1) How long have you been volunteering as INA Event Coordinator?
I joined INA in summer 2014, the day after I came back from my second nakation in France. I remember standing at Biarritz airport in bewilderment and annoyance, not wanting to accept that I would have to wait 12 months for my next taste of naturism, so the first thing I did once at home in Dublin was to browse for naturist opportunities in Ireland. After joining Irish Naturist Association (INA), I quickly realised there was a huge potential to grow naturism in Ireland, and I put myself forward to take on tasks to modernise the association, developing our social media outlets, multiplying the number and scope of nudist/naturist activities, etc. There were not enough volunteers back then, so I was strongly encouraged to use my initiative, time, energy and motivation for the purposes of promoting naturism in Ireland.
(2) As an unpaid volunteer, how do you stay motivated for something that demands a lot of time?
It has been a real pleasure, a very fulfilling task to see how Irish Naturist Association has doubled its membership in the last years thanks to our joint efforts. We currently have around 400 members nationwide. We have moved from two swims a month to nearly ten different monthly activities, from two locations to four/five bigger catchment areas, from two venues to ten. It has undoubtedly meant countless volunteering hours full of self-imposed deadlines and targets, close to a full-time job, but I have thoroughly enjoyed every challenge and it has empowered me, as there is always something to learn, be it on administrative, strategical, psychological, marketing, or purely human levels. It is simply magical to see how people can learn to embrace naturism and all the benefits that it brings along, such as an increased self-confidence and respect for oneself without any body shame attached. Additionally, I find it immensely inspirational and uplifting when I get the opportunity during our international congresses to exchange views with other colleagues from naturist organisations from all over the world.
(3) What do you consider to have been your biggest challenge(s) in this role?
At the beginning of my INA volunteering career I had set myself a personal challenge – to be able to go to any nudist beach in Ireland and feel completely safe. For example, going for a walk in the nude and leaving my belongings behind without any hesitation. I felt this could be achieved by bringing together all genuine naturists. I aimed to get to know all those isolated naturists who otherwise might not have engaged in social nudity. In order to succeed in my endeavour, I started to organise a large array of beach meetups. Slowly but steadily I won the trust of other naturists, who also saw the benefit of the safety of the group.
After having accomplished that first goal, I moved on from the outdoor challenges to the indoor activities: I wanted to increase the number of pool sessions through collaborations with further venues but also introduce more variety in the range of events being offered. As a result, we have expanded from just outdoor naturist beach meetups and indoor nude swims to offering naked yoga/meditation/qigong sessions, nude visits to art exhibitions, annual celebration of World Naked Garden(ing) Day, naked dining sessions in Dublin restaurants, public information talks in libraries, as well as participation in wellbeing fairs, international trips to continental saunas.
(4) What personality traits and skills do you think are important to have as INA Event Coordinator?
I believe in all volunteering roles it is fundamental to be extremely patient and resilient if we don’t want to lose our enthusiasm and inner-motivation, whilst being respectful and understanding of other people’s stances and opinions. It is essential to be capable of building bridges and being a problem-solver, showing flexibility, creativity and proactivity. And it is easy to get burned-out as well, but I consider myself very tenacious, reliable and committed, also able to rejoice in my own work. I am passionate about naturism and care about the experience of our event attendees, not just on the naturist level but also just from a customer care and service perspective. I am very grateful to be surrounded by many other members of the association who help out according to the best of their skills and time availability. I aim to promote a can-do attitude not devoid of a general realistic approach that results in efficiency.
(5) What was your most successful event to date?
I am proud of absolutely all of them, I am aware we are spreading a very healthy lifestyle. I feel over the moon whenever we are able to get a new venue, a new activity, a totally different location or a special collaboration with public institutions. A good example is our recent information talk SPAIN: EUROPE’S NATURIST JEWEL which was made possible with the support of the Spanish Embassy in Ireland, or our breakfast meeting at a very well-known official address in Dublin 2. In terms of attendance the biggest crowd will probably take place at our 2020 AGM – we have planned a full nudist week-end in the Quality Hotel in Youghal, Co. Cork on 6-7 November.
(6) Although Ireland has changed a lot over recent years, do you ever feel that some of the enquiries you make when planning events are declined by the owners/management because the event would be used by naturists?
Well, of course we do get many rejections before we can end up with a triumph. For example our forthcoming AGM weekend mentioned above is the first full nudist weekend to take place in Ireland. However, we had over 100 rejections or no answers from other hotels before we found a facility that was able to meet our needs. I met with some other venues but we were not happy with the compromises they were demanding.
As for the leisure centres, we can see that albeit the management is often happy to oblige since they do want our business, they cannot accommodate us sometimes because of lack of enthusiasm from their staff. Nevertheless, this can improve over time and we find that more lifeguards are willing to do the job once they get used to the idea that this non-sexual social nudity is really no big deal when put into the proper perspective.
(7) What are your future projects? And what’s your vision for INA in general?
I am working on strengthening our cross-border collaboration with British Naturism in Northern Ireland, I am keen on having swimming sessions in Newry (Northern Ireland), and also organising trips to some English clubs. We need midweek pool slots in Dublin, I am hoping we can experience the return of the Crumlin swim (where INA was holding swims in the past) in the near future. It would be ideal, of course, to add further Dublin leisure centres to our list as there is no doubt about the growth potential in the Irish capital. A monthly swim in Co. Cork is also a high priority for us, I am very hopeful of our collaboration with Fermoy Leisure Centre. Separately I am exploring the possibility of having naked Pilates. I also wish to bring INA to Wikipedia soon and to further develop promotional materials on Irish naturism.
On a personal note, my next project is to look for a seasonal job in a naturist campsite, I am eager to learn the ropes and gain experience in the operational ins and outs of a commercial naturist facility.
As for the vision for INA, we might or may or may not get nudist signage on traditional naturist beaches in Ireland, but I would expect Irish society to become more open-minded about naturism in years to come, as well as have more people partaking in it. Gender balance might always remain an issue, although I am sure women will be feeling safer, and I expect to see the continued rejuvenation of our association. Being able to appeal to the younger generations is paramount.