasn’t at AHG on the day filming took place, but I did go last summer, and I know first-hand that there are people of all ages there, with very differing commitments to ‘naturism’ as a movement, enjoying a clothing-optional day together, and it’s sad that this just wouldn’t have fitted in with the thesis of the documentary. In the end, I was very disappointed.

  4. I have to concur with the points above. Having agreed to take part in the documentary, I too found myself feeling very disappointed with the result. The documentary showed little of the true spirit of naturism and it failed to communicate the joy and the effervescence of those who gave of their time. The body painting was edited in such a manner that it was I appeared to be f almost bordering on “seedy”, the focus being on the handling and painting of male genitalia; the theme of art itself was lost. Sorry Daisybeck; I feel very disappointed and misrepresented.

  5. I have to concur with the points above. Having agreed to take part in the documentary, I too found myself feeling very disappointed with the result. The documentary showed little of the true spirit of naturism and it failed to communicate the joy and the effervescence of those who gave of their time. The body painting was edited in such a manner that it appeared to be almost bordering on “seedy”, the focus being on the handling and painting of male genitalia; the theme of art itself was lost. Sorry Daisybeck; I feel very disappointed and misrepresented

  6. Thanks all for the comments. I’m enabling new comments and enjoying reading them through but not commenting individually because I’ve said my piece really. It’s great to see the programme encouraging debate and I look forward to meeting those of you I haven’t met or don’t know at a future naturist/event or indeed, online.

  7. I have only just seen this page.I was present at both filming days,and was actually filmed with Emma at Abbey house Gardens(being handed a leaflet about the body painting event).Considering all the filming that took place,I found the documentary rather downbeat and disappointing.I’ve been hoping for a follow up!

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