Nudefest: What really happens when hundreds of naturists gather in Somerset

090723 Nudefest Andrew Welch/British Naturism
Credit: British Naturism

If you live in Somerset, or even a little further afield, you've probably heard of Nudefest - the naturist festival that happens near Langport every summer.

For the traditional thinkers among you, the term "naturism" might conjure up images of hippy communes, loose morals, and even Paganism.

But it's really not that exciting, explains Andrew Welch, the man who founded of Nudefest for British Naturism in 2007.

"When people come to our events, they tend to realise how ordinary they are. Yes, nobody has any clothes on, but you'll meet these happy, normal people.

"We have found something that helps us relax and the vibe is really special.

"In fact, wherever we go the staff often say they would rather have us than a lot of other groups, because there are never any fights or any trouble," the 58-year-old said.

Nudefest takes place at Thorney Lakes campsite, with up to 700 people attending in total. This year's gathering began on Monday 3 July and wrapped up yesterday (8 July).

And while there might not be any trouble among the naturists themselves, their bonds with outsiders are also growing stronger.

"What is happening culturally is there is no longer divide between naturists and non-naturists.

"For example, this year some people came to put on a circus show for us and after they finished their performance they stripped off like everyone else," Andrew said.

The circus show is just one of a bevy of delights and included in the £219 ticket price.

Classes in yoga, meditation and crafting are offered during the day, as well as workshops, talks and comedy gigs.

But it's at night that the festival truly comes alive, when the bands arrive.

Andrew said: "Dancing with no clothes on is the most wonderful life-affirming experience. You should try it, honestly."

Andrew Welch helped British Naturism found the very first Nudefest back in 2007 Credit: Andrew Welch

Being barefoot is just another perk of naturism and its benefits are well-documented.

According to The Washington Post, 'grounding' or 'earthing' yourself regularly can improve sleep, reduce pain, decrease muscle tension and lower stress.

But, like anything, Nudefest has its downsides - the main one being the weather.

"We had dreadful rain on Tuesday, but it didn’t dampen our spirit. To be honest, the biggest challenge we have is probably the weather.

"Everybody was wrapped up in anoraks, but it’s lovely and sunny now," Andrew said yesterday (Saturday 8 July).

He added: "Actually, you would be surprised to see how many clothes there are in evidence during the festival.

"I think people assume that everyone is completely naked all the time, but many people slip on a t-shirt at some point or wear clothes while they are walking about.

"Most people working in the on-site pub have got clothes on, although there's one guy who doesn't, but they all get along together just fine.

"In fact, some people say that when it rains it’s easier to wear no clothes because they just get wet and your skin is easier to dry."

As well as wearing anoraks, festival-goers can duck into one of four large marquees to escape any bad weather.

But many were disappointed not to see the Magic Teapot return to Nudefest this year.

This 12-sided teashop-cum-music venue is a favourite with regulars to the festival thanks to the ad-hoc performances on pianos, guitars, and even trumpets, you might see there.

"They tour around lots of festivals but the reason they are so loved at Nudefest is that they usually take their clothes off too, in keeping with the spirit of the gathering," Andrew said.

It's a spirit that's making its way around the world, thanks to social media. This year, a man travelled to Nudefest all the way from California, after making friends online.

"They said he should drop by if he was ever in the area and he said ‘alright then, I will’," Andrew laughed.

But locally too, the festival is gaining traction. As well as revellers buying provisions from nearby shops in Langport, the drinks sold in the on-site bar are supplied by local breweries.

"The Buff Pound is very important. We may not have anywhere to put our money, but we’re still spending it and we try to make a contribution to the local economy," Andrew said.

Now, even as the 58-year-old Londoner prepares to head back to his desk job in marketing, the naturist lifestyle lives on after Nudefest.

With naked yoga offered in Bristol, nude swimming in Shaftesbury Lido, and a host of other options across the South West, you don't have to wait until next July to give it a go.