An Inteview with Koen Meulemans, President of the Belgian Naturist Federation

1- Can you explain a little bit about the history of naturism in Belgium?

Belgium’s history of naturism began more than 60 years ago with the Lambrecht family. This family made their property the centre of organised naturism and it still the case today. In the beginning it was the largest club even within the Belgian federation, the Dutch federation and even the INF as a whole.

As time progressed more clubs sprung up in Belgium, however restrictions were imposed causing some to shut because back then kids and adults had to be separated in such scenarios.

2- How many naturists and naturist clubs are there in Belgium nowadays?

Now we have 15 clubs, 10 of those with grounds, 8000 members in total. The biggest club mentioned above is still in the hands of the son of the original founding member.

We regularly survey the one nude beach that we have in Belgium (Bredene) and also neighbouring nude beaches in Holland close to the Belgium border (most visitors happen to be Belgians who frequent these Dutch beaches) and 99% are non-members not affiliated to any club.

We’re always advocating the advantages of membership managing steady growth of 2-5%. We believe there is close to 500.000 Belgian people who visit beaches, nude spa’s, nude beaches abroad. And who do some kind of naked recreation at least once a year, albeit not all are naturists, but still.

3 – What particular problems or challenges are facing naturists in Belgium?

Many years ago, Belgian people by nature were very cautious and sceptical towards naturism. There was a time when it was only practised behind closed doors.

Over time we managed to slowly breakdown this cultural barrier, not by openly displaying naturism, but by showing and explaining what naturism all about is. Documentaries on TV, interviews in newspapers, TV and radio and social media.

Championing the health aspects of naturism, trying to explain that the mindset of a naturist is different in outlook, upholding respect for nature and our environment.

Gradually we changed the wrong perception people had. The process evolved over a number of years and decades. Thankfully it’s a normal subject to talk about now.

4 – As you are familiar with Irish Naturism, can you comment on the differences with the Belgian naturism in general? And does it differ between Flanders and Wallonia?

I think in the past there were some similarities with Irish naturism now in that it wasn’t accepted as a mainstream activity and difficult to discuss openly but it takes time – you just have to keep promoting it relentlessly.

The Flemish part is more progressive and understands more that it is necessary to be a little more open. The French-speaking part of Belgium unfortunately hasn’t progressed much in the last 30 years and is struggling more with growth and in attracting the younger members.

5 – What is the legal situation in Belgium with regards to naturism? How many official nudist beaches do you have? How many different naturist facilities?

Legally we’re in limbo. Even the one beach we have is just a non-legalised understanding with the police, but they don’t normally issue a fine to the naked people on the beach.

In old Belgian law there are references to nudity that carry passages of nude poems and songs, we don’t need to tell how old that law is 😉. And because everything has been evolving slowly in Belgium, we let that be.

We’re just glad we have an agreement with the police and the support of the mayor. Now we are trying to find a second mayor and a third and so on. And we still have the 10 terrains of the clubs of course.

6 – What are the most popular nudist events in Belgium? How many people would they attract?

The most popular events are the two swimming events where we rent a swimming-complex with: 50m pool, kids and toddlers-pool, restaurant, bar, spa’s, wave-pool, slides…

We get between 500-600 participant, all with valid membership card.

Our next pool party will take place on the 7th March 2020:

https://www.naturisme.be/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/FBN-Poolparty-2020.mp4?fbclid=IwAR0A-Bp3l1e1zCiQ8pp1FyFqAuXsQ0g_ijGhgRvOmVqiWhjRl0fhd_fH2YI

Every first weekend of November we have our annual bowling weekend: 120 participants and during the year, we organise a nude run (last time 160 present and 95 runners), walks, pentaquin.

All the activities of our federation are open to all people with a valid INF card and are open of all clubs from all nations. We try to organise as many activities as possible, participants are spoilt for choice as there are just too many to choose from.

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