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Naturists strip nude calendars' protest sheen

London, Nov. 28: They have replaced cake sales and sponsored walks as the most popular method for charities to raise money or generate publicity. But the naked calendar ' immortalised in the film Calendar Girls ' is giving nudity a bad name and should stop, say Britain's naturists.

Organisations representing Britain's 25,000 naturists say that the hundreds of nude firemen, university students and Women's Institute members, who now feature in charity calendars, should put their clothes back on.

They say that the comical depictions of nudity ' with a subject's intimate parts concealed behind an array of inventive objects such as cider presses, firemen's hoses or mortar boards ' give the impression that the naked body is something to be ashamed of.

Francis Pickett, the director of the Association of British Naturist Clubs, called the current obsession with naked calendars 'absolutely pathetic'.

He said: 'These calendars have nothing to do with naturism and I am worried that they will get lumped together in people's minds. They always show people covering up behind cricket stumps or whatever, as if they are ashamed of their nudity. It's gimmicky and it gives naturism a bad name. I'd like to see these calendars stopped. Enough is enough.'

Andrew Welch, the commercial manager of British Naturism, a voluntary organisation that works to raise the public profile of naturism, said: 'Just because something is naked, doesn't make it naturism. We don't wish to be associated with these calendars because they are not really nude. It's a shame that they have promoted such a proliferation of misnomers.'

The nude calendar has become an ubiquitous annual event since a group of women from the Rylstone Women's Institute stripped off to raise money for a leukaemia charity in 1999.

The black and white photos featured 12 naked WI members preserving their modesty behind trays of home-made cakes, hymn sheets and flower arrangements. The calendar, produced after a member's husband died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1998, went on to raise more than '1 million. The exploits formed the basis for a highly successful 2003 film, Calendar Girls, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.

There are now approximately 100 new naked calendars published every year. Recent examples include a calendar celebrating the naked flesh of Scotland's first gay-friendly rugby club ('7.99) and an 'Embrace Men In Wellies' campaign sponsored by a Wellington boot manufacturer that features Alan Duncan, the Labour MP for Rutland and Melton, dressed in a Father Christmas hat and preserving his modesty with a cardboard cut-out of Margaret Thatcher.

The prevalence of naked calendars has even caused some charities to shun the trend. In April, staff at the Magpie Cancer Centre Campaign in Hampshire refused a '3,000 donation from the sale of a naked calendar because it was deemed 'too explicit'.

Steve Gough, the 'naked rambler' who completed a nude walk from Land's End to John ' Groats earlier this year, said that the calendars presented nudity in a negative manner.

'What grows out of these calendars can be really bad,' he said. 'The calendars present being naked as something sexual, with attention being drawn to the sexual parts by hiding them. People who buy them get tunnel vision about seeing nudity as something exclusively sexual. That's wrong. I like to be naked to have a stroll and feel the wind on my body, but these naked calendars ram home the mistaken belief that nudity equals sex.'

Tricia Stewart, one of the original Women's Institute calendar girls who posed manning a cider press as Miss October, said that nude calendars were not meant to be taken seriously. 'We just thought it was a funny idea,' said Stewart, who was played by Helen Mirren in the film. 'I feel that all the other people who have done naked calendars have done it for a good cause and had a fantastic time doing them.

'I don't see how that can give naturism a bad name because, if anything, it's helping people to be naked even if they don't have a wonderful body. Of course, some are more tastefully done than others, but the most important thing is to raise some money for charity in a tongue-in-cheek way.'

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