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Life drawing online, 12 October 2021

Just a fortnight on from the end of her last 5-week online life drawing course, Joanna McCormick was back with her next term. Once again, I was honoured with the job of providing poses for week 1 of 5, this time on the theme of ‘shading’.

With autumn nights drawing in, it’s no longer certain that natural light will be sufficient for a 4pm to 6pm slot. I set-up an extra table lamp by my pose space as a precaution, but also realised I could use it to cast varying shadows as we progressed.

After reviewing some excellent drawings of dauntingly sublime poses from last term’s final session, Jo gave a demo of various shading techniques. We then got under way with five poses of 1 minute, two of 3 minutes and one of 5 minutes.

Slight longer poses of 10 minutes and 15 minutes followed – each time I repositioned my lamp with the hope of enlivening any shadow contrasts. Next came the 20-minute close-up portrait slot. For this shading session I was asked to wear… shades! πŸ™‚

Aside from the general unusualness of posing in sunglasses, the weird aspect for me was being able to see clearly. I always take off my spectacles when modelling but my shades have prescription lenses. I could focus at last, but only on my own four walls.

For the final 30-minute pose, I got back into character with a trademark smΓΆrgΓ₯sbord of lines and angles. My left foot kept me guessing as to whether it might slip from the chair at any moment, but ultimately behaved. It had been a fun session.

West Wickham Arts, Hayes, 11 October 2021

It’s always a delicate moment when one expects to be posing naked in front of artists at the local church hall, but instead finds the place still swarming with Brownies. So it was at Hayes Free Church on Monday, where the Brownies were supposed to leave at quarter past seven so West Wickham Arts Association life drawing could start at half-past. It was Brownies’ enrolment evening, however, and they were running late. I guess I could have brought matters to a head simply by walking in and undressing…

Fortunately there was no need. A few gentle representations from the artists was all it took to get the last stragglers out the door while we were still only ten minutes behind schedule. Meanwhile, on the plus side, more and more artists had arrived. The petrol shortage at the pumps meant just five people turned up to draw last week. With tanks filled-up again, I was pleased to see more than twice that number were sitting around me in an arc as I opened with two 10-minute poses (I’d travelled by train myself).

After one standing pose and one seated pose, I stood again for 25 minutes, taking us to a break for tea and biscuits. I feel I’m eating relentlessly these days so resisted the offer to partake but, just like the Brownies, our interval overran and with each passing minute my resolve weakened till eventually I was on the outside of two McVitie’s dark chocolate digestives and a mug of PG Tips. I was then summoned back into position, once more to search for my inner skinny model.

The final pose lasted between 40 and 45 minutes. I sat side-saddle on a sofa and did my customary angular thing with legs and arms. Lots of straight lines, negative space and confounding proportions to grapple with. Everyone seemed in high spirits despite my challenges and starting each half late. The group had only resumed in September for the first time since last March. After 18 months with no sessions at all, a few minor delays must have seemed a trifling inconvenience. It was good to see them back.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 4 October 2021

That most encouraging of sights greeted me as I entered the high-ceilinged Victorian art building of The Conservatoire in Blackheath: a full complement of artists’ easels set-out in a circle. In-person life drawing is back and perhaps more popular than ever. A wooden platform awaited me in the round. I positioned layers of foam across it to a satisfactory depth, spread my trusty white sheet over the top and was ready to begin. When tutor Victoria Rance and ten artists were ready too, I started with a traditional warm-up sequence: three poses of 1 minute, one of 5 minutes, one of 10 minutes.

There were plenty of new young faces behind the pencils extended at arm’s length to measure my proportions. This is also encouraging, though it would be nice to see the pre-pandemic regulars enjoying their practice too. I hope they’ve stayed well and can return in their own good time. Meanwhile my next priority was to prepare a long pose. Victoria had a clear vision: my platform was moved to a side wall and a high stool put on top for me to part-sit, part-lean upon for around 2 hours. Quite straightforward and symmetrical; I think my only creative input was to rest my hands on my thighs.

Once in position I felt pretty good – more optimistic for relative comfort than fearful of aching endurance. And so it was. Only three rest breaks were required between 8pm and 10pm. Nothing in the pose was painful; stretches were taken solely to relieve the creeping effect of changelessness stiffening my muscles. Warmth is the other crucial factor for comfort and this was very well provided by two ceramic heating elements in the electric heater at my feet. I’ll take one of this type rather than multiple fan heaters any day. A tropical cocoon is assured.

When artists observe my upright figure in a long pose, their primary challenge seems always to be getting the proportions right. Specifically, overriding what their brain tells them about the more-often observed relative proportionalities of body and leg lengths so they can accurately represent my own somewhat freakish ratios. In this pose, they had the extra complication of angled legs lending a foreshortening effect from certain perspectives. All things considered, I reckon they did splendidly. I hope they returned home feeling as pleased with their artworks as I was.

Life drawing online, 31 August 2021

Life modelling resumed with a booking from Jo McCormick. It was for a session that would form part of a 5-week online course. When she posted her schedule of themes to be covered each week, I guessed immediately which was my destiny:

  • Week 1 – shapes
  • Week 2 – colour
  • Week 3 – pastels
  • Week 4 – Degas
  • Week 5 – Alice Neel

Sure enough, I would be making shapes. To the begin, Jo gave quick demonstrations of simplification, drawing shapes in the figure, and abstraction of the figure by looking for shapes. Then it was my turn for the spotlight with some quickfire work.

We opened with three 1-minute poses, three 2-minute poses, two 3-minutes poses, a 5-minute pose and a 10-minute pose. For the first nine, I evoked rectangles, triangles and arcs with my limbs whilst either standing or kneeling. For the tenth, I took a seat.

Having settled into a 10-minute seated pose with one arm hooked high behind me on the back of the chair, it occurred to me I might regret it. But no, it remained a painless position, taking me through to my 20-minute portrait pose.

Online portrait poses can feel more painful in the sense that the webcam needs to be brought excruciatingly close. If you’re paranoid about any aspect of your appearance, don’t try this at home! Sweet relief, we finished with a ‘long’ pose of 30 minutes.

Whether through loose lineaments, audacious shading or a crescendo of colours, the artists enjoyed maximum creative self-expression for this final half-hour, finishing with flourishes. I’d enjoyed myself too. It felt like a good workout for us all.

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2021 – A Breeze

My fourth and final World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) of 2021 was to be Brighton on Sunday 15 August. After the deluge on Folkestone, showers in Coventry and sunny streets of London, what would fate throw at us back on the south coast? As it turned out, rather than fickle fate it was the fickleness of Network Rail that first intervened.

With just a week’s notice, Network Rail announced emergency engineering work and replacement buses for the London to Brighton line on the day of the ride. Bugger! No way would there be space for scores of bikes on buses, so I bought a ticket to go the long way round: a 3-hour rail trip via Havant. Then… they cancelled the works! D’oh!

Park and ride

Leaving London Waterloo at 09:30, I arrived in Brighton at 12:23; a protracted journey is no problem when there’s keen anticipation. I cycled to our Preston Park start point and entered its fenced enclosure for participants. After much loitering, a spot of lunch and a bit of body painting, we were all set. The fence came down shortly before 2pm.


1:58pm in Preston Park: freedom – Β© Funk Dooby

We took the usual route from Preston Park. After exiting our grassy compound onto a pathway by the north side, we continued anticlockwise on wide paths around its edge. While waiting at the southern tip I suddenly realised I didn’t have my whistle! I hunted through my panniers in vain. It had gone. Arrgh! I’d left it in Green Park, London! 😦


2:01pm leaving Preston Park: off-road warm-up


2:04pm leaving Preston Park: whistle stop – Β© wightrider

Northern territory

Our gateway to the streets of Brighton was a left turn onto Stanford Avenue, followed by a hairpin right into Beaconsfield Road that led us downhill under a railway viaduct. Not that I knew at this stage, but compared with the last ride two years ago, the 2021 route had three changes. The first of these was an early left into Viaduct Road.


2:07pm on Stanford Avenue: onto the streets


2:09pm on Beaconsfield Road: via the viaduct…


2:12pm on Beaconsfield Road: …and now left into Viaduct

It seemed the sensible way to go. I guess there must have been roadworks or similar that forced us to stay on Beaconsfield last time and go left at narrower Oxford Street. Either way, we emerged right onto Ditchling Road and continued in glorious sunshine around St Peter’s Place for another right at the Phoenix Art Centre.


2:16pm on Ditchling Road: background boy – Β© Funk Dooby


2:17pm on St Peter’s Place: swinging right

To the pier

We now proceeded more-or-less directly south towards the Palace Pier. The descent took us from Waterloo Place to Richmond Place – occupied by fellow protestors from Extinction Rebellion – and into Grand Parade. From there we cycled on past Valley Garden and Victoria Gardens to enter Pavilion Parade and Old Steine.


2:19pm on Richmond Place: respect to Extinction Rebellion


2:23pm on Old Steine: big joy – Β© Funk Dooby


2:24pm on Old Steine: still smiling – Β© Graham Brown

The southern end of Old Steine, like the southern end of Preston Park, is a traditional place to tarry and regroup. The atmosphere thus far had been mardi gras all the way; music and colour, frippery and flags, whoops and cheers, pure positivity. Stiff breezes were blasting in from the Channel, sure, but conditions were still great for a ride.


2:25pm on Old Steine: the masses behind me

Seafront superstars

Our feelgood factor was about to go one louder. Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions had forced the ride to be postponed from June to August but the delay of two months meant we also benefitted both from warmer summer weather and an absolute throng of holidaymakers along the seafront by the pier. And they loved us!


2:27pm on Old Steine: towards tourist heaven


2:28pm on Grand Junction Road: westward Hove

Ordinary members of the public, people no different to us, roared their support as we swung right into Grand Junction Road then followed the coast – passing that tall ugly shaft-thing with a ring going up and down it – into Kings Road and Kingsway, until we reached Hove Lawns. Exhilarating! Here we would have our first and only rest stop.


2:33pm on Kings Road: passing the thing there


2:36pm on Kings Road: "She ❀ compost"

Out to grass

This year there was to be no rest stop at Old Steine Gardens where social distancing would be impossible along narrow paths. Instead we had 20 minutes at Hove Lawns. There was more mingling than distancing here, but at least we had persistent coastal breezes to disperse every breath. As for me, I just sat and took it easy.


2:40pm on Kingsway: arrival at Hove Lawns


2:47pm on Hove Lawns: nudes with messages


3:01pm leaving Hove Lawns: break time’s over

When moving again, our second route change sent us north on Grand Avenue rather than seven roads down on St Aubyns. It took us around the Queen Victoria Memorial with its statue of the monarch whose era defined English prudishness. Fitting that we should parade our liberated 21st century breasts, buttocks, vulvas and penises here.


3:03pm on Kingsway: a new way north


3:07pm on Grand Avenue: short cut to Church Road

Return to centre

Grand Avenue or St Aubyns, both were a means to the same end; specifically, a right turn onto Church Road. This started us in a long procession east from Hove, through Brunswick Town towards the city centre. Police escort cyclists, who had been with us from the outset, continued to keep us safe and supported on this usually-busy road.


3:11pm on Church Road: mini zigzag


3:13pm on Western Road: can you see me? – Β© Funk Dooby

Church Road led into Western Road where every now and then we stopped for traffic ahead. One such stop was outside The Temple Bar, whose customers welcomed us with uproarious cheers. All, that is, except one table where three young lads brooded in stony-faced silence. Everywhere was glee yet they clearly felt only disgust. Why?


3:21pm on Western Road: backsides and clean air

Many people still presume it’s illegal to be naked in public, yet the Crown Prosecution Service recommends ‘In the absence of any sexual context […] where the person has no intention to cause alarm or distress it will normally be appropriate to take no action unless members of the public were actually caused harassment, alarm or distress…


3:23pm on Western Road: passing Jubilee Clock Tower


3:25pm on North Street: “It’s getting hot in here!”

So we continued in joyous spirits on Western Road, passing Jubilee Clock Tower into North Street. Our third and final change of route from 2019 was that instead of a right turn at Ship Street for a loop around to Old Steine Gardens, we just carried on ahead. Here, in my Spirited Bodies body paint, I heard a fellow life model call my name…


3:27pm on North Street: glitter boy – Β© lupuskool

Laine loop

The voice belonged to outstanding veteran London model and artist, Ed. Unexpected encounters are a bonus on these rides, and it was good to learn he’d been doing well with his art in particular. Meanwhile we continued to Castle Square, left at Old Steine, passed the Royal Pavilion, and turned left again at Marlborough Place.


3:28pm on Old Steine: me, Ed and a pavilion – Β© Louise Yates


3:29pm on Marlborough Place: passing North Gate


3:31pm on Gloucester Place: a wave to the drummers


3:34pm on Sydney Street: in North Laine

Our next trajectory was a loop through the characterful narrow streets of North Laine. Marlborough Place took us to Gloucester Place, where drummers set a tempo for our left into Gloucester Street. Another left put us southbound again, down quirky Sydney Street, Gloucester Road, Robert Street, North Road, Jubilee Street and New Road.


3:37pm on New Road: completing the loop

Look East

Emerging on North Street again, I found myself riding alongside another friendly face. This time it was Pawel, one of the London ride marshals. He was still fully dressed as he’d only just left work but, all credit to him, with 15-minutes of the ride remaining and no more scheduled stops, he nonetheless somehow managed to strip before the end.


3:38pm on St James’s Street: towards Kemptown

From North Street, Castle Square and St James’s Street, we crossed Old Steine and began our eastward pilgrimage through Kemptown. I tend to think this part of the ride is merely a means to an end; our goal being Brighton’s naturist beach. But in fairness to the people here, although fewer in number, they always give us plenty of support.


3:41pm on St James’s Street: “Proud bike-sexual” πŸ™‚


3:44pm on Bristol Road: “Be naked, be free”

St James’s Street led us to Upper St James’s Street, which became Bristol Road and then St George’s Road. Towards the end of St George’s Road, before we turned right at Eaton Place, I spotted an older couple ahead whom I’d seen at every ride this year, always fabulously decorated, always topical. Marvellous to find them here too.


3:47pm on St George’s Road: decorated regulars

Down the mound

Not far to go now. A left turn out of Eaton Place put us on Marine Parade, from where we took a sharp right down the steep gradient of Duke’s Mound. During the course of this year’s rides I’d noticed my back brakes were starting to get rather spongy, so this was a good test for them. They just about passed. Just about.


3:48pm on Marine Parade: to a final decline


3:50pm on Duke’s Mound: steepness


3:51pm on Duke’s Mound: jubilation – Β© Funk Dooby

On the descent I offered thanks to a random police officer for their positive support all afternoon. Then, having arrived safely in one piece at the bottom, I swung sharply left around the hairpin into Madeira Drive – our home straight. I savoured each of the last few yards before easing up to our final destination: Black Rock Car Park.


3:53pm on Madeira Drive: end of the road


3:54pm by Black Rock Car Park: end of the ride

Beached

Hardier people than myself went straight across the naturist beach and into the sea. I simply got dressed, locked my bike and walked over to where my partner Esther and our friend Rodger were sheltering from the by-now strong winds. There’s a time to be naked and a time share a celebratory bottle of wine. Cheers to Brighton WNBR!


4:22pm at Brighton Naturist Beach: blown out

Our route from Preston Park to the nudist beach

More on WNBR Brighton 2021

WNBR is a worldwide campaign that demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists and protests against car culture. Its linked objectives are to:

  1. protest against the global dependency on oil
  2. curb car culture
  3. obtain real rights for cyclists
  4. demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on city streets
  5. celebrate body freedom

Bygone blogs

London Naked Bike Ride 2021 – Safety first

This was the one for which we yearned. Concerns about rider safety, spectator safety and public perception during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in all UK World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) events being cancelled last year. In 2021, however, they were back, with the biggest making its return on 14 August: WNBR London.

World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR)

WNBR is a worldwide campaign that demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists and protests against car culture. Its linked objectives are to:

  1. protest against the global dependency on oil
  2. curb car culture
  3. obtain real rights for cyclists
  4. demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on city streets
  5. celebrate body freedom

The ride had been postponed from its traditional date of the second Saturday in June due to the excruciatingly slow pace of pandemic restriction-easing. When finally it did go ahead, it was to be with more start points than ever. West Norwood was gone, but new starts had been designated for Croydon (south) and Victoria Park (east).

Once again, I would be starting from Trinity Square Gardens near Tower Hill. Once again, Natansky would be the ride leader here, and once again I’d somehow allowed myself to be volunteered as front-riding marshal. I’d fallen out of love with front-riding, to be honest, but full joy was restored when my partner Esther decided to ride too.

Colouring up

Aside from sharing routine guidance on wearing masks (many riders do anyway) and social distancing, two main changes were announced for coronavirus safety: first that riders should arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before the start times, and second that rides from individual starts would not linger at rest points or wait to merge as one.


2:15pm on Trinity Square Gardens: Esther paints while Lucy muses

As a ride marshal I felt justified in arriving a whole hour before our time to assess the situation. I wasn’t alone; Natansky had done likewise, as had other ride regulars. Not long after 2pm, nakedness began. Esther and I waited a while longer, then dived into our body paints: me going all-over copper, with Esther a fluorescent kaleidoscope.

Me –
Β© Will Le.
Esther –
Β© Steve Woolhat
Natansky –
Β© Steve Woolhat

Cameras were soon in abundance. In addition to the usual mix of cheery tourists and creepy voyeurs, we had media photographers, Lucy Muse and Thomas making their annual film, and of course we all took snaps of each other. After about half an hour of merry capers in brilliant sunshine, I led us out to Trinity Square road at 2:30pm.


2:34pm on Trinity Square: Tower Hill starters…

Photography intensified at the front while the rest of the ride assembled behind us. In truth, we were in the mood this year and lapped it up. Soon we had ever more naked people on the pavement alongside us as riders from Deptford unexpectedly rolled up, resplendent with their own body paints and a fantastic sound system in tow.


2:40pm on Trinity Square: …meet Deptford starters

Breakout on Byward

While Esther and I held the line, Natansky endured the altogether more arduous task of rounding up assorted latecomers and late movers so everyone was in place, ready for our 2:45pm start time. As always, she did a magnificent job; we got away bang on the minute amid a cacophony of cheers, whistles and booming bass.


2:47pm on Byward Street: leading us out

First I led us out onto Byward Street, eschewing its off-road two-lane cycleway so we could occupy the main highway instead – after all, this was a protest ride about cycle visibility. As we descended the hill beyond All Hallows by the Tower church, I glanced round to the riders streaming behind. We were many!


2:48pm on Byward Street: Esther in front – Β© Steve Woolhat

After Byward Street, I tarried a little way along Lower Thames Street to allow enough time for everyone to get through the traffic lights at Trinity Square and come together. Such delays of a minute or two can be frustrating for our more enthusiastic riders but us marshals have a responsibility for the whole. Ergo, I’m afraid it has to be done.


2:49pm on Lower Thames Street: getting us together

Tate Modern trail

But anyway, what does it matter if we stop a few times when each time can be a mini street party? Lower Thames Street led to Upper Thames Street, where we turned left onto Southwark Bridge and tarried again at its southern end. The city was behind us, the Thames beneath us and the sun was (mostly) beaming above us. Why hurry?


2:56pm on Southwark Bridge: happy naked people

From Southwark Bridge our first turn was a right into Sumner Street, which guided us in a left-hanging curve at the rear of Tate Modern to a junction with Southwark Street. This busy right-turn at traffic lights was a natural place to regroup again for a moment or two. Likewise for a fourth time by the lights at the end of Southwark Street.


3:02pm on Sumner Street: a work of art

A reminder of the value of all this regrouping came when I pulled out from Southwark Street onto Blackfriars Street and immediately had to gesture for others to wait as an ambulance with flashing blue lights was racing towards us. If I’d already disappeared out of view and wasn’t pausing routinely, we might have been split-up for miles.


3:03pm on Sumner Street: Tate Modern winks at us

Blackfriars to Embankment

I waited for the ambulance to pass and led us onward across Blackfriars Bridge, then held us briefly by the lights at its northern end. From there, we went left down the slip road onto Victoria Embankment and waited again by the lights at the bottom. As ever, this is a great place to look back – up the slope – and marvel at so many bare bodies.


3:10pm on Blackfriars Bridge: mustering upon our return north


3:13pm on Victoria Embankment: descent to the riverside

While I kept us steady at the front, Natansky was still shuttling back and forth herding the proverbial cats stretched out behind. For our crossing of Victoria Embankment on to the cycleway along the river side, she went ahead and waited for the right moment to block traffic and let us all through. Heroic work, worthy of a wave and a smile. πŸ™‚


3:14pm on Victoria Embankment: “Hello Natansky!…”


3:15pm on Victoria Embankment: “…Hello Steve!”

Rendezvous at Trafalgar Square

We paused midway along Victoria Embankment, again to be sure everyone was with us, and simply to soak up warm rays by the Thames. After passing beneath Waterloo Bridge and Hungerford Bridge, we turned right into Northumberland Avenue. Here an abundance of red buses kept our speed in check.


3:26pm on Northumberland Avenue: up to the square

Why do I keep mentioning our pauses and pace? Because suddenly, here, at the top end of Northumberland Avenue while we waited at traffic lights and Esther danced in sunlight, we beheld the miraculous vision of our fellow riders from Hyde Park hoving into view. It was a perfect convergence.


3:27pm on Northumberland Avenue: dancer!

Unpleasantness at Whitehall

Our two groups became one at Trafalgar Square. As the Hyde Park front-riders – our friends Cy and Pawel – came alongside, I deferred to them the honour of leading our combined ranks. Not only was this fair acknowledgement of the huge contribution Cy in particular makes towards organising the ride, but also I’m happier in the crowd.


3:28pm on Whitehall: Pawel and Esther – Β© Funk Dooby

Unfortunately no sooner had we entered Whitehall than matters turned unpleasant. A group that was drinking outside The Clarence began hurling vitriolic abuse at us; they even acted physically against some of our riders. Further down Parliament Street, we were similarly abused outside The Red Lion. I had to dodge an object thrown at me.


3:31pm on Whitehall: post-confrontation

I don’t know who these sets of people were or whether they were connected, but they had the same general demeanour as groups of hard right-wingers we’ve encountered before on Whitehall. They fester in their own little bubbles of self-righteous bile, totally oblivious to us being cheered, celebrated and applauded everywhere else we went.


3:37pm on Westminster Bridge Road: city sightseers

I led the main group of riders away from these isolated flashpoints, onto Westminster Bridge Road and across the bridge itself. I’m of the opinion that future rides shouldn’t include Whitehall or Parliament Street at all. Like the buildings of state all around, the two roads now attract too many people with hate-filled ideologies.


3:39pm on Westminster Bridge Road: say ‘no’ to hate

Forum Magnum Square

Back in south London we turned left at York Road and left again into Forum Magnum Square for a short break. Riders from another start point were already there, but they departed soon after we entered. I dismounted and went looking for those who’d been abused on Whitehall. No sign, but I found Natansky and shared what little I knew.


3:48pm on Forum Magnum Square: check-in with Natansky – Β© Funk Dooby

It was worrying. The euphoria of our magical alignment at Trafalgar Square had been blown away and equilibrium would not be restored until I was sure everyone was OK. That moment would come later. For now, though, most riders were utterly unaware of any dramas and just carried on celebrating body freedom till it was time to move on.


3:59pm on Belvedere Road: the ride resumes


4:00pm on Belvedere Road: still concerned – Β© Funk Dooby

At 4pm, we exited Forum Magnum Square via Belvedere Road then turned right onto Chicheley Street, following the familiar backsides of old comrades Gil and Chas. This was a departure from previous routes as usually we continue further along Belvedere Road, but it made sense as bottlenecks here can get notoriously congested.


4:00pm on Belvedere Road: all shapes, sizes – Β© Mara K


4:01pm on Belvedere Road: with Gil and Chas at Chicheley Street

Waterloo to Lincoln’s Inn

A left turn out of Chicheley Street brought us back onto York Road. By now I was well and truly in the pack of riders, and felt much better for it. We continued onto Waterloo Bridge and – after pausing for a photo with the London Eye – carried on to Lancaster Place, followed by the eastbound arc of Strand and Aldwych.


4:03pm on York Road: towards Waterloo


4:10pm on Waterloo Bridge: Eye and I

It’s a phenomenon of each year’s ride that from being a horde in Belvedere Road, we become inexplicably stretched and thinned-out along this section of Strand. Whoever was in front had raced ahead and I saw cut-adrift riders starting to take wrong turns. I called them back and once more became a reluctant shepherd, albeit now by default.


4:16pm on Strand: at the Royal Courts of Justice

Lincoln’s interlude

From Strand and a tiny bit of Fleet Street, we took a left into Chancery Lane, another left into Carey Street, and a right into Searle Street, to be greeted by a river of naked cyclists passing before us at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Again, these were riders from other start points now moving on, but it was confusing: should we stay or should we go?


4:20pm on Searle Street: bemused arrivals

I tried to tell the riders around us that we should take our turn for a stop, but most lost their nerve. A herd instinct kicked-in and they immediately followed onto the departing pack. As for me, I still wanted a break, a banana and a pee (in that order), so I stayed with the plan. Esther and I continued round to the north side and parked by the loos.


4:29pm on Newman’s Row: energy top-up – Β© Andrew Brandse

We weren’t alone, and whilst we were lacking the glorious spectacle of the entire ride mingling together, there were at least two or three dozen other riders scattered about, enjoying a well-earned rest in the sunshine. Amongst them, we were delighted to find Cy, still a model of composure amid all the craziness.


4:34pm on Lincoln’s Inn Fields: Cy and Esther

In total, we loitered around for about quarter of an hour before setting off again. From Newman’s Row, we once more skirted the south and west side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields before veering off down Remnant Street and pausing by the crossing of Kingsway, all set to complete the last third of our ride.


4:39pm on Remnant Street: preparing to re-emerge

West End weave

We were fewer in number but still a presence, applauded spontaneously and with joy by so many who witnessed our part-protest, part-celebration. As usual we went down Great Queen Street, Long Acre, Bow Street and Wellington Street. We thought better of negotiating Covent Garden’s cafΓ©s, however, so instead exited via Exeter Street.


4:40pm on Great Queen Street: passing Grand Connaught Rooms


4:42pm on Bow Street: by the Royal Opera House


4:45pm on Wellington Street: into Exeter Street

A right turn from Exeter Street brought us out onto Strand, opposite The Savoy hotel. I’d expected us to have trouble with traffic here but our progress was unhampered as we continued westwards, passing Charing Cross station and bearing down a second time on Trafalgar Square.


4:47pm on Exeter Street: breakout on Strand

Into the sun

There was no incredible confluence at Trafalgar Square this time; merely our modest menagerie of immodest merrymakers, traversing through tourists and traffic, taking a leisurely looping line ‘twixt lions and lights, as we set our sights on the grand gates of Admiralty Arch. The broad red carpet beyond would lead us to our finish.


4:53pm on Trafalgar Square: towards Admiralty Arch – Β© Richard

We weren’t quite cycling into the sunset as we went west along The Mall, but with the ride taking place two months later than usual and the sun slightly lower at this time of year, we got that feeling. Even in our reduced circumstances, I still had familiar folk in front of me and behind me. And best of all, Esther by my side.


4:57pm on The Mall: sunglasses required


4:58pm on The Mall: to the palace

Though not encouraged, many riders can’t resist dismounting to pose for photos with Buckingham Palace as backdrop. Esther and I decided to skip the ritual this year and instead continued onto the cycleway up the right-side of Constitution Hill. In no haste, we pedalled wearily towards a side-path at the top; end of the line. It was now 5pm.


4:59pm on Constitution Hill: no need to tarry


5:00pm on Constitution Hill: leaving the road

Done and done

At the far end of Constitution Hill, we walked a hundred metres or so into Green Park and parked our bikes. It was five past five and, after two hours twenty minutes’ naked bike riding, we were done. All that remained was to get dressed, before the inevitable lurking camera-wielding voyeurs could gravitate around us.


5:05pm on Green Park: reunited at our finish

We managed to track down friends we’d met along the way, and I gave my Marshal’s armband back to Natansky. My duties were done for this ride and for future rides too. After four years of volunteering as a marshal I feel it’s time for a handover to the next generation. As for me, I’ll vanish into the crowd, renewing my love of this crazy day.

Our route from Tower Hill to Green Park

More on WNBR London 2021

Bygone blogs

Coventry Naked Bike Ride 2021 – Inauguration

Coventry was due to host its first World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) on 5 June 2020, until coronavirus (COVID-19) arrived. The pandemic put all plans on hold, and meant Coventry would instead get its inaugural ride on 7 August 2021, during its year as UK City of Culture. For me personally, it would be a first-time riding on a first-time ride.

Watching the sky

Seven days before, I had been utterly drenched by heavy rain during the Folkestone Naked Bike Ride. Whilst this made for an extraordinary experience, I hadn’t relished it much at the time. Now, arriving at Canley rail station on the west side of Coventry, I was already soaked just from cycling across London to get the train. I glanced up…


1:23pm on Hearsall Common: another wet one?

…leaden skies hung heavily over our gathering point on Hearsall Common. With the start scheduled for 2pm, I was forty minutes early. About a dozen riders were present though none seemed in any hurry to undress. A forecast of rain looked accurate. This time, however, it might only be a couple of light showers. And I’d come prepared.

Common origin

With about 10 minutes left until departure, it was the familiar committed naturists who were first to go naked. My mind was still submerged in the floodwaters of Folkestone, so with a fine precipitation now upon us, I waited till the last moment before removing all except my sandals, cap and… an anorak. That stayed. Purists be damned.


1:54pm on Hearsall Common: riders undress

By 2pm, I reckon our number had roughly doubled. Reports later claimed we were 50 strong, though I would have estimated nearer the 30 mark. A mere 5 minutes late, we rolled off the common and onto Beechwood Avenue. Inclement conditions did nothing to dampen the merry cheers of participants and well-wishers alike.


2:06pm on Beechwood Avenue: we begin!


2:07pm on Beechwood Avenue: me on the right, anorak’d

Suburbia

From our low-key start point well outside the city centre, we would sweep unhurriedly down and around through suburbs before hitting the heart of town. Full credit goes to the organisers for this intelligent piece of planning; don’t cause a stir at the beginning or end, don’t peak too early, make time to get a feel for the ride, riders and public.


2:08pm on Beechwood Avenue: round the houses


2:11pm on Beechwood Avenue: left into Rochester Road

Our first suburb was Earlsdon. We went left from Beechwood Avenue into residential Rochester Road, then to Radcliffe Road, then Earlsdon Street. We cycled past shops and houses, but our protest went largely unobserved as the damp weather kept most locals indoors. Passing motorists couldn’t help but see, however, and tooted support.


2:13pm on Earlsdon Street: our first few shops


2:14pm on Earlsdon Street: the watchmakers’ clock

Southern loop

At the north end of Earlsdon Street, where a four-faced clock stands on a roundabout to honour the local watchmaking trade, we headed right. This took us down Earlsdon Avenue South to begin what would be a mile-and-a-half loop: south, then east and all the way north into central Coventry.


2:19pm on Earlsdon Avenue South: our southernmost point


2:24pm on Warwick Road: heading back north

We turned left at the leafy junction with Kenilworth Road, then left again into Warwick Road. Here the rain fleetingly intensified from spits to a light shower before easing off again and seeming to peter out. Perhaps the anorak would soon be gone. Meanwhile our route was now leading us alongside dystopian glass-clad office blocks.


2:27pm on Warwick Road: first sight of cathedral spires


2:28pm on Warwick Road: crossing the rainbow

Church and state

Where Warwick Road becomes New Union Street, we traversed Coventry’s first (and perhaps only) LGBTQ+ rainbow crossing. We passed The Wave water park, went left into Little Park Street, swung by the central police station and advanced on the grand old faΓ§ade of Coventry City Council offices, lurking beneath wronged cathedral spires.


2:29pm on New Union Street: passing The Wave


2:30pm on New Union Street: at Coventry Central police station


2:32pm on Little Park Street: Coventry Cathedral spire glares down


2:32pm on Earl Street: quite fancy, as council buildings go

Eastern loop

After one last fleeting flurry, the spitting rain abated. I was now waiting only for a brief halt that would give me the few seconds I needed to get properly naked. Of course, it took an age to come. First, at the council building we headed right into Earl Street, on to Jordan Well, left into Cox Street then under the Elephant Building to Fairfax Street.


2:33pm on Jordan Well: our eastern loop


2:36pm on Fairfax Street: under Britannia Hotel


2:37pm on Fairfax Street: towards the Whittle Arch

Passing under the Whittle Arch – an aesthetic pleasantry amid urban grimness – we turned south down Trinity Street and pierced the city’s heart. With no rain falling, I felt even more self-conscious about not being naked on a naked bike ride. Still there was no pause for me to do anything about it. C’mon, c’mon…


2:38pm on Trinity Street: still in that blasted anorak

Heart of the city

As much of the city centre is pedestrianised, we only dabbled our tyres on its surface. After Trinity Street we turned right onto Ironmonger Row, then took another swift right to swing back north along Cross Cheaping and The Burges. A left turn at the top took us arcing back down around Corporation Street.


2:39pm on Ironmonger Row: heartland – Β© gerikdr


2:39pm on Cross Cheaping: northbound again

About halfway along Corporation Street, we slowed just enough that I could stop for a few seconds, hastily strip off my anorak and stuff it unceremoniously under the spring clamp at the rear of my bike, then rejoin the ride before the tail passed me by. Oh, the joy to be naked at last! Finally I had become a credible participant.


2:40pm on Corporation Street: a non-participating police cyclist


2:45pm on Greyfriars Road: a 360° turn

Corporation Street led into Queen Victoria Road, which led into Greyfriars Road. Our route had already carried us once across the mini roundabout where Greyfriars Road meets Warwick Road. This time we completed a full circuit to backtrack up Greyfriars Road… Queen Victoria Road… Corporation Street, as far as Belgrade square.


2:45pm on Greyfriars Road: nakedness now achieved


2:46pm on Greyfriars Road: our CWNBR marshal, Ken

Belgrade break

At Belgrade Square, outside the Belgrade Theatre, we dismounted for a short break from our saddles. By now it was about ten to three. A young employee emerged from the theatre and told me she reckoned it was brilliant, what we were doing, but asked: “Will you be here long? Only we’ve got families about to arrive for a children’s party.


2:52pm on Belgrade Square: all bare with ‘Princess Running Bare’ – Β© gerikdr

Every naked bike ride is clear about the law and the rights of individuals to be naked. Equally, none I’ve attended has ever sought to cause specific offence or controversy. It’s enough to be seen to convey our messages of protest and celebration. I assured her we would be leaving in a few minutes. Duly, in under five minutes we were gone.


2:55pm on Belgrade Square: no offence intended


2:57pm on Upper Well Street: back in the saddle

Northern loop

When we left Belgrade Square, we also said farewell to the city centre. We were now headed back to the suburbs, northwest on Upper Well Street and Radford Road, into the Daimler Green area as far as its junction with Engleton Road. Here, we went left and carried on deep down into Moseley Avenue.


3:03pm on Radford Road: law-abiding


3:09pm on Engleton Road: Stan flies the flag


3:11pm on Moseley Avenue: waving to our public – Β© gerikdr

The public response to our spectacle had been a curious mix. Overwhelmingly we got encouragement, cheers and applause; much rarer were the unenlightened sour-faced stares or loutish jeers. Most endearing were looks of open-jawed astonishment, whilst at Hoochie on Moseley Avenue, they were crazy for us! I think we made their day.


3:12pm on Moseley Avenue: a Hoochie selfie reflection


3:22pm on Queensland Avenue: ‘Laddie Godiva’

Back to the common

Moseley Road became Four Pounds Avenue, which led into Queensland Avenue and thence to Earlsdon Avenue North. After meandering its full length we found ourselves back at the roundabout with the watchmakers’ four-faced clock. All the way round we went, and immediately retraced our tracks along Earlsdon Avenue North.


3:25pm on Earlsdon Avenue North: southbound first


3:26pm on Earlsdon Avenue North: O’Toole’s, we’ve got lots


3:28pm on Earlsdon Avenue North: in the Govida spirit

Hooking left at the top of Earlsdon Avenue North, we cycled along Hearsall Common; not the grassy area but a road of the same name on its northern edge. Here a jogger at the opposite side of the road cheered us on and kept pace with us for a time, even chatting with a lead riders. She was our last great supporter before the finishing line.


3:33pm on Hearsall Common: with our supportive jogger


3:35pm on Canley Road: the end’s in view

History made

We veered off to Canley Road and down onto Beechwood Avenue where, at 3:36pm, we were finally back where we started, 90 minutes before. In completing the circuit at Hearsall Common, each rider had contributed to a little piece of history. Coventry had witnessed its first ever official World Naked Bike Ride. You’re welcome.


3:36pm on Beechwood Avenue: finished

Congratulations to the organisers on devising an excellent route and managing to get everyone around safetly without incident. If I could offer one suggestion it would be to allow a 60-second pause every 10 or 15 minutes, just so riders can sort out problems without being left behind. But this is no complaint – I hope to see you all next year!

Our route from Hearsall Common and back

More on WNBR Coventry 2021

WNBR is a worldwide campaign that demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists and protests against car culture. Its linked objectives are to:

  1. protest against the global dependency on oil
  2. curb car culture
  3. obtain real rights for cyclists
  4. demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on city streets
  5. celebrate body freedom
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