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Posing nude for the naked

11 September 2013

I’ve long struggled with the tag ‘naturist’ or ‘nudist’. On a warm day at home I’ll either not bother dressing or I’ll kick off all my clothes when I get in from work. Abroad, I’ll sunbathe and often go hiking naked in places where no offence can be caused. Yet I’ve never felt part of a movement, a philosophy or organised way of life.

I’ve never felt my simple pleasure and comfort of being without clothes has warranted a label ending with ‘-ist‘.

Nonetheless, I’ve dabbled occasionally in the UK naturist scene: highly sporadic and increasingly rare visits to London clubs; dim and distant summer days on Studland or Swalecliffe beaches. Nowadays I am more likely to head to the continent or Canaries to enjoy sunny beaches and spas without complications or categorisation, stigma or subscription.

It would be nice to rediscover unfettered social nudity in my own country. A small step was taken on Saturday while group life modelling at the Naturist Foundation.

The plan was for eight of us to be modelling, but a series of misfortunes meant that on the day our numbers had dwindled by half. Our diminished quantity was compensated by quality, however, with: Esther, a Spirited Bodies friend of long standing; Santosh, with whom I’d shared a stage many times; and Chris, whom I’d previously worked with in July alongside Esther and Santosh for the Inversed Voyeurism project.

So, after a 40-minute train ride south from London Blackfriars, and a 20-minute yomp across country, I was the first to be buzzing the Naturist Foundation gates.

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Once inside I was greeted on the driveway by Terry, who had arranged the event, and given a quick tour of the grounds. We settled down for drinks and a chat, after which I headed to the pool. It was a great relief to get out of my clothes at last.

By the time I’d managed a few lengths the others had arrived. I dried off and helped to carry copious quantities of picnic food and art gear from Chris’s car. There was time enough for sarnies and for Chris and Santosh to take their turn in the pool before our two-hour life art session, from 2pm to 4pm.

Down to business, Esther coordinated our poses to ensure some strong tableaux.

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She also managed to coax five of the Foundation’s naturist regulars into taking part as models. The coaxing was by degrees over a series of poses, so by the end everyone was in the element of their choosing, having a thoroughly agreeable time.

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From a first five-minute standing pose, with all four models connected in a semi-circle, we culminated with a 25-minute tableau of two models and four Foundation members.

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Photos were taken for the Foundation’s magazine. After admiring the artworks, we set about enjoying more of the facilities.

It was refreshing not to have to pull on a robe immediately after the final pose. Instead we simply continued through the rest of the evening as we were – first settling into the sauna, then jittering under a cold shower, and finally socialising in the pool.

After showering, sauna, and showering again, we returned to the pavilion’s sun terrace to spread out our magnificent picnic. We chatted and chomped in company with some colourful characters – some naked like us, but most clothed for the evening.

The range of personal stories made a nonsense of notions that naturists are of a type. We are a varied cross-section of humanity. If we must accept being organised in the margins at present, it’s because our country cannot accept us any other way.

I look forward to the day that will never come: the day when we needn’t be organised, we simply can… be.

But until that day, thank you naturist organisations. Thank you, Naturist Foundation.

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From → Art

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