We recently asked people to come and join the GBSD planning team. We were pleased to hear from Luke, a complete newcomer to social nudity, who asked if he could write a blog about his experience…here’s the first instalment and we look forward to following his journey.
On paper I’m an unlikely naturist. I like the comfort and convenience of clothes (especially with handy pockets), I’m more of an indoors person than an outdoors person, I don’t like hot weather or staying out in the sun, and I try to avoid using sports centres with communal showers.
My closest encounter with social nudity has been the occasional brief chat with friends in a changing room whilst getting changed after a workout. Some of this might sound like it applies to you too. But I’m also curious to try skinny dipping, for whatever reason and that reason is sometimes difficult to put your finger on, you just know when you want to do something. However, I also have natural and probably common concerns which go along with skinny dipping for the first time. I have concerns and absolutely no personal experience to draw on, but with a small amount of research, and lots of inward thinking, I now know how to deal with those concerns. So I’m going to share those thoughts here, and each fortnight leading up to #septembare I’m going to write about why I want to skinny dip, why my body is ok, how to deal with gender specific issues and how I’m going to make sure I turn up at my skinny dip event by avoiding ‘cold feet’ and get wet feet instead.
Just announced, the film we made about last year’s Great British Skinny Dip will be aired on Channel 4, 10pm, 14 Feb…
The Great British Skinny Dip
In 2016 British Naturism, Britain’s largest group devoted to the naked lifestyle, organised a mass event to encourage more people to give it a go, challenging British attitudes to nudity along the way. “Septembare”, the brainchild of the organisation’s Andrew Welch, offered the British public the chance to join a mass skinny dip in pools, lakes and beaches across the country, over one weekend in September. Filmed over 8 months, this documentary follows the attempt to co-opt venues and drum up support, and explores what the appeal is – why a range of people from all walks of life enjoy spending their spare time in the buff and how they manage to do it in a country where the climate doesn’t naturally lend itself. Naturism is increasingly being sought out online by young people seeking escapism, fun and freedom – choosing to lay themselves bare at a time of increased body consciousness and airbrushing. With access to nudist clubs across the country as well as wilder activities off the beaten track, this film lifts the lid on the world of naturism, climaxing with the skinny dip weekend which may or may not bring new converts to the faith.
After months of activity and meticulous planning, The Great British Skinny Dip (GBSD) took place over the weekend of 2nd to 4th September. It’s been a great journey and with different venues across the land taking part, there has been something for everyone – and we’ve reached out to really raise the profile of Naturism.
The one thing we forgot to book though was the weather! Some events enjoyed some sunshine, while others suffered rain, but did this dampen the enthusiasm of our great organisers? Not a bit of it! Ok, so there were probably more no-shows than on a lovely day, but feedback shows that most of the events welcomed complete newcomers, who discovered a whole new world of social nudity, liberation and wellbeing that they may well make part of their lives from now on. No doubt as GBSD takes place year after year, the level of awareness and participation will grow.
The aims of GBSD were straightforward. By making it a national, annual event with lots of publicity we aimed to change our country’s attitudes towards nudity and body image, one of the leading causes of low self-esteem and lack of confidence. By stripping off, many people would find that they are not only shedding their clothes, but also their stresses and cares as well. We wanted to share this great feeling as widely as possible and get people to understand the despite the silly perceptions, nudity is good for you!
Body image concerns are increasingly commonplace, and GBSD helped challenge this, giving people the confidence to just be themselves and accepting their bodies for what they are. What constitutes a ‘normal’ body is consistently misrepresented in popular culture, and GBSD celebrated the diversity of body shapes that exist, highlighting how buttoned-up attitudes to bodies cause people to lead unhealthy lives. GBSD set out to encourage people to develop a healthy attitude towards their bodies , loving it whatever it looks like, whilst also taking care of it in a responsible way.
Our planning began many months ago with a core team, which gradually grew as more people came forward to help. A strong ‘brand’ was developed and we made a ‘teaser’ film clip that was shared widely on Youtube. Marketing materials and press releases, coupled with a strong and vibrant social media presence, really helped us to push the message out, as did local organisers, who engaged their local media in creating a buzz.
So, how successful were the events after all this planning? Here we look back over a selection of the skinny dips that were held, and celebrate some of the notable successes – and in the interests of balance, some of the things that perhaps went less well too!
We start our journey in Scotland, at Cleat’s Shore on the Isle of Arran. This was one of our beach locations and, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the weather and the remote location, had a low attendance. However, it was still a successful event
as it raised awareness of this stunning location. Another Scottish beach, Ardeer, near Irvine, was enjoyed by newcomers, all of whom were called ‘brave’ for going ahead by a local photographer who covered the event in some pretty inclement weather!
Another of our more, shall we say, ‘wild’ venues was Beacon Tarn. Set high above Borrowdale in the Lake District, it is another stunning location, reached by a mountain track. Here, the organisers had marketed well, with leaflets being handed out in nearby Coniston, and posters being put up in Tourist Information offices and youth hostels. This resulted in 24 people booking, though due to heavy rain on the day, only 15 turned up.
Impressively, of this 15, five were complete newcomers to Naturism and they all said they would do it again. The tarn itself was plenty warm enough for a great skinny dip, but the weather meant that the planned picnic had to be abandoned.
Down to Wales now and Monknash beach in the Vale of Glamorgan – another beautiful location. Again, this skinny dip fell foul of the horrible weather, but was still attended by 20 or so people, with a small number of newcomers present. The dip was well covered by local papers so will hopefully gain some new Naturists – and additionally the organisers have used the event as a lever to publicise the nearby ‘Nudie Dudies’ Swim.
Whilst some of the skinny dips attracted people who were completely new to Naturism, another spin off was getting new people to attend events, but who were already existing Naturists. Wyvern Swim for example had seven new attendees on top of the 32 existing members who came along. Some of these had travelled a distance as well. It was a similar story in Plymouth, where Plymouth Sun Club attracted 10 complete newcomers, with PR supported by a useful article in The Plymouth Herald. Leeds Swim too, welcomed 10 newcomers.
Those clubs who took part also reaped the rewards. Diogenes in Buckinghamshire partnered with a local charity, Rennie Grove Hospice Care, to organise a sponsored skinny dip. Of the 20 people who turned up, 15 were new to Naturism and all were impressed with the club, which has already gained 4 new members, with other enquiries in the pipeline. The charity have already asked to repeat the event next year as it raised around £4,500 for their work. The event was visited by BBC Three Counties Radio and gained other good local media coverage, with a great deal of promotional work being from charity’s PR team to their existing – non-Naturist – network.
In a similar vein, Avonvale managed to get an incredible 70 people to come along, though the weather was so awful that only about 25 took the plunge! Avonvale’s marketing was highly effective, with good use of social media, and the club reckon that even more people would have come along if the weather had been good. Member Dave Ross was able to get a mention of the Avonvale GBSD event on Radio Solent – a great result! The club has still gained six new members, despite the weather, and their popular refreshments raised valuable funds for the Hidden Needs Trust and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Over in Essex, Arcadians also attracted visitors, enjoyed local media coverage. Like several of the skinny dips, Arcadians attendance suffered because of the overcast weather, which unfortunately resulted in quite a lot of leftover food!
The White Rose Club in York attracted 22 swimmers over the weekend – though 60 were booked, it was the same story regarding poor weather resulting in people staying away. The club enterprisingly mounted a publicity campaign at the Spencer Tunick ‘Sea of Hull’ event, which no doubt attracted people to come along, while they were still buzzing from participation in the legendary Tunick event.
A latecomer to the list was the YMCA in Central London, their agreement to participate being a real feather in our caps. It was great to see how in tune they were with us and our aims in their publicity – in fact, you’d think we’d written their blurb ourselves. Let’s hope it encourages them, and other venues, to think about regular skinny dip sessions.
So far, so good then – but what didn’t go so well? The weather was obviously a key negative for many organisers, though of course there isn’t much we can do about that one! It has been suggested by some that running GBSD earlier in the summer, might be a better idea, or even not choosing a weekend, but running sessions as and when venues wanted. Timing is something we will consider on when we start the planning for next year’s event.
One of our big disappointments though, is the low number of BN clubs and swims who took part. Centrally generated publicity was available at no cost to organisers, along with a high profile media campaign. We don’t really understand why clubs would not wish to be a part of such an initiative – perhaps they already have hordes of prospective membersnnqueuing to get in, who knows! What we do know though, is that those who did take part have done something positive to safeguard their futures and grow their memberships – they will certainly reap the rewards. They have also raised the profile of Naturism, helped to normalise it as ‘just another’ leisure activity, and in some cases helped good causes and reach out to their local communities. Hopefully, those clubs who rejected GBSD, or who waited on the sidelines will rethink their approach next time and make it even bigger, even better, and even more successful!
What we do know though, both from direct feedback from organisers, participants and venues, is that GBSD has been amazingly successful as an outreach event – really getting the message out there that Naturism is a good thing with massive wellbeing benefits. Early indications are that it has been a highly successful recruitment tool as well, with many of the participating clubs reporting new members. We’ve also had great publicity – including The Daily Star making up a location map to show readers where to go. We know that many people who dared to try something different have gone away with a highly positive view of their experience, which they will recount to friends and family. So that’s it for 2016 – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!