Friday 3 April 2015

CAMRA - Heading for a High Wall?

As someone that has been actively involved in beer since 1974,  I reckon I have a fairly broad view of things in the UK beer world. I have been (and still am a customer), a worker in a pub, an attender at CAMRA meetings, a seeker after good beer both home and abroad and, since 1989, a local CAMRA committee member of one type or another,  including my last almost 20 years as a local chairman. Nor must I overlook my continuing stint as both a blogger and a beer writer, which has exposed me to a hugely diverse set of people and opinions all held together by beer.  This broad view was widened further when I was the co-sponsor of CAMRA's Fit for Purpose Review in 2010/2011. CAMRA is still guided by and held to account by its outcomes and recommendations.  Or at least it ought to be. There might well be a need for a reminder and probably an update though. It is already a different world.

Like me you'll have noticed that there has been a few thoughtful pieces on where beer is "at" these days and where CAMRA is going particularly.  In a similar way there are concerns about the influence of craft beer has in the UK and consequently its effect on beer festivals, pub going, women, young people and more.  You can of course take this as a healthy thing where a thousand flowers bloom or, perhaps, take a view that there is a struggle for hearts and minds and a tendency by one to dismiss the other more than somewhat. I'm not really that sure where my sympathies lie, but while I welcome healthy debate, I'm not as inclined as some to see current beery situation as entirely benevolent and healthy. I'll try and set my views out below and likely in subsequent posts.

Taking CAMRA first, I was prompted to write this piece by reading my good friend Paul Bailey's blog where he has outlined the achievements of CAMRA, most of which I agree with and his own reasons for taking more of a back seat, which I fully understand too. 30 years of active involvement is a lot to give any voluntary organisation and his feelings are no doubt replicated in CAMRA committees up and down the country where members are getting stale in the job, fed up in the job and, trust me on this one, looking anxiously over their shoulder at the Grim Reaper jogging effortlessly along, not that far behind.  The fact is we are all getting old and there isn't enough young people coming through to replace us. I think CAMRA at national level underestimates the height of the brick wall it faces in terms of its local structure.  Most of us were fairly young when we started out in the campaign. Then you got involved, but while CAMRA has quite a few young members, their inclination to get involved no longer seems to be as strong.  I understand from other voluntary organisations that this is a problem for them too. Now many will say that this is because young people don't feel as welcome as they could be within CAMRA, but in most cases this is not a clique wishing to protect its position. Rather, many of us are a lot of desperate old men looking for a way out.  Most of us would bite a challenger's hand off and nurture them like a bloom in the desert.  Like Paul, many of us have given enough already and far from wishing to cling on to power, would welcome a ready successor and a step down to a less demanding role and to have our time back before Yer Man gives us a clout with his scythe.

There are negative views a plenty about CAMRA but negative attitudes work both ways and it is very difficult for CAMRA to change, if those wishing the change don't try and generate it.  Expecting old leopards to entirely change their spots is surely swimming against nature? In short, life just doesn't work that way.  It is also instructive to this writer at least, that newer active members tend to come from relatively recent joiners, many of whom are retired and for whom an active interest and new friends in retirement is a good thing.  Others, for whom the "job" is at times a chore are happy to see such as those at meetings and welcome them with open arms. That they and any new blood are welcome is not in doubt. In my area at least but I'm guessing that's pretty typical.  There has been much sniping too about CAMRA and its out of date attitudes. Regretfully there has been a few blunders that have done the organisation no favours - I had motions to this year's AGM about that - one of which was about everyday casual sexism which we know is off putting to women. Regretfully the powers that be felt that my motions were already policy, or are capable of being dealt with by correspondence. An opportunity for a little bit of honest appraisal of ourselves scorned I think. To paraphrase the Bard, taking a look at ourselves as others see us would not have been a bad thing.

Having said that, without agreeing with it or excusing it, I reckon that some of the stuff of which CAMRA stands accused  is behaviour that occurs in normal  everyday society, but is somehow attributed exclusively to CAMRA festivals and CAMRA members. That seems unlikely, but we all have to take care. When I briefed Bar Managers at the recent Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, I included a few words about ensuring all customers were treated equally and the same.  No disagreement there. All I saw coming back was nodding heads, but it is surely right to reinforce the message. A debate at our Annual Conference would, in this context, have been a good thing.

There is too criticism of our Beer Festivals, which, despite their massive popularity, are seen by a number of commentators to be out of date in comparison with some newer ones. I think much of this stems from being amongst fellows and contemporaries, as these festivals are not aimed at such a broad demographic as ours, though it is a fact that at ours, most customers, young or old, just come and enjoy them with no "political" or comparative thought at all. It isn't a competition and while there is certainly a place for alternative beer festivals which appeal to a mainly young crowd, CAMRA does have to play to its strengths.  CAMRA Campaigns for Real Ale and does it its own way.  We can learn lessons though, but it must be recognised that our customer demographic and aims are not the same as, say, IndyManBeerCon or Craft Beer Rising. Ours are all about keeping real ale alive and any profit is used only to further the Campaign's stated aims.

It may seem odd to some when CAMRA membership is at an all time high to worry about the future, but really that's the best time to do it. There is no chance of CAMRA disappearing soon, but there is a time bomb ticking away. You might dislike CAMRA, but I reckon you'd miss it and its influence if we weren't there.  Publicans certainly would.

I could have gone on about how there may be considered to be two CAMRAs. The central lobbying part and the local campaigning (and social) part and that there is a disconnect between the two, but I've been poring over this long enough and thought it better just to get it out for sensible discussion.  There will be more from me on this theme fromtime to time.

Oh and CAMRA Democracy. There's another one. Feel free to add others in comment. It can be as long a list that you like.


Phil said...

I wonder how much of a disconnect there is between the two CAMRAs. Certainly when I go to a local branch event I see some very familiar faces, most of whom put in work for the branch or have done in the past - I sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable being there as a non-volunteering ordinary member*. Or perhaps there are three CAMRAs - the volunteers, a slightly larger group who go to socials, and the rest of us who pay our subs, use our Spoons' tokens, go to a couple of festivals and don't have any other involvement in CAMRA, apart from generally wishing it well.

*The solution is simple, but I'm not rushing to adopt it. In my thirties I was active in a variety of political groups; at the end of that I was totally knackered and thoroughly pissed-off. I'd rather keep my relationship with CAMRA friendly but slightly distant - even if it means feeling a bit awkward when I bump into [names redacted].

Anonymous said...


Lets be honest, we are talking about an organisation that is more comfortable promoting Cider, which seems to me to be directly antipathetic to their core interest in that it's taking orders and taps away from cask beer, rather than admit that good beer can be supplied in a container other than a cask.

You/They spent many years insisting that the Pub Tie was a great thing in that it 'keeps pubs open' against the evidence, and only recently decided that it was a bad idea once the job was done, and then claimed a victory.

Like so many organisations run by men of the post war generation, it loves to talk up its dogmatic approach which undoubtedly has benefited itself to the exclusion of others.

Likewise, its something of a stretch to claim responsibility for the current rise in brewery numbers and interest in beer, whilst actively campaigning against some of the best and most progressive new brewers in favour of any old muck packaged in your preferred manner. American craft beer wouldn't exist without CAMRA? do me a favour, but some members have raised it as a serious point.

I have nothing against the organisation, but to pretend that its anything other than a (late) middle aged (being kind) middle class white man's drinking club is really over egging the pudding, and its supreme level of pleasedness with itself is why it'll never appeal to me.

Stanley Blenkinsop said...

Like many people I'm glad for CAMRA's place in the history of modern beer drinking in this country.
But does anyone under the age of 30 ever go into a pub and specifically ask for ale any more ?
Re-brand the organisation and campaign for good beer brewed and delivered by any method.
Or remain in the last century.

Curmudgeon said...

It does seem to be rather unclear at present as to exactly what CAMRA is campaigning *for*. There are plenty of threats to the interests of the pubgoer and beer drinker, but a lack of real ale in local pubs is rarely one of them.

It's interesting how CAMRA is attacked from both sides. On the one hand there are the real ale diehards, who object to any involvement in schemes such as Cyclops and There's a Beer for That which encompass non-real beers. On the other hand are the crafterati who are angered by CAMRA's refusal to embrace any quality beers that fall outside the definition of real ale.

In practice, it is entirely possible to adopt a more open-minded attitude without busting the rules, as you demonstrate and also my local Stockport & South Manchester Branch.

In my view, the two main problems with CAMRA at present are:

(i) putting far too much emphasis on pubco and planning issues as reasons for the decline of pubs and ways of reversing the tide, something that IMV fails to resonate with most members

(ii) Being strangely reluctant to confront the anti-drink "Public Health" lobby, which in the long term is surely far more of a threat to beer drinkers' interests than big business - and indeed in some cases shamefully making common cause with it in the hope of gaining a short-term advantage

Tandleman said...

Anon: I think I'd be happier with what you say if you weren't hiding in the dark.

Tandleman said...

Phil: Cliché maybe, but that's just fine as member. Maybe just do the odd thing like stick up a poster now and then. It doesn't need to be full on.

Mudgie: There is two CAMRAs in my view. The lobbying one and the local one and a big disconnect between the two.

Stanley: We looked at that in the Fit for Purpose Review but it was decided that the "brand" was too strong to lose at that time. Now? Who knows?

Ed said...

The is something I've been pondering about recently and I think you're spot on. Most voluntary organisations are finding it difficult to get people involved. I suspect that CAMRA's membership could continue to grow, and the professional end become ever more efficient as a lobbying organiation, whilst the local brances start to decline.

StringersBeer said...

I'd love to see the numbers that disprove the allegation that CAMRA is a "middle aged ][...] middle class white man's drinking club". I wonder if HQ could find the relevant membership statistics and squash this canard once and for all.

Tandleman said...

Jon: The figures of age and gender are available. I will look into it.

Depends what conclusion you then draw from it.

Rob Nicholson said...

Of course I'd say this is an excellent post and agree with much of what has been written; having pondered much the same. The fact that this elephant in the room isn't featuring more prominently at the upcoming members' weekend is disappointing. One motion on encouraging older members smacks of the desperation mentioned in the blog. Personally, there are several motions which I'd dismiss to clear up room to debate this critical topic. CAMRA policy and aspirations will mean nowt if there is nobody at branch level to action them. Also, brushing the two faux pas (parliamentary campaigner of the year & sexist YM advert) aside and the proposed motion is also not on esp. as there are other motions which are IMO already policy.

It's interesting to hear this coming from what appears to be a very successful branch but I'll hazard to suggest that is *because* of the existing team doing a great job. The fact that even you are worrying about succession planning is worrying.

John Clarke said...

I don't think encouraging older members to get involved smacks of desperation at all. As has been said many times before younger members on the whole have other priorities and demands on their time. Getting the active retired to become more involved is I think a sensible attempt to make better use of a valuable resource. Just because these are older members it doesn't follow that their views on beer will be stuck in the past.

Stono said...

the problem if you look at the overall numbers, it will hide alot of the wider variation between local branches, I think people look around their locality and replicate that across the country and end up thinking my god we are sleep walking into the abyss here.

whereas there are a number of local branches, Nottingham being one of them, that really do engage and have a lot of success with younger members & volunteering, and what CAMRA needs and I think alot of the national exec motions already show this aim, is to work out what works,why and then get the other branches where volunteering is low etc etc to try the same things.

this will be the 3rd AGM Ive attended, Ive never attended a local branch meeting.

in terms of why the "casual sexism" motion was rejected, I kind of agree with the motions committee,sorry, they are right in that it is already CAMRAs policy to treat everyone equally and not promote or behave in a sexist or even casually sexist manner, I think its certainly in the beer festival guidance and I remember Christine Cryne actually covered that area in some detail at last years AGM.

so do we need to have a motion if we should already be doing it & for what purpose. Bobs guidance was always motions should ask the NE to do something or change something, that had tangible actions to deliver, asking conference to restate its commitment to something thats already existing policy does feel a bit like well we are going round in circles, and we'd be deluged with motions asking for restating a commitment every year if we went down that route.

perhaps the motion should have asked the NE to publicise the policy more widely,to enable branches to more effectively counter the negative claims, and monitor local branch compliance, but again does that need conference to agree that.

maybe rather than just a menu of motions to go through, we should allow like a 10minute rule bill, where issues like this where its already covered by policy but that we want to discuss with the wider CAMRA audience can be aired and prompt discussion, rather than a tangible motion, I dont know, I suspect some may claim thats already be covered at the regional meetings.

also Colin highlighted the anti drink public health lobby as the key threat to beer drinkers in his chairmans speech last year, so its an item thats noted, but all we can do at the moment is promote beer in a positive manner and that means working closely with government and MPs who I think even last year it was said they dont always support us,they dont always vote the way we'd like,they often disagree with us, but we will always work with them and give them credit where its due.

py said...

Just drop this real ale nonsense, it made sense in the 70s, it doesn't anymore. Go back to the founding principles and revert the name back to the campaign for the revitalisation of ale (or beer, as we call it now).

Paul Bailey said...

A good thought-provoking article, Tandleman, and one which neatly summarises the dilemma faced by the Campaign for Real Ale today. Before going any further, thank-you for the link back to my own piece, which was itself a follow-up to an earlier article I wrote, asking whether CAMRA was ever going to experience its own “Road to Damascus” moment.

It seems that many of the commentators here are agreed that CAMRA is at the cross-roads and is facing some sort of mid-life crisis. Reading the manifestoes published in “What’s Brewing” by some of the prospective National Executive candidates, it appears that people close to the top of the organisation are at last coming to the same conclusion.

The “lobbying” part of the campaign is the one which commands all the big publicity, and yes, there’s no doubt that several of the recent, high-profile campaigns have achieved dramatic results. The fact that CAMRA, as an organisation representing beer drinkers and pub-goers, is listened to and taken notice of by both Government and industry is obviously something to be proud of but, and it’s a big but, none of this would have been achieved without the backing of and support from the ordinary, grass-roots membership.

This is something which is often forgotten and there is a definite tendency for the National Executive to take this support for granted, despite protestations to the contrary. It’s small wonder that the big disconnect between the lobbying campaign and the local one, which you so rightly allude to Tandleman, not only exists but is getting larger.

None of this, of course, even touches on the main issue facing CAMRA today, which is the shrinking numbers of active members. This is an issue which many of the NE candidates have identified, but so far none of them have come up with workable ideas to address it. (To be fair, this is an issue which affects many organisations, and no-one seems to know what the answer is.)

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this month’s impending AGM, but arguing about the pricing structure at beer festivals, fracking, the definition of a “pub” (buy a dictionary for heaven’s sake!), or whether other fruits, apart from apples, are permitted to be added to cider, really is missing the bigger picture.

I have written considerably more than I originally intended on the thorny subject of where CAMRA is going wrong and what it needs to do to reconnect itself with today’s much-changed world of beer and brewing, so I will publish the rest of my rantings later, as a separate post. In the meantime, to anyone planning to attend the Nottingham AGM, remember that even the most intransigent of regimes have been forced from power, so do your utmost here to be a real force for change.

Rob Nicholson said...
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Rob Nicholson said...

I'm convinced that much of the apparent disconnect between the branches and CAMRA centrally is one of poor communication. I know much more about how Tandleman and Curmurgeon think having read their blogs for many years. I haven't a clue what the NE and central committees think about all of the above because they live in their own world and singularly don't communicate IMO. And the response of "you can always telephone" or "come along to a meeting" isn't the answer. Ideas like every member of the NE writing an occasional blog article have been mooted but never happen. CAMRA created the discussion forums but NE & central committee engagement has been zero from the start. Has a member of the NE *ever* replied to one of these blogs? Where are the Twitter posts from Colin Valentine? Why is it that the unofficial CAMRA page is far busier than the official one that's just mainly a promotion engine?

The excuse that they are too busy isn't acceptable either (although I do accept they are busy) as effective communication drastically reduces the workload over time. Have the debate (once) in a public medium instead of speaking individually to each member on the same subject.

Alex W said...

"I understand from other voluntary organisations that this is a problem for them too"

This has been an issue with voluntary associations for a while. There an American book, "Bowling Alone", by Robert D. Putnam back in 2000.

The Web and social media has perhaps helped bring raw membership figures for some organisations since but may not necessarily have translated to structural involvement in real life.

Unknown said...

For most 1970's youth the pub was at the centre of our social lives, we lived for Friday night when the working week was done and we could in my case neck prodigious amounts of beer or lager.

Because beer at this time was *hite ig memory serves me well, we had a vested interest in changing things, allied with the fact youth still seemed to have idea's of affecting change in all aspects of our lives.

Young people now don't see the world in the same way we did, the world has changed and so thankfully has beer.

py said...

The thing is, why would ANY young people get involved in a campaign to promote an idea (real ale is unequivocally better than all other forms of beer) that they simply don't agree with?

CAMRA's problem is that its central tenet is a fringe view even amongst its own membership - most of whom only join up because of the free entry to beer festivals and free beer vouchers.

Ian Worden said...

I think a problem with this debate is that we don't have information on why and how people join. I don't think it really is for beer vouchers since I go in the local Wetherspoons regularly and see few being used, and then only by people who I know or estimate to be over 50. Beer festival admission discounts might be a factor though - I haven't seen figures on how many new members are signed up at festivals, but if it is a good proportion then perhaps this is a key factor.

I joined CAMRA in 1981 because I was interested in beer and found CAMRA publications very informative - this was of course well before WB was dumbed down. I didn't go to local meetings because they were religiously held on a Tuesday and at that time I had prior commitments on Tuesday evenings. I did go to meetings after I moved across London a year or two later, and was active until the early 1990s. Work commitments cut down the time I had available, but I was glad to escape sterile discussions at meetings that went round and round in circles, and 'campaigning' that involved trekking to grotty pubs in the middle of nowhere and pretending that you liked Charringtons IPA because it came out of a handpump.

I won't lapse my membership, like several people I know, because as a life member it would be pointless. However, I do wonder what the churn rate is and whether there are any available figures?

Rob Nicholson said...

Centrally CAMRA is aware of all of this as much of what has been said is also covered in "BRANCHES' SURVEY 2014 which I assume was widely circulated.

Rob Nicholson said...

Py: that of course could be the brutal truth that we're having trouble admitting... younger members maybe don't totally disagree but they certainly don't perceive there is a problem worth fighting for anymore.

Curmudgeon said...

"'campaigning' that involved trekking to grotty pubs in the middle of nowhere and pretending that you liked Charringtons IPA because it came out of a handpump."

Aww, now that's the kind of thing I really used to enjoy about CAMRA.

Syd Differential said...

It's a funny old world.
CAMRA membership is at an all time high yet virtually every comment on here reckons it's a moribund organisation.
If it ain't broke,etc etc.

Rob Nicholson said...

Overall CAMRA membership is pretty moot to this conversation which is about *active* members, i.e. the ones that put something back into the organisation aside from a monetary donation.

Anonymous said...

CAMRA has made it's membership through press ganging people by dropping a shilling in their pint at beer festivals (or Spoons vouchers). You could call them paid members. Stop the spoons vouchers or the 'free' vouchers at beer fests, watch the numbers crumble.

Then there is the active members at local level. They have real passion, real passion for beer. But rarely have I met one of these active members that turns there nose up at the 'craft' or the 'keg'. Mention the letters page of "What's Brewing" to them and they go red with rage or embarrassment.

There seems a disconnect to the CAMRA HQ and the active members at the coal face.

CAMRA HQ owe a the active members a change in attitude. They can start this by being representative of the whole membership on their letters page.

Ex CAMRA member

J Mark Dodds said...

Good blog Tandleman.

Pubs need to be high on the agenda and they aren't.

James Watson said...

At the present time membership is growing at an impressive rate of 8%. It might be argued that young people actually admire a bit of controversy and edginess. What the swelling ranks actually add to the campaign is another issue and I agree with other commentors. We need to focus on activating members to actually do something. I've never been in favour of the JDW vouchers as I believe they send out the wrong signals. I know hundreds of established members who are quite happy to try, and even praise, non cask beer of all varieties, but perhaps not industrial keg fizz. I think the majority prefer a nice live real ale with character and personality but the those craft haters represent a tiny minority. The vast majority campaign FOR something worthwhile rather than AGAINST something that they disapprove of. The beer battle is well and truly won. Thanks to, or perhaps even in spite of, CAMRA, at various levels. We are awash with good beer and this shows no signs of ending. Where an organisation with 170,000 members and some political connections can add value is the battle for Britain's pubs, under sustained attack to the tune of 31 closures every week. We made some progress during 2014/2015 with a flurry of activity in the last parliamentary session but there is much work still to be done. We need to keep making the case to end all PD rights on pubs, and to persuade the 50% of English Councils without pub protection policies to bring them in line with the framework. We also need to continue to campaign to extol the virtues of a good pub, and remind people that supermarkets just cannot offer the same social experience. In parallel with this we should be lobbying government to end the tax break for supermarkets, offering incentive for pubs, and finally, where I do agree with Tim Martin, reduce VAT in hospitality to 5%. This would create 700,000 jobs. Fundamentally, it needs to be all about pubs. The pub persuader, Mr J Mark Dodds, has hit it, as usual. There is nothing in life that beats a good pub, and there will be nothing left for the next generation if we don't stand up to this rapacious asset stripping destruction of our heritage and culture. If CAMRA wants to remain relevant, we need to step up to the plate on this one in a far more serious way.

CarsmileSteve said...

I know I've mentioned this before, but the problem here is even people in their early 40s (ie me and my mates) don't have much background in formal meetings/agendas/motions/branch committee structures that people only ten years older than us do because we haven't grown up with organised fun such as political parties, trades union membership, club committees etcetc that were instrumental in people's lives in the 60s/70s/80s. [wild generalisation alert] The majority of us just don't get how/why this sort of formal structure works or why it is important.

I understand, in this context, why encouraging new retired members makes a degree of sense, but only if you stick with an organisational model that is not understood by a huge chunk of the membership...

Rob Nicholson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Nicholson said...

>there will be nothing left for the next generation:

Problem is that it will ever get that bad as new bars are thriving. So ask said elusive younger member about this threat and they answer "The bars I like going in are opening all over the place so what problem?". Unlike the entire loss of cask ale, we all know that pubs & bars won't disappear entirely. That's not to say we shouldn't be very concerned but saying it's not as much of an emotional hook for the younger person. Or maybe any person of any age.

>The majority of us just don't get how/why this sort of formal structure works or why it is important.

This is an important point. The question we should be asking maybe is *are* they important? Younger people are increasingly organising things in a very different way, especially socially, via social media. I organised a walk at Easter and it was all done via Facebook (ended up at Buxton Tap - recommended!). When I worked at InforMed meetings were kept to a bare minimum, often didn't have a strict agenda and more importantly, if there was nothing to discuss we didn't have a meeting. We were small, dynamic and hugely successful. When then sold up and ended up part of a 1,000 person business unit and surprise (not), the meetings started increasing and our decision making slowed. I left ;-)

One of the things I did as chairman was reduce the campaigning meetings down to once every two months. This wasn't hugely successful as some committee members didn't use email effectively. They were possibly stuck in the structure CarsmileSteve mentions above. They needed meetings to operate.

I've always hated meetings as I've wasted too much of my life in ineffective ones so this isn't restricted to younger people.

CAMRA's slightly trade-union-esque roots aren't that relevant today and maybe not relevant to CAMRA. Is that a turn off?

Phil said...

CarsmileSteve and David Nicholls make some good points about the changing cultural context. It may be that CAMRA as an organisation of activists is a thing of the past. On the other hand, we're talking about the kind of long-term trends that you can't observe when you're in the middle of them; let's check back in ten years' time.

A couple of other points:

The beer battle is well and truly won. Thanks to, or perhaps even in spite of, CAMRA, at various levels. We are awash with good beer

I think this is flat wrong - and this perception is actually a big part of the problem. Is Glossop "awash with good beer"? Immingham? Swansea? Wath-on-Dearne? Bracknell? Carlisle? I could go on (please don't - Ed.). If you were kidnapped and dumped in a strange town, what would be your chances of finding 'good beer' in the first pub you went in? (Here's what happened to Pete Brown in Chesterfield.) The campaign was founded as the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale - not "the revitalisation of some ale, which people who care about it will know how to find". Until every pub in the country serves something decent, CAMRA will still have a job to do.

As for the over-50 age profile, here's a heretical thought: does it matter? It's not just the cohort effect of the original young membership getting older; I joined CAMRA at the age of 50, and I bet I'm not the only one. If you look at it that way the future could be bright, if greyish; the supply of people turning 50 isn't going to run out any time soon.

py said...

"Until every pub in the country serves something decent, CAMRA will still have a job to do."

But a lot of the work done by CAMRA - eg openly denigrating keg beer and vehemently and dogmatically opposing the cask breathers that may make cask ale feasible in many more pubs than currently serve it, actively works AGAINST this objective.

Also, define "decent".

Rob Nicholson said...

>Until every pub in the country serves something decent, CAMRA will still have a job to do.

I'm afraid that's far too draconian for me (inference only cask ale is good) and if that's CAMRA's manifesto, I'll get my coat. That should *never* ever happen - if it does, CAMRA has become it's own enemy in removing choice.

However, the biggest blocker IMO now to getting cask ale wider are the pub companies, not the brewers. So let's get rid of the pubcos and whilst we're at it, the national and regional brewers who let's be honest produce poor beer (devils advocate here!!)

Cooking Lager said...

I quite like the idea of a middle aged middle class piss up club. You get to call Mudgie an "old codger" to his face, rather than on t'internet.

It's the rest of it I can't be arsed with. What is the point of the rest of it?

Phil said...

Rob - 'decent' isn't synonymous with 'cask', which is why I deliberately didn't say "Until every pub in the country serves cask"! If a keg-only pub puts on Doom Bar and takes off a keg line serving Punk IPA, that's a real ale gain but a decent beer loss.

Still too draconian?

py said...

decent beer = craft beer?

so CAMRA should focus on promoting craft beer?

Phil said...

Some cask beer is craft beer. Some craft beer is cask beer. Some craft beer is decent. Some cask beer is decent. Some decent beer isn't cask beer. Some decent beer isn't craft beer.

I think that's all I've got to say on the matter.

py said...

Some decent beer isn't craft beer

Like what, exactly?

Phil said...

Guinness FES, Duvel, Old Peculier, Old Tom, Hobgoblin, Wainwright, JW Lees' MPA, Hyde's light mild & so on. I don't believe there's a definition of 'craft beer' that covers all of the above as well as, say, Camden Hells on keg and Siren Limoncello IPA in bottle. (Nor do I think this is a problem!)

Curmudgeon said...

"The bars I like going in are opening all over the place so what problem?"

So it's going to be difficult to convince that person of the virtues of campaigning against a run-down, keg-only estate boozer to be turned into a Tesco Express.

Cooking Lager said...

It would not be in the the self interest of any young none home owner to restrict the housing supply by preventing the building of new private dwellings by the removal of crappy pubs.

If don't own a house and fancy buying one, one day, you should cheer when pubs are knocked down and flats built.

If you then join in with the beardy old codgers, many of whom own several properties and are quite happy to restrict the housing supply, you are a mug.

Phil said...

many of whom own several properties


Cooking Lager said...

My comment is not directed at any one individual, but to note that of the beard club members I have met many are older retired people with investment properties, or more than one home. Not all, but as you might expect of older middle class retired people after decent career that saw property seen as safer (and affordable if you have cash spare) than equities in terms of retirement planning.

I am not disparaging this, nor how anyone prepares for their own future. I am simply noting that a club of older people seem to prefer keeping old boozers than increasing the housing supply by converting them into flats.

That the young renter might benefit from an increase in the housing supply and the old property owner prefer the status quo.

That a campaign that benefits the interest of the old might not see an influx of the young demanding the pub remains and the new flats not be built.

Alex W said...

Though Danny Dorling at Oxford Uni argues there's more houses and bedrooms than there's ever been so a simple shortage that can be rectified by turning pubs into pricey yuppie flats.

It's surely more a crazy bubble, especially in London and the South East? You could concrete over the South and still have empty houses, homeless, high rents as long as rich foreigners buy London penthouses and leave them empty, so many jobs are concentrated in the South and so many rely on a Ponzi scheme of ever rising house prices for a pension made of bricks and mortar.

Alex W said...

*so not a simple shortage

Cooking Lager said...

So because the cause of unaffordable housing is both complex and multiple, and the solution would involve a number of economic changes, young people should ignore 1 route to increased supply (knock pubs down, build housing) because pubs are lovely (though not lovely enough to want to go in) and ignore that maybe the older codgers asking for this have a possible vested interest in their own finances?

Nah. Knock the pubs down. Then do the other stuff too.

Certainly don't join in with the old timers trying to save the pubs, that would be idiocy.

Alex W said...

Though Danny Dorling at Oxford Uni argues there's more houses and bedrooms than there's ever been so a simple shortage that can be rectified by turning pubs into pricey yuppie flats.

It's surely more a crazy bubble, especially in London and the South East? You could concrete over the South and still have empty houses, homeless, high rents as long as rich foreigners buy London penthouses and leave them empty, so many jobs are concentrated in the South and so many rely on a Ponzi scheme of ever rising house prices for a pension made of bricks and mortar.

Cooking Lager said...

You've simply repeated yourself. Owt new to say?

There's more houses, there's more people. People buy houses, not rooms.

So long as demand outstrips supply, prices will rise. More supply is something anyone young should support.

Though they might want to also support taxing the fuck out of anyone with more than one house.

And support knocking the pubs down.

Cooking Lager said...

The point here I'm making is maybe devils advocate, but what CAMRA do is decided at their AGM by middle class, middle aged men. It's not unreasonable to assume they act in their own self interest.

40 years ago 4 young men started CAMRA. In an age where houses were affordable, jobs were secure, pensions were final salary (and invested in equities not buy to let), and a degree was a passport to the middle class that you could take to the bank. They cared what beer was sold in pubs an won that one.

Today they are older. But could it be rather than young people are not joiners or interested or too selfish, simply that there interest is not aligned with that of an older generation.

That there interest means campaigning to save pubs is actually counter to their interest.

That for our beloved Tand with his tidy pension and second home in London, stopping the pub becoming flats is in his interest. You can't blame him for trying.

If you were 25, renting, in debt, crap job, knocking the pub down and building some flats looks an altogether more appealing prospect.

py said...

Why don't we just build new homes without knocking down any pubs. Just an idea.

Phil said...

what CAMRA do is decided at their AGM by middle class, middle aged men. It's not unreasonable to assume they act in their own self interest

On the contrary, I think it is unreasonable to assume that when the members of a special-interest group gather together to pursue that special interest collectively, each individual is pursuing his/her own interest. Self-interest will certainly get a look-in somewhere, but to say that it motivates them is daft. As is the assumption that the majority of active CAMRA members are landlords (without which your argument doesn't work).

Cooking Lager said...

Not at all, my assumption is that the concerns of middle aged retired home owners are different from those of young renters.

One group may conclude that saving pubs is of the upmost importance. The other that it it of either no importance or counter to their interest.

CAMRA was not formed out of altruism, but of self interest.

Tandleman said...

Cookie: Long before I had my flat in London I was still campaigning to keep pubs open where needed and appropriate.

Not often I agree with pY but he is right when he says they should just build more of them.

Mind you I don't accept for a second that all pubs should be protected.

And as per usual, I like a lot of what Phil says.

Cooking Lager said...

I was not having a pop at 2nd home owners. Those in glass houses and all that. I was saying that the economic interests of the older generation do not always match the economic interests of the younger. It would be rational among those without a pot to piss in to have a pop at 2nd home owners, though.

That the natural evolution of an organisation matches the world view and outlook of its active members, which for CAMRA would match that of the older. The values and importance of things comes from the outlook of the older male.

A question raised by your interesting post was why active CAMRA is getting older. You can consider people’s behaviour rational or irrational. I was suggesting that a young person behaving rationally would conclude that what CAMRA stand for is not in their interest.

As the campaign has moved from a real ale campaign into a pub preservation campaign, those pubs sit on brown field sites ripe for other alternate use. The current use as pubs benefits you, the alternate uses benefit others.

On a number of things, a young person may conclude that rationally they like pubs but economically they drink most at home so minimum pricing and knocking the supermarkets is not in their interest. On craft beer, every CAMRA real ale zealot I have met is 60+, everyone 40 or under likes quality keg beer as well. CAMRA as a real ale only rather than quality beer club appears time limited to my eyes.

On volunteering the older retired generation have useful skills from successful careers which are undervalued in the commercial market. Why not set up a beer festival for the fun of it and not make a dime for yourself? Beats “Homes under the Hammer”. Entirely rational if you have lots of time, dimes and skills. Younger people might also rationally conclude that earning a day’s pay commercially for dimes and skills is more rational than working for beer tokens. Even if the latter is more fun than the former. Both groups are acting in their own rational self-interest.

But I’m not asking you to like it.

Erlangernick said...

Watch Homes Under the Hammer and then saunter down to the beer fest when it opens at 12 on a Wednesday. That's my self-interest, anyway.

Rob Nicholson said...

Excellent post Cookie.