Addressing Nudity at Buddhafield

When you come to Buddhafield Festival, you’ll often have new experiences, heart openings, and be exposed to new sights. One of the things you’re likely to see is more nudity than you normally view on a daily basis – or at other festivals. 

Buddhafield is not a nudist festival. While the number of people who are naked is often striking, it is still a small percentage of the total audience. We are an event that encourages freedom of expression, as long as it doesn’t strongly impact others in a negative way. For some people, this expression may take the form of nudity and that has become part of the Buddhafield experience for them. 

In the last few years, the conversation around this issue has increased and become more polarised. This seems like a good time to look at the issues raised. There may not be clear answers, but we can offer some clarity around the content of the conversation. 

At present, we wish to continue to hold space for respectful nudity at Buddhafield. We recognise the need to shift with changing time and we also feel like the freedom to be naked without assumption of threat or judgement is important. And that a celebration of people’s urge to be completely themselves is beautiful. 

With freedom comes responsibility and a commitment to sensitivity around other people. The key question has been – how can we create room for both? 

What constitutes nudity? 

It’s often socially acceptable for a male body to be topless in public in places where the standard wouldn’t be the same for a female body. At present, when we talk about nudity within the festival, we’re defining that as full, or below-the-waist nudity, of any body. 

Why have things changed? 

Maybe things have changed or maybe issues around them have become more visible and people feel more able to speak up. This is a welcome development in that we can only address and care for things that are in our awareness. 

Clearly some of the high emotions around nudity are to do with the links between nakedness and sexuality. We acknowledge that sexuality and nudity has caused harm to people in the world and can make people feel triggered and vulnerable. 

We also know that some people feel pain because they cannot be vulnerable/ expressive in these ways due to their trauma. In these cases, seeing others who have that privilege may be painful. 

However, non-sexualised nudity is precious to many people and exemplifies body poistivity, openness, and realness. 

So what can we do to balance freedom and feelings of safety? 

Levels of safety

We take safety and safeguarding seriously at Buddhafield. We have a strong safeguarding team available 24hrs a day at the festival. We actively encourage people to report problems to the nearest festival representative – a steward, the info point, or any member of the crew with a radio who can put people in touch with someone who can address the issue. 

Also, people can feel unsafe around nudity even when there is no overtly sexual behaviour, contact, or even proximity; for a variety of understandable and valid reasons. 

We acknowledge all of this and want to create an environment that works for everyone – while recognising that there isn’t a perfect solution.

Some of the issues

There are a few issues that come up repeatedly in our conversations in different ways. Here are some of these and our thoughts and policies around them. 

Some of the concerns that many have are around genitals and bums in eating areas. There isn’t a clear line here as we can’t take a view of everyone’s personal hygiene. We hope people are taking care of themselves and being clean, even if they aren’t thinking of others. We also have eating spaces that are outdoors, indoors and halfway between the two. 

We are leaving it up to individual venues to decide on their nudity policies. 

We ask that if people are sitting in communal areas while nude, they put something between themselves and the seating area at a minimum, such as a towel. 

For some people, the issue is the possibility of bumping up against someone who is naked – or having a nude person in their personal space. We hope that as mindful human beings, we can all make attempts to move smoothly around each other and sense when we need to move away while being sensitive to our surroundings. We ask people to give space in queues, for example, if they are nude. At crowded gigs, we need people to be mindful of pressing up to or bumping against others. 

In 2023, we are introducing signage that will make it clear that there are some dance spaces that will be ‘clothes on’ spaces. This means that the lower half of the body should be covered. 

Conversely, there are spaces where you can explicitly expect to see a lot of nudity such as the sauna area, some workshops (such as body painting) and occasionally the dance tent. Even in these spaces, there should be no overt sexual behaviour or obvious signs of arousal. As a rule, ‘if it’s an activity that requires consent, take it to a private space’. 

We will also be asking workshop leaders to make it clear at the beginning of their sessions if nudity is welcome and/or encouraged so people can make an informed decision on their attendance. If this hasn’t been explicitly stated, we ask you to be prepared to cover up below the waist for the duration of the workshop. Counterintuitively, these may often be workshops where the focus is on desire or sexuality so that these topics might safely be discussed without crossing personal boundaries. 

At any time, someone could be asked to leave an area or cover up if asked to by a member of the festival crew. We ask that people please don’t take this personally and hold it lightly, as we can all only do our best in the moment. The intent isn’t to shame or cause embarrassment but to navigate the winding path between different people’s needs. 

We have a strict policy of no adult, below-the-waist nudity in our children’s areas. This also applies in the teen spaces. There will be clear signage in both of these spaces. No grey area here. 

Where do we all stand? 

Hopefully you have found reassurance somewhere in this article, whether you wish to be freely naked at the festival or want to come but are unsure about the nudity. Or perhaps you just came here for curiosity’s sake – which is also great. 
We are very often considering the issue anew and talking about it within the team. There is a diverse range of opinions on this subject. The hope is that we can hold the evolution of this policy as a community, be kind to one another and respond skilfully in the moment. 

If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch via our contact form