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It is the first day of June. Groups of young and old people are sitting in the street outside the cafés, pubs and bars that surround the walls of Nottingham Castle.
The statue of Nottingham’s most famous son, Robin Hood, watches on impassively as a convoy of around fifty bicycles enters the area.
The sunning drinkers watch on too but not as impassively as they start to realize that the cyclists are wearing no clothes at all. Yes, the cyclists are completely naked. People stand up at their tables and start to chatter, to point, to take photographs with their cell phones.
The cyclists dismount. Of the fifty or so riders only two or three are women. All are without clothes but many sport messages painted across their backs, legs, breasts. They are protest messages about air pollution, climate change and cycle awareness.
It seems an effective way of getting their message across as images start appearing across social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more. Some of the naked protesters start to dance around Robin Hood. They are having fun.
The crowd in the streets watch on, some applaud. None of them seem shocked or affronted by the nudity putting paid to the old vision of the English being somewhat prudish.
“I’m not shocked at all” a young woman tells me “and I agree with them about air pollution.”
The police and city authorities have kept a low profile. The protesters have been planning the ride for nearly seven years and have kept the local council informed of their plans all the way through to this, the ride itself.
This is not a one off naked cycle ride, but part of a worldwide movement with similar rides having taken place in many cities across the world. Whatever the city in whichever country the messages for cleaner air and more environmentally sound travel are similar.
Simon Terry is one of the main organisers and says that the naked element is fun and grabs the public’s attention, but it also has a serious side in that it shows ‘natural bodies’ not just the stereotypical body beautiful. A secondary message to the environmental message being a message about body positivity.
The ride is part of The World Naked Bike Ride. There are eleven other cities in the UK alone that have already held (some annually) naked bike ride protests.
No one really knows why almost all the riders are male. The organizers hope that more women will take part in future naked protest rides.
The group are really well organized and even have a body painting artist on hand to paint messages expertly on the cyclists’ bodies. Messages included “Stop Crush Testing Me" and "Stop Indecent Climate Change."
After stopping for a good fifteen minutes by the Robin Hood monument the cyclists adjust themselves where necessary, remount their bikes and head off down the road towards England’s oldest inn, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem.
The climate change crisis is high on the agenda of many communities across the world. Climate change has one of the most active and vociferous protest movements of any cause globally. The naked bike ride is just one of a number of fun, some might say outrageous, ideas for drawing attention to the climate crisis that has been declared by the UK and some other governments. Protesters are often quite willing to be arrested and in fact this can draw even more attention to their cause.
No one is arrested, cautioned, or even spoken to by law enforcement officers during this naked cycle ride through Nottingham city centre. It is not illegal to be naked in a public place per say in the UK, but if someone reports that they feel offended, harassed or threatened by the nudity then the police can take action including arrest. It seems the people of Nottingham, the birthplace of Lady Chatterly’s Lover writer, DH Lawrence, are not easily shocked and the naked bike ride passes without incident.