The Old Guard in organised naturism

During the Navy Review for Queen Victoria at Spithead, on 26th June 1897, a ship turned up without an invitation, it was there to show the Old Guard in the Admiralty that they should have listened to its designer all along. The perpetrator was Charles Parsons who had designed the first steam turbine in 1884 and had tried to get the Admiralty interested but had failed. He built a boat named Turbinia and powered it using his new engine then took it unannounced to the Spithead Review. Not surprisingly the navy picket boats sent to stop him were far too slow. The old codgers in the Admiralty were then caught in a fix, so public was the display of superiority that they could no longer fend off the future with their customary No. They had come from the same old codger tradition who resisted the change from sail to steam, from coal to oil fired ships and could not believe that an aeroplane made of string and canvas could sink a battleship, until one sunk the unsinkable Ostfriesland in 1921. It was not just the Admiralty that was headed by codgers, when Frank Whittle approached the Air Ministry with his jet engine he was given a range of reasons why it will never be of use, “why man, we have the Merlin engine!”, so he formed Power Jets Ltd and proved them wrong.

Sadly British history is littered with such examples, the Old Guard produced all kinds of arguments to keep sending children up chimneys, to stop women having the vote, to maintain the slave trade, etc. etc., a long and very sorry list, Hansard is replete with it. It often takes national emergencies to force the codgers to change or move aside. My mother joined the army early in the 2nd World War and found exactly that, the army was busy shipping out the codgers and replacing them with newly promoted officers of vision, those with an ability that encompassed more than being able to say No to new ideas.

British organised naturism, BN or British Naturism is in the same fix but no relevant emergency is on the horizon so nothing is likely to change any time soon. The Old Guard have the organisation firmly in its grasp but power is wielded in a subtle way, their customary No comes after a stream of seemingly plausible reasons for why ideas are not possible. This stream accompanies a lack of fluidity of thought, no attempt is made to modify ideas to make them work, no attempt to see new ideas sparked off by other ideas that have failed for genuine reasons; naturally not all ideas can work and some cannot work in the form first suggested. Much the same applied to the codgers in the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, their refusals were all were characterised by a limited knowledge of developments in the world outside of their old boys clubs.

Should anyone dare to suggest a change it is seen as a threat and they close ranks to fend it off. A recent example was a vote for British Naturism to leave the INF, the International Naturist Federation, an organisation that has degenerated into an expenses paid drinking and squabbling club for a few officials. The Old Guard voted by a large majority to stay within the INF, all sorts of specious and unsupportable reasons were cited in support of this vote. Such is the grip of the Old Guard that the drinking and squabbling will continue whilst the INF’s role in promoting naturism will remain completely forgotten. Most oddly, the Old Guard are happy with this state of affairs, they live in hope that “something will happen” to return the INF to its glory days ignoring the fact that the INF has never done anything tangible or had a useful international effect. Glory days indeed. The Old Guard are happy at having fought off the beastly upstarts.

When suggestions that BN should host a publicly visible photo gallery on its website, the answer was No. Should they have a national nude protest in a similar manner to the WNBR, the World Naked Bike Ride? No. Should they make and host their own promotional videos on their website? Maybe…..well, No. Should they have a cohesive group representing British Naturism complete with banners and promotional literature on the WNBR? No. Should they have a group representing British Naturism complete with banners and promotional literature on London Pride? No. Should naturist clubs be encouraged to allow single males or clothed family and friends to join and hence align themselves with wider inclusion in society? No. etc. etc. The few hopefuls who remain within BN still discuss such ideas but really it a waste of time, so is complaining about the Old Guard.

In any organisation , once members of the Old Guard form a certain critical proportion of that organisation, its future is either static or trends downhill towards a knot of the faithful, one that will be ignored by the rest of the world. The Old Guard are happy with that, it is their stated aim, to maintain their old ways, to cogitate on the world from behind their privet hedges and rail against those nasty people who want something different. To be ignored by society is seen as ideal, a quiet life, one not to be disturbed.

It is not all bad of course, the Great British Skinny Dip got off to its uncertain start and the legal team within BN have successfully worked to show the police and courts that nudity of itself is not illegal in England and thence to have daft prosecutions fail in court. Various optimistic people within BN are beavering away to challenge the Old Guard and get things moving but the underlying desperate clinging to tradition remains at the very core. Little changes. At least that makes the minutes of meetings easier, run off last year’s with the date changed and get off to the bar.

What is beyond the comprehension of the Old Guard is that should anyone wish to practice the same form of naturism that was common in the 1950s there is nothing to stop them anymore than there is anything to stop someone steaming along in their coal fired boat or writing to The Times with a quill pen about beastly upstarts; they will remain entirely free to pursue their own ideal lifestyle without the slightest interference. The important issue is this, should they be allowed to prevent developments they do not wish to take part in themselves? To do so is selfish, a dog-in-the-manger attitude, I’m Alright Jack, everyone else must lump it.

It was a shock to many naturists when the WNBR become widespread, the naked protest rides showed a joyful acceptance of public nudity that was beyond their wildest dreams, yet what did organised naturism do to capitalise on that? Nothing except rejoice at the inaction. Voices from the Old Guard told us that the WNBR “was not naturism” so did not merit their consideration, ignoring the obvious that the public at large care nothing at all about one of their favourite behind the privet discussions, the precise definition of naturism, a definition that eludes them to this day.

Society has moved on however, there are reckoned to be 4 million people in the UK who have taken part in at least some form of social nudity, mainly on holiday, on the WNBR rides or at home. Virtually none would label themselves naturist; only a few thousand join BN. Did this change in society come about as a result of organised naturism? Of course not. Did organised naturism take any advantage of it?

Not yet.




About Howard Anderson

A life long naturist. I seek to live in a fair and provably just society, one free from prejudice and hypocrisy.
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9 Responses to The Old Guard in organised naturism

  1. Pingback: The Old Guard in organised naturism | Nudie News

  2. Malcolm Boura (NUFF team lead until 2006, BN Campaigns Director 2006-2016) says:

    When did BN say no to a protest? I don’t recall that ever happening and I was on the EC for ten years until October 2016. What would leaving the INF gain? A small amount of cash but the problem is not lack of a small amount of cash. Usually when something fails to happen the problem is a shortage of the volunteers needed to make it happen, nothing else. The will is there but without either more volunteers, with the necessary skills, or a large increase in income (ie members) then lots of good ideas will not be acted on.


    • The idea of a protest received a perfunctory consideration in the EC (if we are to believe the EC minutes), discussion on the BN forum fizzled out. Leaving the INF would gain the same benefit as leaving any other inactive drinking club, the INF does nothing of any value apart from being a backwater of the Old Guard who can pretend they are in an international representative body, but it is a representative body in name only. Looking at its history, it has done nothing useful apart from maintaining that pretence. Suggestions for a way forward were ignored by the Old Guard.
      BN is indeed short of volunteers but no wonder. When people see that ideas are squashed as regularly as they are under the Old Guard they put their efforts in elsewhere, it is a frustrating experience to battle against internal barriers when that effort would be better used elsewhere. As a result BN is in a dire state, its membership is tiny relative to the potential and the Old Guard are still very strong, the two are connected. It is not just a British problem, Young Naturists America is closing in 2017, one of the reasons cited was lack of support from established naturism. The Old Guard strikes again, instead of fuelling young enthusiasm, they prefer the old ways and in particular, resistance to change. Just like BN.


      • Malcolm Boura (NUFF team lead until 2006, BN Campaigns Director 2006-2016) says:

        Sating that “The idea of a protest received a perfunctory consideration in the EC” meeting may be true but that is grossly misleading to the point of being insulting. Two EC members, myself and Juliette Gill, put in a tremendous amount of work, and other EC members were also involved prior to the meeting. It proved impracticable along the lines envisaged. The EC minute reflects officers reporting back. EC meetings are a full day as it is going over ground that has already been covered by EC members and others prior to the meeting is not a productive use of time.


  3. Malcolm Boura (NUFF team lead until 2006, BN Campaigns Director 2006-2016) says:

    BN has been trying very hard to get something along the lines of YNA going here in the UK. Finding people to do it was a problem for several years but progress has recently been made.


  4. “meeting may be true but that is grossly misleading to the point of being insulting.” It cannot be ‘may be true’ and ‘misleading’. It either got perfunctory consideration or it was a key idea before the EC. The minutes show it got scant attention. Perhaps the minutes are not accurate, who can say? Who tells us what happened, how much work went in, what the problems were? Was there a call for new and/or better ideas or did the cold hand of tradition take hold? The evidence to those outside of the EC suggest the latter, the EC decides from on high and their deliberations are handed down as a precis, sometimes.
    It would help if the whole EC deigned to engage in the forum instead of staying aloof and seeing the forum as a bunch of outsiders. There you have it, a new idea:- say to the whole membership, if you want to take part in BN and its future then you can meet with the EC directly on the forum, every member of the EC will take part regularly, everyone’s contribution will be welcome. Those who do not wish to take part can stay quiet but the main consultation means will be the forum. A modern democratic idea? Yes. Will it ever happen? Not a chance. Why? the Old Guard will not allow it, it is not BN’s way, “we have never worked that way”.
    Finding people prepared to be thwarted at every step will always be hard. Until a culture of accepting and developing new ideas comes about in BN, it is doomed to bumble along with the old ideas. I was put on the naughty step for daring to suggest that those wishing to keep naturism in the 1950s were selfish. Not the 1990s, the 1950s! What chance then is there that any new ideas are allowed to take hold? Currently none at all. That explains why the supply of new volunteers is almost zero. If you want volunteers to maintain the status quo you will have more success but the world is moving despite BN. The WNBR shows what the actual public opinion is, yet to so many the call of the privet is very strong. Having trouble getting a new International Officer? It is not hard to see why, whoever it is will have to do what they are told and not expect to make a contribution, not to make waves. Why bother?
    But do not get bogged down in the suggested protest, the INF or YNA, these are only examples, the same problem exists right across BN and in many other areas of British life. So many are scared of development, scared of the new, they feel safer in blocking development “because we always do it that way”. Those of us who like to think out of the box, to suggest new and interesting ideas are always thwarted by the Old Guard so we turn to other areas of life. Until the Old Guard die off, there is no chance that BN or the INF will have the slightest effect outside out of their beloved privet hedges, their main activity until then will be to fend off new ideas, a task they have shown themselves to be very skilled at.


    • Malcolm Boura (NUFF team lead until 2006, BN Campaigns Director 2006-2016) says:

      I have never had a proposal turned down. I don’t recall any proposal for action being turned down because of what was proposed. I do recall lots of very worthwhile proposals being turned down because there was not the resources to do it and the principal resource lacking is volunteers. BN has been without a Campaigns Director for over a year. It was without a youth/young persons director for several years. It is without an International Director. Articles such as this which fail to recognise the reality that BN has to function in do not help with recruiting either members or volunteers. Why not tying being constructive and actually propose something that can be done but please state where the necessary resources, time being the main one, are going to come from. The Campaign Director’s post is vacant, why don’t you volunteer?


  5. Malcolm Boura (NUFF team lead until 2006, BN Campaigns Director 2006-2016) says:

    Oops, “try”, not “tying”.


  6. It is a classical tactic to attempt to turn the argument and blame the critical observer when the real problem is the hardened deposit of prejudice that exists with organised naturism, so the tactic has failed. Victim blaming is never a good idea. I have outlined precisely why I and others have not and will not volunteer, it is because there is the very clear habit of finding a range of reasons why ideas are not possible, there is no fluidity of thought, only fear of change. In such an atmosphere it would be very frustrating to have one’s ideas continually squashed by the conservative battalions of the Old Guard. The shortage of volunteers is a result of this meme-set not the cause. I and several others have suggested a number of ideas over the years and have been told that none are possible, the reasons given have never been the lack of volunteers.
    How did the International Officer fare amid the even worse bastion of the Old Guard in the form of the INF? No progress at all despite valiant efforts. Then the Old Guard within BN voted to stay in the INF to further reinforce their propensity for inaction. Now there is no International Officer because possible volunteers can see that their efforts will be wasted, thwarted at every step. The same applies to other posts. It is not an atmosphere that encourages volunteering, quite the opposite, it is an atmosphere that encourages the status quo.
    A solution maybe to join the modern world and have all membership discussion of business on the net, have the EC have ALL of its discussions on the net for members to see, to have online votes, polls etc. and to have the EC made to take notice of them. Any chance of that? Not at all, the Old Guard will see to it. The old cycle of extremely limited discussion at AGMs “informing” the EC of what the membership thinks will continue because the Old Guard will find a wide range of reasons why the new-fangled internet cannot be used and how the wise EC will hand-down its decisions in the fullness of time, just as they have for decades, the same decades during which the membership has been steadily declining. There are clear connections here for those with the willingness to see.


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