There have been many articles in the press recently about the visit by 161 naturists to a modern art gallery in Paris. They report that there are 2.7 million naturists in France and that 30,000 people asked for tickets for this event via Facebook. There are 2.24 million people living in Paris. There are about 65 million people living in France and the demographics are similar to the U.K., except the population density is much lower (http://www.worldometers.info/population/europe/). So simple maths suggests that 3.4% of the French population are naturists, which equates to 77,000 in Paris. So, either nearly 40% of Parisian naturists wanted a ticket, or people were willing to travel into Paris to take part. Either way that is amazing. By all accounts this seemingly huge interest in naturist events includes the younger generations and according to the social commentators such activity is a way of dealing with the current instability in the world. A kind of protest, as naturism was between to the two World wars.
Of course this does not mean that the long term decline of the social club is likely to reverse. For the older generation, clubs represent a cheap way of socialising and the club officers grind through the practice of governing clubs through long AGMs and long rulebooks, probably providing stability. For younger people, enjoying yourself is about purchasing an experience. There is no commitment, no goal other than to have an experience to recount.
So here is the dichotomy for us in the U.K. The British have a fascination with nudity and it would seem likely that the simple pleasure of going naked must be enjoyed by a similar proportion of the U.K. population to that of France. However, 'le difference' is that in the U.K. naturism is not to be mentioned and naturists hide away in case they are ridiculed or worse. I think that many British naturists only take off their clothes when they are not likely to be recognised - i.e. when on holiday abroad. So organising naturist events in Britain is difficult, to say the least.
In Eastbourne we have naked yoga. Some weeks it looks like it will take off and on others we have to cancel due to lack of numbers. No one seems to realise that a yoga teacher needs to earn an income and hiring a room is not free. Worse, we are all concerned that the mainstream yoga fraternity find out who is teaching us!
So in Paris they have 3 naturist swims a week, you can dine naked in a naturist restaurant and you can sunbathe in the nude in a public park (though not publicly). In France you can do many other things without wearing clothes, but walking in the countryside naked is against the law. Here is where England and Wales are more progressive than many other countries. Since 2003, Parliament has recognised that simply being naked is not a crime. This fact was not, however, recognised by the authorities until more recently and may have escaped the notice of the general public altogether. After many failed prosecutions of naturists in England the Crown Prosecution Service issued some guidelines on the treatment of naturists. In the last few weeks the College of Policing has briefed that naturists have a right to freedom of expression and if simply going about their lawful business in the nude, then no police action is required should someone make a report.
BN (British Naturism) have reported this recognition concerning naturist activity in public as a triumph, which they were involved in bringing about. It is amazing how your attitude to life can be changed almost in an instant. Since this recognition was reported, I no longer feel that we naturists are the last section of people to be discriminated against and we no longer need to feel nervous when out in our wonderful countryside communing with nature - or doing an 11 mile riverside walk in the nude as we were last Monday.
Businesses are also used to non-discrimination. A nudist pound is not different from a non-nudist pound. When I contact venues they are often looking for a way to cater for us. Of course the public at large must still be protected from unsavoury sights for fear, I guess, that all standards will go by the board. However, the last step of the progress of naturism in the U.K. over the last 80 years remains still to educate the general population that bodies are not inherently bad and need to be hidden away. We may need another law to address discrimination against people who cannot look like the airbrushed standards, but surely you owe it to yourself to find out why naturism appeals to so many, even when such social stigma is doled out by those who have no idea what it is about.
Naturism is the practise of social nudity. We think it is a lifestyle choice - the choice to decide not to wear clothes and it can be far more comfortable. For swimming, once you have swum without a costume, you will never go back – we believe they are pointless. Any naturist will tell you that to feel the air, the sun and the water on bare skin, is one of the most life affirming and amazing experiences one can have. Naturism removes stress and gives you a confidence and sense of calm and safety. Naturists are tolerant and friendly. Without clothes we accept people for who they really are and we make no judgements.