As British Naturism gains 1,000 new members, i talks to the naturist community about why nudity doesn’t have to be sexual, and how they’re trying to erode taboos
For some people, lockdown has been a chance to try their hand at baking or finally reading War and Peace. For others, it’s been the time to discover that they like to be naked. Last year i reported an increase in members of British Naturism (BN). The organisation gained 50 new members in March 2020, and then 160 in April, which, while not big numbers, was a “big percentage rise” for BN.
Now, i has returned to the naturist community to find out how things are looking a year on. “There have now been well over 1,000 new members joining British Naturism,” says the organisation’s spokesperson Andrew Welch. “We have more members than we’ve had for years.” British Naturism has during the pandemic hosted hundreds of events and workshops such as Naked Kitchen where naturist Pam Fraser leads a naked cook-a-long, naked yoga, a naked book club and a naked pub quiz. There is also The Great British Take Off, a one-day event launched last May, which encourages the nation to bare all in their back gardens (this year’s is on 22 May – and if you feel the need to get some practise in, Saturday 1st May is World Naked Gardening Day).
“We now have more members,” says Welch, “but of course, there is no metric on how many people are perfectly happy being naked on their own or with others. There are lots of people out there who might not call themselves a naturist, but they enjoy spending time with no clothes on.” Chris Hood, a 43-year-old photographer and artist from Grimsby, has noticed a greater acceptance of the lifestyle. “For the first time, I’ve spoken openly about it with family, friends and work colleagues because of the positivity I feel from it,” he tells i. “The majority of responses have been curious and good, open conversations have been had. I think most people can identify the difference between nudity and sex. Nudity can simply be just nudity.”
Hood suspects that naturism has gone more mainstream “because people have spent much more time at home and really starting thinking about themselves in a new way. The chances of visitors calling round was suddenly limited, there was often no need to get dressed, whether that meant staying in pyjamas all day or stripping off completely, everyone was given a bit more freedom. This was maybe the first time people experienced being naked outdoors without thinking of it as being naturism.”
Donna Price, 55, from Spilsby, Lincolnshire, enjoys naked rambling, and runs the Women in Naturism campaign. She says she has recently had friends try out naturism for the first time. “I encourage more women to try this wonderfully liberating lifestyle.” Another naturist, Darren, says that he’s had more friends try his lifestyle recently too, and that the pandemic has allowed them to deviate from the day-to-day routine of going out and planning outfits. “The benefit for me is better body positivity, confidence and mental health,” he says. He has also found British Naturism’s promotion of inclusivity and diversity heartening, something he feels strongly about as a young black man. “Increased membership and breaking down that social stigma that comes with nudity could easily bring about more spaces for naturism like designated beaches.”
Original publication 30 April, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 19th June 2021
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