“Well…the tourists are gonna get an eye-full!”
(WARNING – This is a rather long post. But it needs to be, so toughen up!)
(That’s me there. No, to the left of her. Bit further. Yeah, there I am!)
Well…that was certainly the most bizarre experience of my life. Though quite which part of the whole experience was the most bizarre is something I haven’t figured out yet. Being naked in a field with 1100 other naked people – everyone bent over double, desperately not wanting to look up for fear of what we might see in front of us – was definitely weird. Seeing it talked about all day today in the media, aware that I am one of those naked people they’re showing on the news bulletins is also very very strange. Seeing Ray D’Arcy naked – a man who played such an important role in my television viewing youth – is also immensely odd.
I arrived at Blarney Castle with my bravest friends – Mike, Jamie and Niamh – at 3am. There were protesters at the gates. But when we got closer, we realised they were a bunch of lads, dressed as priests. Their placards bore the immortal words: “Down with that sort of thing!” and “Careful now!” That’s when it began to dawn on me how crazy this whole thing was going to be.
Having parked the car, spoken to NewsTalk and handed in our consent forms, we emerged into this floodlit clearing filled with hundreds of people sitting down in groups and clumps. There was a distinct festival atmosphere without any actual music or entertainment of any kind. But there was a buzz, a palpable nervous energy as everyone awaited the unknown.
It wasn’t until about 4.10am that Spencer revealed himself and spoke to the crowd for a short time. But we had to wait for more light, he said. The skies had been slowly brightening to the east but it wouldn’t be until 5.30 that things started to happen. By that time people had begun to grow restless, the nervous energy edged now with impatience and shivers. Even with all my layers I was jumping up and down to keep warm.
Then we were asked to move towards the first area where Spencer would be shooting. A second quieter order was given; one which was relayed through the crowd, not with words, but with people stripping. I had expected a big announcement, but instead we all just stumbled out of our clothes in mild confusion. A confusion which quickly changed to excitement.
I’m not sure I can describe how it felt to be naked with all those people. Surreal. Intimidating. Liberating. I wasn’t cold at first, but that had more to do with adrenaline rather than anything else. Everyone was awkward at first, holding themselves, unsure as to where to look. But as Spencer and his minions slowly herded us into our first position, we (or at least I) began to get a lot more comfortable. I needn’t have been worried about getting an inappropriate or inconvenient boner – it was much too cold for that and the fact that everybody was naked removed almost all the expected sexuality from the situation. That’s not to say there weren’t some very fine looking girls there – because there were – but scoping the talent seemed to become secondary to actually enjoying this communal feeling of liberation, awkwardness, mild hypothermia and milder embarrassment all rolled into one.
Spencer had us go through a few different positions in two different set-ups. The first was simply us standing in a large group extending back towards the castle. The first few shots were fine. We were cold but everyone was making smart comments and little jokes so the mood was kept light. Then Spencer told us to bend over so we’re basically touching our toes. A huge cry went up from the crowd – this was certainly going to be a potential minefield of exposed orifices and embarrassment. But everyone just ended up looking at the ground. I simply tore up bits of grass to keep myself occupied.
The second set-up involved us holding roses – red for the women, white for the men. He wanted to create a stripe effect. It was at this point that I and Mike (who had kept close together, because being naked isn’t as weird when you’ve got a friend nearby) bumped into guys we went to secondary school with and guys from the music scene. Mildly embarrassed small-talk ensued. “Nippy ol’ morning all the same, isn’t it?” “Do you come here often?” You get the idea.
We were wrangled into our new positions and everything seemed fine for a while. Then he told us to lie down. “On the ground?” “Is he for real?” But we dutifully lay down and – as if with one voice – 1100 people let out a shocked gasp as the the cold of the dewy lawn came in contact with our backs, asses and legs. “Now hold your roses straight up in the air,” Spencer said, before correcting some poor confused soul, “No,no sir, your roses!” An eruption of laughter. All the roses wavered in the air because those holding them were shivering.
But after that we were allowed return to our clothes. Now, when we had stripped and put our clothes into the provided plastic bags, most people – in the scramble to be naked with each other – didn’t pay attention to where they had left the bags. So everyone was wandering around trying to find their stuff again. Some poor guys were still left searching even after everyone else had dressed. A bunch of cold, naked, middle-aged men walking between everyone else, looking completely lost.
Spencer took the women to another area because he had another set-up for them. Fortunately enough, it was directly opposite the river from where the men were standing. So as the women stripped off again, all the men stood on the other side of the river, just watching. And watching. Some women weren’t too impressed, others seemed to enjoy the attention. I just thought it was hilarious that all us men just stood there together, unified in our perving on the bodies we’d already seen naked anyway. It was quite the plethora of boobs.
Myself and the friends left after that. Spencer was doing one more set up that required 100 men to stand and kneel in the freezing cold stream. We chickened out and decided to go have breakfast instead.
So that’s pretty much the lengthy run-down of the morning’s events. I had such a good time. Despite the cold and the Irish embarrassment, I’ve never felt anything like it. And while I don’t think I’ve “changed” as a person, I feel enriched for having gone through with it. Nudity really is no big thing, we just think it is because we hide it away almost all the time. Those in doubt about the Dublin installation should definitely do it. It’s unlike anything else you could do. If you never do anything else special in your life, at least you can say you did that. I doubt there was anyone there who didn’t enjoy the experience and it feels good to have been part of something, to have shared a profound experience with a bunch of (mostly) strangers. I felt alive. I feel alive.
Man, that was so fucking surreal.