Friday, 18 February 2011

Hard Work - In More Ways than One


Yesterday morning I spent several hours doing some work for CAMRA. Not at all unusual that, for me and countless others. In my case it was starting to write our members mail-out, which I do at least once a month. It keeps us all in touch and hopefully motivates members to get more involved. (We'd like that.) I also spent some time considering our next branch newsletter, which goes out to the public at large and then I filled in the first of four pub surveys for next years Good Beer Guide, having driven (at my own expense) the 12 or so miles to the pub concerned the previous day. That day I had also met a local newspaper editor to offer support to a "Save Our Pubs" campaign he is running. Then I sent off some updates to HQ about breweries in my area. Afterwards I got the bus to Rochdale to do another pub survey (£4.10 fare if you are interested) and after the survey spent some time discussing with a local landlord, a Real Ale Pub Trail he is planning, before having a few well deserved pints.

I do this, like countless others, because it is a hobby, a labour of love, a mission for good beer if you like. It is often a thankless task, but usually you feel it worthwhile until you read comments like this. Then you feel flattened. Knowing a fair bit about what goes into the choosing of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year and the effort the branch officials and members will have put in to ensure that their selection is truly one that is a genuine Pub of the Year contender, it is a tad galling to see that their efforts aren't only unappreciated, but are casually denigrated, though I'm sure they'll just laugh it off. (We all know we aren't the most photogenic creatures in the world.) It is is particularly annoying though, when in this case, the local CAMRA branch whose pictures were found to be so repellent, had clearly had done their work well, as their nomination, the Harp, was met with universal approval as a deserved winner. I have to add that this includes praise from the person that wrote the piece.* Truly a case of the messenger being thought more important than the message.

The thing is that CAMRA does need young people to be active and to present the fresh and appealing pictures that are so desired by some, but more importantly to replace us tired old codgers as we drop off the perch. We all know this and we do try hard to attract young people with varying degrees of success, but the truth of it is that it is quite difficult as there are so many other exciting things for them to do these days. Certainly far more than when I first joined CAMRA. Nonetheless, as all voluntary organisations know, you still need people with experience and as importantly, with time to do the thankless tasks that ensure we have a Good Beer Guide, beer festivals, interesting local newsletters and so on. People like me that are retired and still have a bit to offer, have that time, so surely it isn't that odd that we should be doing most of the work? Do most people really expect something that different?

I brooded on this off and on throughout the day yesterday and was still feeling disgruntled when I returned home full of beer, but you know what? I read this piece here by a different young blogger with the title "Giving something back" describing how she as a young female CAMRA member is helping lighten the load of us old folks by doing her bit. Quite a lot of bits actually. So well done Shea and those like you. You have restored my faith and I will have a much lighter step today when I survey my final two pubs.

Giving something back eh? My beer hero(ine) of the week. I owe her a drink. In fact you all do.

I hope Shea won't mind me illustrating this with a photo nicked from her blog.

* This isn't a pop at any individual either. The writer of the original piece represents a genuine school of thought and a major concern about CAMRA and how it appears. This is a counter to it.

24 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Dredge does have a point – as you recognise – but surely this reflects the way images of older people are increasingly airbrushed out of the media. It's not entirely realistic to portray pubs as hip and happening places full of trendy twentysomethings when half the people in Britain of legal drinking age are over 50. And pubs, where they work as they should, can provide a source of relaxation and companionship for older people.

Mark said...

I spoke to CAMRA's Marketing Manager about this yesterday and told him my thoughts. I understand the hard work which goes into CAMRA and that it's all volunteer-driven. Those guys rightly deserved to be there and deserved their plaudits for choosing the best pub in the UK, no one can argue that and it'd be unfair if they weren't there. But look at the other pictures there as well and it only shows one side of things and one demographic of drinker. If CAMRA are using that as a promotional image (which if it's on their website and facebook page then I'm assuming it is) then I feel they needed to at least try and display a broader range of people, particulary as I was told that there were other demographics drinking in there (and there always are as it's got a broad set of customers). CAMRA want to add more youth images to their marketing campaigns and this was a chance to do so (although I do understand that they couldn't just ship in ready-airbrushed young people and put a half-drunk pint in their hand!).

CAMRA is so wide-reaching that it's impossible for them to please everyone. There was no dig at the people in the picture, that's for sure, it's more with the image of the stereotypes it projects that beer is only for men above a certain age. Which it isn't, of course.

SteveF said...

Obviously it is good if CAMRA can diversify. And it may be the case that there is an image problem to some extent. However, I'd be interested in seeing some actual empirical evidence that the sort of people derided for having the temerity to turn up to celebrate the success of a good pub actually do put people off. Because I can certainly trade anecdotes to the opposite effect. As a relatively young (28) and not massively cool but not exactly uncool person, they don't bother me.

More importantly, my friends who can probably reasonably be described as being quite cool (sufficiently so that pictures a number of them were featured in various leaflets and whatnot for the latest St Albans Beer Festival, to demonstrate that hey we dont just attract middle aged men with beards) don't get put off from attending festivals and drinking ale by these people. Indeed, admittedly in a somewhat patronising manner, some of them actively enjoy this aspect of festivals. Not all of them have become dedicated ale drinkers, despite my best attempts, but some have and all now buy ale on occasion and head to festivals.

By way of further example, my local, the really rather brilliant Southampton Arms in Kentish Town gets a pretty mixed crowd. From "typical" CAMRA members to the skinny jeans crowd more normally associated with shoreditch. They all rub along perfectly well. The presence of an unfashionable chap with an enormous beard, or two blokes sat at the bar nerding out over the beer range and insisting on not being served in a dimpled glass doesn't seem to overly bother the trendy crowd. Indeed the beardy chap seems to get on well with everyone. This pub is busy because it serves great beer and the atmosphere is good. That's the key thing.

Tandleman said...

"two blokes sat at the bar nerding out over the beer range and insisting on not being served in a dimpled glass"

That's MY sort of place! (-;

Tandleman said...

Mark - In a lot of ways I agree with you,
but you have to work with what you've got.

You can't just ship some youngsters in as you say, but I have much sympathy with broadening the appeal, too though I found what SteveF said very interesting.

Maybe you are emphasising branding and stereotyping too much?

Tandleman said...

Mudgie - I agree.

SteveF said...

Heh. Well, next time you're down here in London, I'd recommend a visit. Couple of Northern Line stops up from Euston and then a 5-10 minute walk. Plus they do fantastic pies. Was in there last night and had a pint of the new Redemption/Kernel Mild, which was fantastic, Fyne Ales Jarl and Thornbridge Kipling. On Tuesday, was Thornbridge Galaxia, Buntingford Imperial Stout and one of Hardknott Dave's beers which was excellent but shamefully I can't remember which one (had the Interstellar Matter the other week, also top notch). So yes, plenty to nerd out over there!

Tandleman said...

Not the nerding but a chance to tell them where to put their dimpled glasses! But yes. Worth a visit.

SteveF said...

Well, I rather like dimpled glasses, but perhaps best not to go there again! Maybe the bigger heresy is that despite being a fellow Rochdalian (well, Littleborough), I prefer my beers unsparkled. Sorry!

Cooking Lager said...

Who wants see a load of old codgers having a pint? I'd much prefer to see pictures of pretty girls having a pint. You should put Shea in your publicity shots and leave the codgers to enjoy their pints in peace.

Tandleman said...

Maybe she'd volunteer. It would work I think!

Monsieur Lupe said...

It would be easier for CAMRA to recruit the young and trendy by offering exclusive beers that only CAMRA members can taste, rather than Wetherspoon's discount vouchers. This would enhance the value of beer too.

Tandleman said...

Msr Lupe. Hmm. Happen not.

coxy said...

alot of my mates have only got into cask beer since they have got older,and with an ageing population the future will not be a problem as in the future the old will be cool because they are the majority and thats who the advertisers will aim at. I do hate it though when CAMRA have a picture of a pretty girl on leaflets or even on the GBG , put a picture of a nice pub please.

Phil said...

Lupe - false dichotomy methinks. I had my first black IPA the other day; I got 50p off it with one of those Wetherspoon's tokens.

"Eddie Rowles" said...

The Southampton Arms is excellent and when you're next down, let me know and I'll join you there.

The dimpled glasses annoy me too - interestingly the youngsters in there seem to love them.

The last time I was in there it was full of Hawkwind fans, including me, another sadly maligned group of individuals!

Monsieur Lupe said...

Fair points. I agree my argument is not well thought through, just an initial thought. I still feel that CAMRA should recruit based on quality rather that cheapness. Agree with coxy re pretty girls too. Nothing wrong with Hawkwind Eddie

Barry M said...

I dunno Eddie, I never felt maligned (maybe because I masked it with my Motorhead fandom :D).

Billy Cheer said...

These CAMRA critics who have this anal obsession with CAMRA's image ain't cool though,and no one but them thinks they are. They have replaced a geeky hobbyist type of appreciation, with an elitist taking things far too seriously type of thing, the latter being more off putting to any normal human being, think OZ Clarke.

Maybe I am wrong though. Come on then "Craft Beer Glitterati" you crazy young things, you new world beer socialites, lets see the cut of your cloth, post some pictures up to show us how cool you are.

I have met some crazy looking CAMRA dudes, some look like wizards, which is a lot cooler than looking like yor wife buys your clothes from Next Directory, bunch of sads, they need to build that bridge.

Billy Cheer said...

Are you cool if you use words like demographic?

Like the link to Real Ale Girls blog, a much more refreshing approach to the elderly and very cool, cooler than a Tony and Guy cut anyhow, they're so 90's.

Billy Cheer said...

Great comment SteveF. Sums it up perfectly. What we are probably looking at is the difference between cool people who actually don't care what other people look like and squares who think they are cooler than other squares.

Anonymous said...

CAMRA have tried ... its a standing joke that virtually every time there's a press relase about signing an xx.000th member she's young & good looking.

Birkonian said...

it's not our fault that younger drinkers dont' want to get involved! I find the suggestion that the hard working actvivists who keep the local branches going should be air-brushed from the awards photos offensive.

Billy Cheer said...

What if you are one of the dudes in the photograph, hows it gonna make you feel?

It sucks!