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SUN Campaign History - Nov 1999

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Studland United Nudists 1999 AGM

Chairman's Speech - Edited Transcript

The AGM was held at the Holmcroft Hotel, Earle Road, Bournemouth on Saturday 6th November 1999 and was opened at 7.40pm by the Chairman, Mark Nisbet, with 21 members present. The Chairman welcomed members to the AGM and gave the following address:

Welcome to the fourth AGM of SUN Group. I intend to give only a brief report, and to 'flag' things which can be picked up in the general body of the meeting.

Regular Board meetings have taken place as required by our constitution, as have the monthly social gatherings at the Sir Percy Florence Shelley in Boscombe, which are a genuinely enjoyable way of spending the first Friday evening. It would be nice to see some more new faces; its nothing heavy, we don't spend the time minutely dissecting beach politics, it's just a drink and a laugh. It would be nice if more of you could manage to get along to one or more of these next year.

Stalemate - National Trust have not moved an inch

Overall, the situation on the beach has reached a sort of stalemate. The Trust has not moved an inch, and they have made no effort to arrange a meeting or to discuss any further our ongoing complaint about the restriction of our traditional area. However they are well aware that we are still here and they are cautious about making any further moves because they know we are quite capable of mounting swift and effective resistance. Notwithstanding this, stalemate is a less than perfect situation and we have some ideas that we will put to the meeting later on, in the hope of moving things along.

Continued resistance

To sum it up briefly, we can make the contentious Heather Walk unusable by textiles, and foil the Trust's plans for it, by simply using it as part of our traditional area and continuing to use it naked. By doing this, we are undermining their overall control and their view that they can get away with taking away our traditional area. We don't even have to be provocative about it - just carry on quietly enjoying it. It might be that some members think there is something illegal about this tactic, but there isn't. You should be relaxed about it, as indeed Board members are, and you will find that if you quietly stand your ground and refuse to be bullied or harassed, the Trust's employees will quickly lose interest in trying to enforce the unenforceable. By actually being there, in however small a way, you are achieving something. The quiet enjoyment of the area, without confrontation, is what we all want, but we can't have that when they are trying to take it away from us. It is, perhaps, a war of attrition, which could go on for a long time, but if they see we are not backing down they will be forced, eventually, to change their approach.

SUN acquired improved computer

During the year, the Board has made several key innovations. Without wanting to become more bureaucratic, we have acquired an improved computer. There were two reasons for this: firstly, the old machine was rather 'flaky' but we managed to sell it at a price that made the purchase of the more modern machine quite attractive. Secondly, the new computer, as well as making the routine office work very much easier, enables Colin to compile the newsletter himself, thereby taking a load off my shoulders which, with my increased commitments was becoming progressively more intolerable. I would like to thank Colin for taking over this task, and I think a round of applause is appropriate here. (Applause).

SUN advert on Sandbanks Ferry

Another significant thing is the SUN sign on the ferry. We waited a long time for it, and when we finally learned at the beginning of April that we had been given the space - at an annual rental of 82.50- we had some quite frantic discussions about what sort of sign, what we should put on it and so on. We finally settled on a painted sign and found a sign writer in Northbourne who was able to produce a very good sign for just 105. We launched it in a blaze of publicity, managing to get reporters, photographers and a Meridian TV news team down to cover its unveiling. If anyone did not see the short news item, I do have a copy in the archive and can easily copy it for you. Given that this is the first time there has been any positive publicity for naturism displayed on a public vehicle - which is essentially what the ferry is - we are extremely pleased and proud of our achievement. Several people have criticised the sign for being too small: I accept that criticism, but that was all the space we were allocated by the ferry company - two feet square. We shall keep this under review and perhaps, in a year or two, we might be able to persuade the ferry company to give us more space for a larger sign, perhaps with a picture on it - any suggestions as to what picture we might use will be welcome! Anyway, when the sign appeared, there was no doubt of its significance: it sent ripples through the naturist Establishment. CCBN, I know for a fact, were quite upset that they had not thought of the idea first, and Craven Walker of Bournemouth and District Outdoor Club was extremely miffed - we will come back to Mr Walker in a moment.

SUN Telephone Information Line

One of the things that the sign publicises is the SUN telephone information line. With enough money in the bank to enable us to undertake some fairly hefty expenditures, we were determined that we were not going to be like the National Trust and hoard your money; we took the view that you, the membership, would expect us to make good use of it and this is what we set out to do. The phone line terminates in the Secretary's flat, is fitted with a good second hand answering machine, and so far it has proved to be very busy. It probably hasn't paid for itself, to be honest - although we can infer from application forms that it has attracted some new members, it is impossible to say how many. Since it was installed, there have been several calls a day and although not all the callers leave their names and addresses, we feel that this form of direct contact is very good and should be maintained. We are contracted to BT for the first year of operation but we are actively considering changing to another, cheaper service provider when that year is up, and we will undertake a full review of the cost-effectiveness of the phone line after two years.

SUN Website

Some members have also suggested we go on the Net, and this is still under consideration. We have had some generous offers from members to facilitate this, and we are grateful for this level of practical support. We have had an e-mail facility for some time now, and this is also advertised on the ferry sign: we have a standard letter which is sent out to e-mail enquirers. All in all, we are making great strides into the global communications arena and the Board will continue to keep these activities and possibilities under close review.

SUN Action Days

We held two action weekends during 1999, which are reported below. The first one, in June, was badly affected by the weather but the second was held in August and was a very different affair: it was very successful, with a good turnout. Riding high on the success of that event, we felt that we should make it a really big event next year, and put all of our efforts into it. Although it is at the end of the season, it is a kind of celebration and lets the Trust know that not only are we still here, we shall be back again next year.

Although we had some good press coverage of the ferry sign and various other things, we did not actually have any press coverage at all of the action weekends. Whilst acknowledging that there may be many members who would prefer to avoid publicity for themselves, the action weekend is primarily an effort to draw attention to the group and to our ongoing quarrel with the National Trust, and we shall be addressing the need to balance publicity for the group with respect for members' individual feelings. We feel this is probably best achieved by controlled press releases and we shall be giving considerable thought to accomplishing this.

We have imitators - Craven Walker starts Studland Bay Naturists

As our profile has increased through the ferry sign, the phone line, email, mention on various websites, etc., we have spawned some imitators and this is where Craven Walker of Bournemouth and District Outdoor Club comes in. He has been aware of SUN Group for some time and it really gets his goat that our profile and numbers are rising while his establishment remains moribund. He has started off his own organisation - it may be the last gasp of a dying dinosaur - and he has produced a glossy leaflet, seeking members for Studland Bay Naturists or SBN, part of what he calls the Naturist Fellowship. This leaflet, to give him his due, has a nice aerial shot of the beach taken from a helicopter. Leaving aside the grammatical, factual, historical and biographical errors in the leaflet, what he is really trying to do is to steal our thunder by appealing to the 'more moderate' factions among the beach users, although I don't know how much more moderate you need to be to meet with his approval.

Diametrically opposed - Studland Bay Naturists happy to be restricted

Along with this leaflet, he is pushing out a roughly photocopied letter which is quite offensive, calling SUN Group all sorts of names. Now we don't want to get into a name-calling contest with Craven Walker (even though we would probably win it), but he has started this other group and his idea is that his Group actually negotiates with the National Trust. Their basic premise is that they are happy to be restricted to a tiny portion of beach, and they do not want to use the dunes - they do not like dunes as was made clear by Walker's Supporter Rex Watson, editor of CCBN's house magazine, in his infamous "razor wire" statement.

They are, therefore, diametrically opposed to what we are trying to do, which is to re-establish the entire traditional nudist area. I don't think we have too much cause for concern, but we must be aware that in the field of propaganda, press publicity, etc., Walker wields a lot of influence. However, readers of the Bournemouth Daily Echo will be aware that he managed to get an article in recently, promoting his new group, which backfired on him because the reporter who wrote the story actually used photos relating to SUN Group to illustrate it, and the only address or contact telephone number in the piece was ours! Furthermore, the article, headed "Naturist beach to go global" conveniently forgot to mention that Studland is already listed, and has been for very many years, in the International Naturist Federation guidebook - as a free beach. The other picture in the article was an archive photo of Walker with a previous wife from about ten years ago - what his current, fourth wife thinks about that is not reported! So if this is any indication of how Walker is going to proceed with his new group, it is clear that he is either a very loose cannon or a complete fool. Or both.

Morfa Dyffryn beach has similar problems

It is also worth reporting that similar problems to those we are experiencing at Studland are arising at other beaches around the UK: one Welsh beach, Morfa Dyffryn, where the situation is very similar to what has happened at Studland. Although we have not yet had a direct appeal from there for assistance or information on setting up a beach group, we anticipate that such a request may well come very shortly, and we shall do our best to help, because the parallels with Studland are quite significant and we know that SUN members do use Morfa. I think it is very important that beach pressure groups such as SUN share information, because it is certainly the case that local authorities, the National Trust, English Nature and the police pool their information and experiences of what we naturists are doing, and if one such authority can get away with a restriction it will not be long before the others are trying it on as well. We have to meet that challenge head-on, not simply for Studland and our own members but for nudists everywhere who do not agree with the cringing, appeasing attitude of CCBN and their cronies. We will be discussing at future Board meetings the possibility of an alliance with other groups. If it happens, it will be on the basis that they may be able to help us and we may be able to help them.

Conclusion - we are as healthy as we were last year and growing

I will conclude by saying that in spite of the stalemate SUN group is as healthy as we were last year. Our membership has increased by somewhere in the region of 20%. Despite our heavy expenditure we have a reasonably healthy bank balance, but we try not to hoard money unnecessarily. We feel that it is essential that we spend, and spend wisely, the monies we receive from the membership because if we are not doing that then we are not doing our job properly. I would like to thank all the Board members for their very hard work during the year, and give a special mention to Peter Dangerfield who, as most of you are aware, has recently undergone major heart surgery. I would like to wish him, on behalf of all the members of SUN, a speedy recovery and many more years' enjoyment of our beach, dunes and heathland. I would also like to praise our Treasurer, Sue for her diligent work keeping our financial records straight - couldn't do it, all my financial paperwork gets thrown into a big shoe box - while coping with Pete's illness, and our Secretary, Colin, for all the work he has put in during the last year. Also, thanks to Julia who is establishing herself as a beach "character" and last but by no means least Trevor, whose ambition is to arrive on time for a meeting! Apologies have been received from Board members Jan Welsh, who is actually in Germany at the moment, and Chris Phillips who is also unable to be with us this evening.

Thank you for your attention and your attendance, and I will now sit down and have a drink. (Applause)

 
   

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