E-readers may be in but if anything’s going to get Britain reading proper books again, it may well be naked book club.
The tastefully-executed event involves a group of beautiful women reading aloud various books, poems and novels – only paper form allowed – in the nude.
After starting out in Chicago, Naked Girls Reading franchises have made their way around the world, finally reaching the UK in 2011.
The event involves a group of women reading aloud from themed books, poems and novels, entirely in the nude
For a small fee listeners get to relax, absorb the story and even join in with discussions mid-reading – but they’re not required to join in and remove their clothes!
Head Naked Girl Sophia St. Villier, who has been running the London branch since its inception in March 2011, tells us about naked story time.
‘I love picking an interesting theme and researching literature that ties in with the theme. I usually have one or two performers in addition to myself. I pick the pieces of literature that we read as a group and each performer picks three pieces of literature to read from individually.
‘It’s great because this show pushes and inspires me to read some incredible literature – it’s so easy to just read articles online or trashy magazines.
‘I love that we read proper books. Naked Girls Reading is an electronic reader-free zone.
‘The show is around 2.5 hours long with two 10-minute breaks. People normally sip a glass of wine or a cocktail while they listen to the readings. I have a decadent show planned for the future where wine, chocolate and cognac is matched to stories.
For a small fee listeners get to relax and absorb the story and even join in with discussions mid-reading
‘My favourite themes so far have been Bedtime Stories, Banned Books, Fairy Tales and Art – this show combined readings and life drawing.
‘One of the highlights so far has been my friend Abigail Collins reading her own short stories at the Valentine’s Show in 2013, and unbeknownst to us, a literary agent was in the audience who signed Abigail to write two novels.’
Naked Girls Reading was founded in Chicago by burlesque artist Michelle L’amour and her partner Franky Vivid. Sophia spoke with the couple about producing a show in London and, after an interview process, was granted the London franchise.
‘I now produce shows for the London branch, the first outside of North America,’ says Sophia.
And ever since coming to the UK, Naked Girls Reading’s popularity has soared.
‘We have different theme for each show. I love producing and performing in it as it involves two things I appreciate – good literature and beautiful women.
‘The show has grown more and more popular, so much so as we’ve had to change venues to accommodate our audience.’
Sophia, who also works as a burlesque artist and pin-up model, explains the readers’ beauty look.
‘We often style our hair and makeup in accordance with the theme.
‘For example, for the Naked Girls Reading Scary Stories show [performer] Crimson Skye and I wore dramatic, terrifying makeup.
‘For the Naked Girls Reading Banned Books and Valentine’s Day shows we wore our makeup in our usual style which is inspired by mid-century fashions, the 1930s, 40s and 50s – red lips, dark eyes and false eyelashes.’
‘Worldwide, performers style themselves appropriately to the theme of a show.
‘Personally, I wear vintage clothing and makeup day-to-day, so I bring an element of this to the Naked Girls Reading London shows.
‘For my burlesque acts, I love taking inspiration from glamourous, Golden Age Hollywood stars Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich and Hedy Lamarr and classic burlesque artists Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr and Blaze Starr.’
(L-R) Abigail Collins, Sophia St. Villier and Mysti Vine have a giggle during a reading
Sophia loves that they read paper books. Naked Girls Reading is an electronic reader-free zone
‘The audience is made up of couples, groups of friends and a few people who come by themselves,’ she says.
‘We have audience members that come to each show – they must love the literature, as they’ve already seen us naked! With burlesque shows, the audience is roughly 70 per cent women, 30 per cent men. For Naked Girls Reading, it’s around 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men.
‘The most common comment I hear from audience members is that after the first 10 minutes they forget we are naked and get lost in the story.
For the Naked Girls Reading Scary Stories show Crimson Skye and Sophia wore Halloween-style makeup
‘People love being read to and many haven’t experienced that since childhood.
‘It’s a fun show and discussions often occur with the audience between readings. During our Banned Books show, we asked the audience to guess why each book had been banned – our audience could not believe that James and the Giant Peach was banned due to sexual inferences and references to drugs!
‘One of the funniest times was when I was reading a book of scary urban legends at our Scary Stories show – the legends were so ridiculous, I couldn’t stop laughing and the audience had the giggles too. Our fans often write in requesting themes which we take on board. And no, the audience are not naked, only the performers are.’