Tags: nudity

World Naked Bike Ride-Sheffield and York 2010

Saturday19th June. World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) day in both Sheffield and York. Two in a day, excellent!
This event is held in many countries around the world, and several cities around Britain. In the northern hemisphere it's held in June. London pulls the biggest crowds, but the more provincial cities also have very worthy rides, if somewhat smaller in numbers.
The ride itself is a protest against oil dependency and the car culture. It celebrates cycling as a sustainable form of transport around towns and cities, and therefore help combat climate change. It also highlights the vulnerability of cyclists on our busy roads.

With a 10am meeting time in Sheffield then it was an early wake up to get myself ready. Having managed to get hold of a folding bike, it was easy enough to ride to the railway station, buy a return to Sheffield and get the next train to arrive. This got me into Sheffield just before 9am, a bit early, but i still had to get to the meeting point without getting too lost. I managed to be the second to arrive.

We met at Endcliffe Park as we have for the previous two rides. This year though, we're told we can meet, but not get completely naked until we leave, so it either wear something that could be quickly removed as we left, or wait until we stopped in an underpass a short ride up the road. At least we had chance to sort ourselves out, and for people to get slogans painted on their bodies if they wanted to.
Although the day had started very brightly when i left home, it had clouded over by the time i'd reached Sheffield, and with a chill wind, it was feeling pretty cold as we waited to start. But the cold wasn't going to put me off. I gradually stripped down to underwear to try and acclimatise. Then in the last few minutes i moved my bike outside the gates so that as riders started to move off i could rid myself of the last offending item!
The slogan is "As Bare As You Dare", but for me, especially being a life model, then it has to be as naked as possible, so it's shoes only for me as they help on the pedals.
A small crowd had gathered at the start. There was the press photographer, a couple of groups of young Japanese, and several others, so as we set off, the cameras were snapping away.........

The route took us on a meandering ride around the centre of the city. Due to a few other events it had been decided, in discussions with the police, that we wouldn't ride through the very centre. This was a shame as the first year we rode through and got a great reception. Hopefully next year we can do it on a less busy weekend. As the police had given us four cyclists as an escort, plus provided the first aid if needed, then we weren't there to give them a hard time trying to deal with too many events in the centre on the same day.
The police also had officers at various points along the way to stop traffic so we could ride safely through junctions without getting separated.
As usual, the general reception was great. Many applauded us, and many laughed. Some looked shocked, and some just pretended we weren't there.
It's quite funny seeing all the different reactions. Fortunately it's very rare that we get anything bad from people, as it is a perfectly valid and legal protest ride designed to be fun for riders and observers alike.

After skirting the edge of the city we headed back towards the park. As we weren't allowed nudity, we rode back to the underpass to finish. All in all it had been a good ride with friendly people, and hopefully some viewers along the way understood the message.
One of the police officers told us it had been a 7.75 miles round trip, so quite a reasonable ride around Sheffield.

As everyone gradually departed i decided to head to the station and buy a ticket to York.
Having not yet got used to the folding bike, i found myself stumbling towards the wanted platform. Checking i was in the right place i turned and saw a friendly face from the ride. It was Bob who i'd met two years previously. The train arrived and we climbed aboard. Folding bikes may be classed as luggage, and so don't need to go to the two, yes, that's right, just two spaces for bikes, terrible!! But there does need to be luggage space available. Modern trains don't really allow for people traveling with much more than a handbag. It really is quite pathetic what little space is made available. I had to do quite a bit of shuffling of baggage to fit my bike in, fortunately the owners of the luggage were there to help out.

We arrived in York very early, so decided to check out where the meeting place was (Memorial Gardens) It turned out to be just a few minutes from the station. With time on our hands we headed into York. After a short walk we both agreed that food would be a good idea. After checking a cafe and pub, we realised it was going to be busy, so we walked to the river and found an Indian restaurant that did a lunchtime deal. It was a very pleasant meal.

It was now time to head back to the meeting place, a 4pm meet for a 5pm start.

Before the start there a few speeches, then we were told we had to go to a car park at the rear of a nearby building to finish stripping off. The cold wind was whipping through there, and by the time more speeches had been made people were shivering! But suddenly we away!

There was a good crowd gathered to see us off, again cameras were snapping away and we got applause and cheers form them all.
We immediately headed into the centre of the city, York being an old city with it's famous Minster and city walls makes it a tourist trap, so there were many people in the streets as we passed through. Again the overwhelming reception was very positive. For all out crazy ideas, and perhaps fears, about nudity, when it comes to it, people find it fun and amusing, and hopefully gain a little understanding that nudity in itself is not a bad thing.

After a tour of part of the city we headed out towards the river. This led us to a nice tree lined path for a very leisurely ride. We crossed the river and carried on along the other side for a short way, then up another path to the road. After a very short distance we turned off and went into a park like place. In the distance there was an event going on, but we kept away and had a break.
We again had a couple of speeches, at one point being told of a cyclist killed just back on the road as a reminder of the dangers we face every day.

Although the sun had come out, it was still blowing a strong cold wind, so away we went.
The next section took us through a residential area with a cricket pitch to the left. That seemed a little surreal, but it was a safe route back to the main road that would take us back to the heart of the city.
Although the streets were not as busy with tourists now, the pub crowds were starting to come out, so it was a different type of crowd to greet us. It was again a very positive response.
We wound our way through the traffic lights (there are lots!) and slowly rode towards the destination, Museum Gardens (i think).

Again it had been a good ride with very friendly people.

York is a different type of city to Sheffield, and the type of crowds are therefore very different. As the center is quite small it allowed us to ride away a little more. Whilst it's great to go through the centre, it is also a celebration of cycling, so to head out along the river with a few local residents coming out to see us was very different to what i'd experience before. York has also been going longer, and therefore more established, it had 100 riders compared to Sheffield's 35 (London gets well over 1000)
One thing that would be good is for more women to take part. In Sheffield i think we had 3, and i heard a group estimating about 20 in York. I'm not sure why it's like that, maybe there's something that makes many female cyclists feel more intimidated, perhaps the thought of just being seen sexually rather than a concerned person trying to make a point. Maybe there's just more men that cycle, so therefore more will turn up. But whatever the reason, it would be nice if the numbers were more even.

Anyway, it was time to head home. I headed back to the station with Bob. He was booked on a train to London and had a while to wait, i had about 45 minutes to wait........Suddenly i noticed an old mate sitting with his grandchild. What a pleasant surprise. His daughter then came along too. We only had a few minutes before they had to get a train, but it was great to see a friendly face at the end of such a good day.

Well there was just time for a swift drink in the bar before heading home, and another guy, who followed us on a skateboard (and walking) appeared, so it was a nice chat, then jump on the train, which fortunately got me back without any changes.

It was one of the most enjoyable days i've had for quite while. Roll on next year!!

WNBR UK site www.worldnakedbikeride.org/uk/

More photos. You may have to sign in to see the flickr albums, but the ipernity albums should be free to see.
Sheffield on flickr www.flickr.com/photos/26872589@N00/sets/72157624197912971/ 
Sheffield on ipernity www.ipernity.com/doc/purpletim100/album/193826

York on flickr www.flickr.com/photos/26872589@N00/sets/72157624322740430/
York on ipernity www.ipernity.com/doc/purpletim100/album/193832

Everyday People-A Naked Ambition With Spencer Tunick

12:30am on 1st May i walk up to the Lowry Arts Center in Salford. A couple walk up behind me and we look around to see where to go. We walk around the side of the building and see that a queue is forming, so we walk to the rear, and are told by someone that we're roughly abut the 75th in line.
This was the start of several rather chilly hours!

We were all gathering for a Spencer Tunick photo installation commissioned by the Lowry to celebrate their 10th anniversary. People were arriving early as there were to be only 500 today, then another 500 tomorrow, so best to make sure we all got registered as some would be turned away.

It was a friendly atmosphere outside as people joined into small groups, four in our little group, and the time ticked by until eventually at around 3:15am they started the registration process.

We were all given a bag for our gear, slippers for the short walks involved later if we needed them, and a drink. There was just enough time to use the toilet before we formed a queue to go the waiting buses, a selection of coaches and double deckers. Then we were off!

Photos of Lowry paintings were passed around, and it was clear that the installations were inspired by Lowry, very fitting for the arts centre built in his name.

We pulled up in a small car park where Spencer had his open top bus. This was close the where the first three sites were. Spencer gave a talk about what he wanted, and how we were behave in the shoots. Basically we had to walk around until he said to stop, and also to lean forwards as the figures in Lowry's paintings were often leaning as they walked. He told of how he would be shouting at us, and it wasn't personal, he just had to be heard, and also get the job done. He thanked us all for coming along several times, then set off to the first location.

Within a few minutes we set off on foot. At this point everyone was still clothed, but the few people were starting to get a little apprehensive, but no one was backing out. We were led up a hill to the top of a small park. Again Spencer told us what he wanted, and that we should walk down the bank onto the park, then spread out. As he set off, it was time to undress. Being a life model for 19 years now, this didn't bother me, so i offered a few words of encouragement to those nearby who looked nervous. Then suddenly, there were 500 naked people running down a cold wet bank to the park, and boy did it feel cold at 6am!  Just as an early train passed on the bridge just a hundred yards away.

Spencer barked his orders and shouted at us to halt! His assistants ran around moving people from time to time. "Don't look at me!" shouted Spencer. "If you're looking at me turn away!". "That man at the front, look away from me!!" "Can you separate those two people in the middle...yes, them. Move them apart! Thank you!". "More people under the trees! Please, move to the trees over there!" And so it went as he took his photos.
For all the randomness, he must have also been looking at the aesthetics of where people were, and how it would look better. I found that very interesting.
In a way it was funny seeing people trying to keep still for a few minutes. I saw them as others perhaps see me when i'm working.

After ten or fifteen minutes he was all done, and off we went back up the hill to our clothes. A young woman who got changed with her friends near me, and had been nervous, said that getting naked was the best way to meet new people. Suddenly she was loving the freedom, and feeling relaxed naked with others.

We were led back down the road and round a corner under the railway bridge. Spencer had set up under the next arch, so we all stripped again and walked over. At this point a tramp acme down the road with beer can in hand. His jaw gaped at all the flesh, and it looked like his eyes would pop out of their sockets. He regaled us with jokes, asked if we had any spare change, sand "Fat Bottomed Girls!". Of course, we were supposed to be keeping still, not smiling, and certainly not laughing. Again the shoot was fairly quickly over, so back to our clothes we went.
The women were told they could head back to the buses as Spencer wanted to do a shoot with just the men, though as it turned out, he wanted just one woman in the shot.. Right across the road was a building with a yellow wall. He wanted us to line up with the first row backs to the wall, then each row just a few feet apart until the last row was close up to him. Then he asked us to turn one line to the left, next to the right, and so on. He started shooting, and then asked us all to lean forwards from the waist. This brought a few giggles from some (most) of the men.
It has to be noted that as 250 naked men ran across the road at the start, the two police officers helping out had to stop a couple of cars. One driver was heard to say something about why was he being turned away, "look, there's loads of naked men, why aren't you doing something about them??" It must have been quite a shock!

Back on the buses we had the chance to warm up again. There were smiles on pretty much everyone's face as the excitement had got to them all. Just a few weeks before most of these people wouldn't have believed they'd be running about naked with hundreds of strangers, but here they all were, and they were all being imortalised for art!

The buses moved on, and after a while we arrived at the last location, Peel Park at the back of Salford University. At this site the press had been given information so they could come along. Some people felt a little uncomfortable seeing a few new cameras there, but maybe if they'd heard the young female photographer as she saw us all, even before we stripped off, saying it was really scary! I found that very amusing, but i guess she'd never been in a position to be confronted with 500 naked bodies before, and we were all very comfortable with it now!

Spencer came over and told us we were to strip off up here, then walk down a path and onto the park. He wanted us to spread out as much as we could, but not to block the flower beds. The time came, and off we went again. People walked and ran down the grassy bank, and laughed at the fun of running naked without a care in the world. Sadly that's a freedom we lose with our childhood. Perhaps it's a freedom we would be better off keeping..? The smiles and laughter would suggest so.
As we spread out Spencer called to us that we should jump up and down, and then run on the spot. Again people laughed, and it also i think gained a little heat from the exercise. Then we had to walk around until Spencer said to stop.
As was now usual, Spencer shouted to have some people moved around. Move forwards, move back, don't group together etc, and some individuals had to be moved too. Then we had to walk around until again he said stop! And he was shooting away again!
Spencer then asked us all to surround the flower beds. They were in circles so we all moved about to join a circle. Spencer could see the gaps and shouted his orders yet again. When he was happy he took his shots, then told us to all turn round. A minute later he said to walk forwards. This looks really good on the video on the news.

Now it was time for the men to leave...except one! This was to be the final shoot, and was to be with the women...plus one man!
We all headed back to the top of the park and biscuits.
After a while some of the women came back to applause. The others were still being photographed.
We all had to gradually make our way back to the buses. It wasn't too much after 8am. The experience was over all to quickly for most of us. Like me, i think many would have been happy to carry on all day.

For most people, it had been a wonderful opportunity to be involved in a work of art, to be able to feel free and uninhibited amongst hundreds of other people. We were young, old, short, tall, fat, thin! Just a very normal cross section of people, Everyday People doing something unusual.
For me as a life model, it was the chance to be part of a much larger work of art. In my job i'm the one on my own, naked in a room of people to be drawn, painted, sculptured, and, on occasions, photographed. To be just one of many, and to have no say in what was happening, was quite a good experience. To be anonymous and not the centre of attention made a very nice change....

I guess everybody will take something different from the experience. Perhaps the best is from a blog i read the other day by a young woman. In her earlier blogs she talks a lot about her eating disorder, there's even a video of an interview she did on TV about it. In her Everyday People blog she says about how comfortable she felt being naked amongst so many, and that for the first time she felt good about herself. If it helps her just a little bit, then what a great day it was.


Links to news stories and Spencer Tunick's website
The Guardian
The Mirror
Manchester Evening News