British nudism explored by Sussex academic

The eye-opening history of naturism in 20th century Britain is spotlit in a new book by University of Brighton's Annebella Pollen.

Bella Pollen - Nudism In A Cold Climate image - still from 1958 film Nudist-Paradise - Courtesy of RGA

University spokesman Norman Miller said: “Entitled Nudism in a Cold Climate, Dr Pollen’s richly illustrated study provides a first-time in-depth look at the fascinating and often idiosyncratic phenomenon of British social nudism or naturism from the 1920s to the 1970s, drawing on wide-ranging imagery allied to testimony by those who delighted in casting their clothes to the sometimes biting British wind.

“Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated, Dr Pollen's book delves into a fascinating story about evolving social attitudes and ideas about the body with the insight and wit that saw her recently win a £100,000 Leverhulme Prize for her diverse explorations of mass photography, from pandemic lockdown images to historic photography by children.

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“Nudism In A Cold Climate casts an eye over decades when thousands of people appeared nude in books and magazines associated with the nudist movement drawing attention to the cause, attracting public curiosity and inciting moral panics. Naturist nude photography from that era offers a fascinating lens on moral, legal and aesthetic shifts over a period of dramatic social change, including national beliefs about sex and gender, ethnicity and class, pleasure and power.

“Nudism in a Cold Climate offers readers a fascinating glimpse behind British veils of propriety and a unique view inside an enduring experimental culture that sought to radically challenge, liberate and ultimately transform conventional attitudes to bodies and their representations.”

Speaking about the book, award-winning dramatist Lee Hall (Billy Elliot, The Pitmen Painters, Rocketman), said: “Annebella Pollen is a brilliant archivist of a hidden Britain. This is a startling history of a British counterculture way before The Beatles’ first LP. Nudism in a Cold Climate is clever, surprising and huge fun. Absolutely fascinating.”

Dr Pollen's first book, Mass Photography: Collective Histories of Everyday Life, explored 55,000 amateur snapshots taken on a single day in 1987, while The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians examined the modernist craft and occult spirituality of left-field former scoutmasters in 1920s England.

Nudism In A Cold Climate is published by Atelier Éditions and features more than 100 archival photographs.