Revitalisation: Compromise, Politics & Progress

Illustration: "FORWARD!"

Even though everyone is thoroughly weary of the topic there is a lot being written about CAMRA’s Revitalisation project so we’re going to highlight some of it here, and throw in some passing thoughts of our own.

The main event in the last week has been the publication of a manifesto by Bradley Cummings of Tiny Rebel brewery who is running for the CAMRA National Executive. Out gut feeling is that this feels like a PR move more than anything and we’re not sure brewers should be on the NE, though of course there are lots of historic examples of people moving back and forth from the industry to CAMRA. (Martin Sykes of the Selby Brewery was an early NE member; Christopher Hutt became a pub entrepreneur; Michael Hardman worked for Young & Co after leaving the NE; Chris Holmes founded Castle Rock, and so on.)

Here’s Mr Cumming’s manifesto (PDF at Google Drive):

Let’s face it: CAMRA isn’t very cool. How many of its nearly 200,000 members would end a sentence that starts “I’m a CAMRA member” with “for my sins”?

A new generation of beer fans is incredibly passionate, knowledgeable and energetic, but CAMRA has alienated them instead of seeing their efforts as consistent with CAMRA’s aims.

Let’s not forget – CAMRA was established to give consumers a CHOICE. But CAMRA has lost that forward thinking, progressive outlook and instead adopted a position of preference.

I do not believe for a second that the new generation of drinkers wish to remove real ale from the British beer landscape. On the contrary, I believe they want to get back to the roots of CAMRA and promote informed choice, and protect cask ale as an exciting and important part of our beer scene. I should know – I’m one of them.

Here’s a passionate, pointed rebuttal by Kirst Walker, our 2017 Golden Pints blogger of the year:

I’m dismayed at how little scrutiny has been given to some of the ideas beyond the banner headline of ‘don’t judge beers by method of dispense’. Yes, there are some wide ranging ideas, not particularly radical, which we can all get on board with. But there are also some chilling statements around the treatment of pubs and publicans which seem to have gone under the radar, and some bombastic messages which have gone unchallenged, such as ‘Brewers know beer best. That is undeniable.’…. Is it? I don’t think so.

And here’s a cautious almost endorsement from Tandleman:

You can pick and choose the elements you like and dislike and while there isn’t an awful lot that is entirely new, except perhaps that one of the brightest stars of brewing, in one of the most enterprising companies, actually wants to get involved with CAMRA and sees CAMRA still has potential. He wants to motivate members and get them directly involved in CAMRA’s democracy and is willing to stand for election to rummle things up a bit, which many (including me) will see as a positive…. On the other hand, personally, I am very wary and can’t reallyconcur with (possibly inadvertently) repositioning  CAMRA as a kind of offshoot of industry, though some closer involvement would be sensible.

In general, we’re inclined to agree with the general thrust of that argument. The Revitalisation proposals are by necessity a compromise between many subtly different positions, most of which shake out into two major camps: conservative and progressive. You might object to specific elements of language or like some parts while hating others but when push comes to shove, as in real world politics, you can only vote for the candidates on the ballot paper on the day and hope to nudge things roughly in your preferred direction.

For our part we’ll be voting in favour of the Revitalisation proposals or, rather, “to change the Articles of Association to allow the Campaign to enact the recommendations made by the National Executive”.

Whether we vote for Mr Cummings for the National Executive will depend on what the other manifestos look like; suffice to say, we’ll be choosing candidates who are broadly progressive, even if (as is almost certain) we don’t agree with their stance on every single issue.

There’s bound to be some muddle, argy-bargy and further disgruntlement, but Heading That-A-Way! and working out the problems when they arise seems to us better than doing nothing until CAMRA simply ossifies.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 03 February 2018: Cole, CAMRA, Carlsberg

Here’s everything in writing about beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from anger management to keg konfrontations.

The debate about sexism in beer has been a constant background noise as long as we’ve been blogging but seems to be reaching a head right now, in various positive ways. For example, at Good Beer HuntingMelissa Cole has written a long piece expressing what we suspect a lot of people have been thinking: passionate anger and ‘calling out’ over sexist beer branding clangers is understandable, and often feels like one of the few effective ways to drive change, but is it the best way in every case, and is it sustainable?

All I’m actually saying here is that perhaps we need to stop and think about what led these men, and sometimes women, to not being able to see how this artwork is unacceptable. Are these instances a chance to move the conversation on from merely calling out, and calling names, to a more genuine discourse about why sexist branding is damaging on so many levels? I hope so…. If we can encourage more empathy outside of privilege bubbles, encourage thought beyond what makes you laugh, seeking advice from groups that might be affected by your actions, if we can get acknowledgement that just our own life experiences are not the be all and end all, then that would be a huge start.

By way of a chaser, check out this piece by Alice at Alice Likes Beer reporting on a specific, awkward instance of weird behaviour occurring where else but in the crowd at a discussion about sexism at a beer festival.


Close-up of the CAMRA logo from the 1984 Good Beer Guide.

The Campaign for Real Ale’s Revitalisation project is also reaching a head and as the proposals are laid out and the big vote approaches (members can vote at the AGM, or by proxy) the pros and cons are being explored. Here’s a list of opinion pieces which might help you make up your mind, or alternatively give you ammo to back up what you already believe.

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