We’ve become very used to nudity in recent years. People take their clothes off in public for all sorts of reasons, including proof of their party spirits, political protest and pride in the human body. The Naked Rambler is a national hero. Yet, our official law on getting your kit off remains much the same as it was in the mid-nineteenth century because we lack the political will to address the fact that we no longer live with Victorian values. In practise, Judge Nick Sanders was able to distinguish between a predatory pervert and the world’s most profilic streaker, Mark Roberts, who has now chalked up 519 streaks in the name of art.
In Brighton & Hove, nakedness is especially common. Despite the official naturist beach being all the way over to the East, by Brighton Marina, few people trouble themselves with a journey to it. Every year, the city’s active citizens ride around town naked to draw attention to something or other, I forget what, but it certainly catches the attention.
One day in the early 1990s, I stepped out of a bookshop in North Street, Brighton, and found myself beside a completely naked man on a busy Saturday afternoon. He wasn’t completely naked. He wore sandals and carried a briefcase. In the packed street, he walked comfortably at the same pace as everyone else, as if there was nothing unusual about his appearance. People around him giggled. One or two took photographs. I walked beside him for a hundred yards or so before turning into another bookshop. He walked on nonchalantly.
Later that day I called on some pals and one of them reported seeing the same man, still completely naked, still walking very slowly, over by the West Pier, about an hour later. That evening, the Brighton Argus, which was well read in those days, printed a map with crosses marking each sighting of the fellow, as reported by its readers. Each cross was so close together that they formed a continuous line, time stamping his progress around town.
The first sighting was near the North side of The Level. From there, he had walked through Brighton’s central valley towards the Old Steine, at the same deliberate pace which I had seen him maintain. Having arrived at the Old Steine, he turned right up North Street, then past Churchill Square and then he turned left down towards the seafront. He crossed the road and walked along the upper promenade towards the West Pier. Although no-one reported him getting dressed or into a car or into some other enclosure, there the sightings stopped. The report included a request from Sussex Police that anyone who knew the man should get in touch with them because they urgently wanted to interview him.
In other words, despite the streets being crowded on a hot Saturday afternoon, despite hundreds of reported sightings, despite all the time in the world to capture this apparent miscreant, Sussex Police had failed to apprehend him. It seems that no-one actually complained to the police at all.
Whatever the reason for his mode of travel, he proved his point rather neatly. Naked people need not bother anyone, so long as they don’t try to. Surely he could not have expected to walk right across the busiest part of the city in his birthday suit, unmolested? Presumably, it was some sort of bet or a dare? Surely he must hold the record for the longest naked parade around Brighton & Hove? Who was he?