Group bares all to back naked rambler

HEBDEN Bridge bared all to show its support for a naked rambler arrested in the town last week.

Monday, 29th October 2012, 9:29 am

Over 20 people stripped off in support of Stephen Gough - known as the naked rambler.

Mr Gough was arrested in Bridge Gate last Wednesday and then in Halifax last Thursday on suspicion of committing a public order act. The 53-year-old appeared naked in the dock at Calderdale Magistrates Court to deny the charge and the case has been adjourned until February 5, 2013.

A group calling themselves The Hebden Bridge Eccentrics believed the naked rambler had done nothing wrong and showed their support on Sunday by taking their clothes off on the old Packhorse Bridge, Hebden Bridge.

H Gregg, who organised the protest, said: “I think people thought I was joking when I suggested we strip off for a photo, but I was deadly serious.

“I knew lots of locals shared my disbelief that the police had seen fit to arrest Stephen. Hebden Bridge is a town known for being tolerant – as a community we pride ourselves on our live-and-let-live attitude.

“The irony that Stephen has walked over 260 miles without any trouble only to be arrested in what is probably the most-tolerant town in Yorkshire was not lost on many of us.”

Almost proving the group’s point, the protest drew little attention from many stall holders setting up for the final day of the Hebden Bridge Food and Drink Festival. However, the group does believe it was a hugely successful event in drawing attention to the plight of Mr Gough, who has been arrested and imprisoned countless times during his 220-mile trek down from Scotland.

Mr Gough wrote in a text: “Hebden Bridge: nice town, nice people, but unfortunately, as in a lot of places, the authorities don’t understand that to serve the community, is to use their judgement, not to blindly follow the opinion of those they serve.”

Local burlesque promoter Heidi Waddington, who goes by the stage name of Heidi Bang Tidy, said: “I am often labelled as an ‘eccentric’. It’s a label I’m actually quite proud of it – who wants to be ‘average’?

“I wanted to show my support for Stephen, who has also been labelled eccentric. People make the mistake of thinking that being publicly naked is the same thing as being publicly sexual. It’s not. We still have a long way to go with regards our attitude to nakedness and people’s right to personal freedom.”

Also joining in the protest was part-time nudist, Augustus Jones, who travelled all the way from Rugby. “I take my clothes off in the house and around the garden. People should realise that nudity is just another way of dressing,” he said.

Mr Gough, a former marine from Hampshire, is believed to be making his way down to Southampton.