Would you ditch your clothes for a life in the nude?
Members of British Naturism are on a mission to boost their dwindling membership, before their way of life is lost forever.
In new Channel 4 show ‘The Great British Skinny Dip’, the team attempt to organise a mass nude swim, encouraging members of the public to go for a paddle in their birthday suits.
As part of the recruitment, the programme follows current members to raise awareness of what naturism is really about - and the results are pretty revealing.
The programme begins with an introduction to John, who’s been a member of his local naturist club for almost 20 years and in the warmer months, spends half of every week there.
“I think there’s misconceptions. I think people do think it’s about sex but it certainly isn’t,” he says.
“Once you get used to nudity as a general rule you’re not, sort of, turned on by it.”
The other members at his club agree that naturism is more about feeling part of a community than viewing one another sexually.
“You don’t look at other people’s parts - you look people in the eye and you talk to people,” one member says.
Another adds: “It’s a great leveller, because you can’t tell by looking at us if we’re multimillionaires or not.”
John says most naturists he knows are over 60, which is why he’s just one of the people helping promote ‘The Great British Skinny Dip’ to bring naturism to a new, younger audience.
The event is being headed up by Andrew Welsh, a naturist employed by British Naturism to promote the lifestyle and increase numbers.
At the start of the programme he hopes the event will draw in crowds in the thousands.
He explains that the skinny dip will be a national event, where members of public can try naturism for the first time by taking part in nude swims at pools, beaches and naturist clubs across the UK on one weekend.
According to Andrew, being naked in front of others is the most natural thing in the world.
“When did the world change so much that something about the body we were born in became actually embarrassing?” he asks.
“We talk about ‘private parts’ but why are those parts any more private than your nose or your elbow? How does a norm get created? It’s because of behaviour of the masses, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.”
Cameras follow the team as they hand flyers about the event around towns, but unfortunately they’re largely met with giggles and rejection.
While the public’s response to the naturists seem largely friendly, if a little uncertain, one naturist and former teacher says stigma around naturism has a far darker side.
She claims a local busybody “outed her” by calling her employer and telling them she was a naturist.
She always kept her private, nude life very separate from her work, but the incident led to her taking early retirement from teaching.
“There are people who think that because I’m a naturist I must be a paedophile,” she says.
“Somebody once asked me what it is I get out of naturism and I said ‘freedom’.
“It’s a wonderful feeling of being who you are. Nobody looks at you to see what you’re wearing or what you’ve got, you’re just yourself, in nature, totally free.”
Still desperate to drum up members, Andrew attends an early morning rave in the hope of finding some would-be naturists among the revellers, but his efforts don’t quite pay off.
At the end of the programme we’re told around 300 people attended the mass skinny dip when it took part in September and only one or two people at each venue were new to naturism.
Although disappointed by the turn out, Andrew and his team are determined to attract new, younger members and plan to hold more recruitment events in the future. Watch this space.
‘The Great British Skinny Dip’ is on Channel 4 at 10pm on 14 February.