There are probably a lot of people in Britain who enjoy being naked but don’t feel there is any point in joining British Naturism. I think that they are doing a lot of things which should really matter to you, even if you don’t see any immediate direct benefit. Hence they do deserve your support. For foreign readers, the same thing applies to your own naturist associations or federations.
When I first took an interest in naturism I joined BN, as a matter of course. At the time I was working part time to pay my way through university and did not have much money to spare. I soon found that there were no local clubs which I could attend. There was a nudist swimming group, but they didn’t allow single men. Most of the events which BN hosted were far away and the ones which appealed to me were quite expensive. During my first year I went to a beach day (4 hours drive away) and Abbey house gardens (2 hours drive away) but did not get any benefit from my BN membership. The following year I let my membership lapse, thinking that the BN membership was an unnecessary expense. However, as I continued to keep an interest in naturism and naturist affairs, I soon realised that BN was doing a lot of things which mattered to me.
What has BN done for us?
I’ll start with the most obvious, and for me the least important things.
Clubs: There are quite a few naturist clubs in Britain. Some require BN membership. Others are cheaper with BN membership. If you plan on joining one, then joining BN makes financial sense. I’m not in a good location for clubs and a lot of nudists, especially younger ones, aren’t very keen to join clubs, so they may not offer any incentive for you.
Special Events: It is only a week until Nudefest. A week long event in Cornwall, with bands, adventure activities, dancing and a whole lot more. BN host a number of events which provide opportunities for non-club naturists to meet and socialise with other naturists. They host a nudist weekend at Alton Towers, another in Blackpool, Nude-Fest, the Midsummer Garden Party at the Arboretum at Castle Howard and in the north of England BN has Nudestock. These events provide more activities than the typical nudist clubs. They also have a wider range of appeal and there is no discrimination against single male nudists. Most of them are open to both members and non-members, but the discount for members for even one of the larger events members more than covers the membership cost.
Information: For someone who is new to naturism there is a need to know where you can go to be naked. At which beaches is nude bathing accepted? What events go on in the year? What clubs exist? What is the law regarding nudity in the UK? There are a lot of posts online providing such information. Some of it is excellent. Other sites are out of date or simply inaccurate. It is useful to have a group like BN whose website provides all this information.
You do not need to join BN to get the information. They provide advice online which is free to anyone. Members get quarterly magazines with information on clubs and events, but that information is all available online. The magazine also has a lot of articles which might be of interest. A lot of it is about foreign holiday venues for people with a lot more money than I have. One of the more regular contributors of articles seems to want to shut herself away from the non nudist world and has a very negative attitude towards integration and clothing optional events, which I found quite disagreeable. During my years with BN I’ve found very little of interest in the magazine which I didn’t already know about from the BN website, or from discussion on naturist forums. The main benefit which BN provides is available to everyone. You do not need to join to benefit from BN, but you will benefit from them
Representation: How many naturists are there in the UK? I don’t know the answer, but one of the most common ways to estimate the figure is by looking at the membership of groups like BN. BN is not the only group representing nudists in the UK, but it is the largest and most well known. If an issue arises which effects nudists, it is useful to have a group like BN which can be seen to represent our interests. It is a group which can publicise our needs and put forward our view. It can help to combat the ignorant misconceptions that many people have about naturism. There are a lot of pressure groups out there who have a knee-jerk aversion to nudity. these mainly seem to be religious groups, but not exclusively so. In order to make sure that people continue to have the freedom to be able to appear outside naked there needs to be a group which can speak on our behalf. There has to be a group which can be taken seriously, as a respectable organisation which represents naturists. One which will be respected by the legal authorities of the country. It is also important that naturists can project a relatively unified front in defence of naturism.
In the past BN has had mixed success in protecting the interests of naturists. They have been ale to do a great job in working with other local interest groups to clean up the image of Studland beach, and the nudist section is being expanded. Nudity in the UK has been increasingly accepted in recent years, with a growing number of nude events taking place. However BN have been allowed no say in the decision to close Holkham beach to nudists.
As far as the government is concerned naturists are a minority interest group. The larger, more vocal, more respectable and more unified we can appear to be, the more likely the government is to take notice of our concerns. The more we support BN the more respect and authority they will have, and hence the more they can support us. This is an important reason to be seen to support BN.
The Law: It is currently legal to be naked in public in England and Wales, as long as it is not with the intent to cause distress. However not a lot of non-nudists seem to know this. Wearing clothes is taken for granted so much that it is assumed that not wearing clothes must be against the law.
In 2009 a man in Springfield, Virginia was arrested for being naked in his own house, when I passer by saw him making coffee in his kitchen. To me this case seems absurd and it would certainly not have been illegal in the UK, but there are several cases of people engaged in harmless naked activities being arrested.
In March 2011 a 62 year old Gloucestershire man was arrested when his neighbor saw him gardening in the nude. In July 2010 a 53 year old man in Bournemouth was arrested for cycling to the beach whilst nude. In both cases BN was there to support the legal rights of the individuals, and to make it clear that being naked was not in itself illegal. In October 2012 Nigel Keer was arrested by an off duty policeman when he came across him out for a naked walk in the countryside. These are just a few examples that I know of, but I am sure there were a lot more. With support from BN the charges against Nigel were overturned.
BN helps to protect our legal right to be naked but how long will this continue to be the case?
A recent antisocial behaviour bill, intended to target the distress caused by yobs, has a wording which is so open that it could make absolutely anything and everything illegal. It makes it possible for courts to impose injunction on anyone causing ‘nuisance or annoyance’.
Think about all the things which people might find annoying. Loud music, trousers worn half way down your bum, chatting whilst blocking a doorway, being naked in public, Jehovas witnesses, the X-factor, Justin Bieber, farting, being smug, telling someone to eat their greens. The list goes on. Anything that is a nuisance or annoying becomes potentially illegal. Traffic wardens are definitely a nuisance if you want to get parked. Will the judges arrest them all?
I’m making light of it, but if the bill goes ahead, all it would take is for a single judge to be opposed to a particular act and that act becomes illegal. If a judge doesn’t think people should bathe naked, then they can press charges for it. This is a huge issue which doesn’t just effect nudists. It potentially gives overwhelming power to the courts. What about public protests? If the local court decides that a peaceful protest is a nuisance, then it becomes a crime.
BN have been trying to oppose this bill. Highlighting the potential abuses which could occur. This is not the first time legal changes have been proposed which threaten naturism. BN have been fighting for our way of life and in order to win they need our support.
I don’t belong to a nudist club, I rarely go to BN events. I don’t currently profit from being a member of BN, but I do profit from their existence and I definitely do profit from supporting them. That is why I think British Naturism matters to anyone in the UK who has an interest in naturism, even if you never intend to participate in any event organised by BN.