Last October we considered changing the name of our swimming club which has been named Eastbourne Naturist Swim Club for more than 35 years. We wanted to attract people to the increasing number of non-swimming events that we now do. Like Brexit, the members split down the middle - Changers and Remainers and the latter won out. However, when we advertise non-swimming events we now use the title 'East Sussex Naturists' and you are about to see more of us. Of course, you literally see all of us, but I mean we are getting about too.
We have been accepted to exhibit at the Good Life 2019 show in the new Welcome Building in Eastbourne on September 26th. Having found that younger people demonstrate a surprisingly narrow minded interest in our club, often asking pointed questions that are plainly discriminatory - what the average age of your members, how many women do you have (asked by both sexes) or what is the gender ratio, we hope to have more questions in the spirit of naturist principles at this show which is aimed at the over 50's and has a theme of well-being and health - two categories that naturists are well acquainted with. Of course, we will speak to any adult of any age as we do not discriminate at our club on any basis.
Also on the cards is a naturist walk organised by ourselves as part of the local walking festival in 2020. This festival promotes walking as a means of improving health, well-being and quality of life. This year the festival is on for 10 days and has about 75 walks available on their website, some organised with walk leaders and others are self-guided. So there is no excuse, but to get out in the green world and find the benefits of nature and exercise. The idea of forest bathing (originated in Japan where it is called shinrin-yoku) has been given a boost in the UK by a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year. The idea is that simply spending time in a forest reduces stress and gives a feeling of a sense of well-being. Research has shown that you don't have to find a forest, but any green space will do - even a town park. Around Eastbourne the natural place to go is the open space of the South Downs (somewhat lacking in trees, mostly).
Active naturism ( that is getting out in nature to practise clothes free exercise) and club naturism have been based on this type of benefit for about 100 years, whereas shinrin-yoku was a government inspired idea of the 1980's. 'According to countless Japanese studies, it boosts immune systems, reduces stress hormones, enhances mental wellness, bolsters brain health. One report even claims it lowers blood glucose levels among diabetes sufferers.' https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/japan/articles/forest-therapy-japan-bathing-woods-wellness-relax/
Arundel Lido will hold its second skinny dip on September 15th in aid of its own charity to improve the Lido. It is an irony that naturists are providing donations for new changing rooms! The idea for this event was the Lido lady manager's own idea and they had no idea whether anyone would turn up. In the first event over 90 people came to an evening swim.
We have also been organising naked yoga classes for 2 years now. I though it would be a great idea to get outside now the weather is warmer and so I put on a class in my garden. A couple of days before people were ringing me up saying that rain was forecast for the chosen day. Now our yoga teacher can only come on Wednesdays and we tried yoga in the rain in June and its not a good idea. The rain on the skin is a great feeling and he windy conditions added another frisson, but the problem is that yoga does not work on slippery mats. There was also the problem of wet grass as we retreated to the house, because I only cut the grass two days before. For our second try I cut the grass a whole week in advance. Anyway, I decided that we needed to have an indoor practise for the nine people who were coming. Amazingly I contacted a local village hall and got an immediate reply that they welcomed our inquiry and a suitable time slot was available. So in a few minutes everything was sorted (by email). Of course, in the event it was sunny and so warm we had to open up the folding doors!
In the last few weeks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the nudist beach in Brighton has come to the fore and I have been approached to help by both Lion TV (for the BBC) and ITV. Unfortunately I have been unable to go as the nature of TV is that filming is a very last minute activity (apparently) and so we have had very short notice. You may see these on breakfast TV in the next few days. BBC breakfast also choose to hold up a (tasteful) newspaper picture of our group taken at the Royal Academy of the Arts in May this year.
So what have all these things have in common. Well it just shows that naturism is well accepted - perhaps a lot better than naturists think. Rarely do we get turned down for any event we want to organise. We are a bit choosy and would not ask a glass fronted restaurant in the middle of town to let us dine naked in full view - but then the art gallery in Hastings which is largely glass fronted has no problem hosting our group visit and saw no reason to cover the windows and neither did the Herrick Gallery in London's busy Piccadilly where Amelia Allen promoted her book 'Naked Britain'.
For all those people who say 'I would love to try it' - even contact us and then never turn up - these events are an ideal way to dip a toe (the whole body actually) in the water, without the imaginary pressure that visiting a naturist club seems to entail for them. We won't be staring at you - we've seen it all before. In fact its more normal to be naked than wearing day-glow rain-proofs on an afternoon walk at sea level in warm weather (we see that all the time too).
This article was sparked off when I came across a video made by a sister swim up in Leicester on the BBC website - you can see it here http://www.desfordswim.co.uk/?fb under Videos and Photos. It made the BBC because the swim made the video in an attempt to attract more women members. Women are often the most avid promoters of naturism once they try it. It seems to me that this is in the great spirit of social reform that women have championed during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Whilst naturism in Europe including the UK has been growing in the 21st century, perhaps due to the warmer summers we have been experiencing, the growth has been much more among young families in France than in the UK. https://www.thelocal.fr/20160613/young-french-naturists-spark-boom-in-nudism
(Incidentally here is a great guide to naturist vacations in France https://www.naturist.guide/e/naturist-holidays/3/experiences/france.html ).
If anyone doubts the need for female social skills in naturism today, I just wanted to highlight one person who I happened to come across while writing this essay and that is Octavia Hill. She died just over 100 years ago and is little remembered today, although her ideas have left a lasting legacy. She was a social reformer, philanthropist, artist and writer. A remarkable woman, her vision has led to her being a major influence on our lives today.
She is very relevant to naturists too as she was an ardent conservationist and fervently believed that communities benefit from access to nature and the countryside. Her many achievements included co-founding the creation of the National Trust in 1895 and she is also credited with creating the concept of the Green Belt. Many areas of public policy also hark back to her drive to improve people's lives - not the least in housing policy.
You can find out about here at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/octavia-hill---her-life-and-legacy and http://infed.org/mobi/octavia-hill-housing-and-social-reform/
The last decade of the nineteenth century is also the date credited for the first British naturist club. An interesting book on the history of nudity and naturism is https://www.philipcarr-gomm.com/book/a-brief-history-of-nakedness/ . Philip lives on the South Downs. His main interest is in Druidry (about which I am woefully uneducated).