Today's Publican's Morning Advertiser has a piece by Tony Jennings of Budvar in which he argues that: "It’s time to sell GBBF to the wider world". What does he mean by this? It seems Tony feels that there are tricks being missed by CAMRA and that CAMRA should (among other things) use the Great British Beer Festival as a means of helping British Beer exports and by so doing, attract government involvement. CAMRA should encourage more foreign brewers to exhibit. (I think we had a couple of hundred this year). It should look more at beer with food and it should get itself round the country, citing the NEC in Birmingham as a possibility.
Now there's the thing. What the GBBF isn't is a trade exhibition. It is a festival of beers run to promote CAMRA and its aims - and to give everyone that attends it a good time. It isn't there to do many of the things that Tony suggests and to move in his direction, would over time, take the GBBF from being a bottom up drinkers run event, to be a top down business run event. It would certainly change it and arguably, it would ruin it. While David Cameron, if he thought about it, might agree with Tony that the CAMRA volunteer system, which makes it the success it is, is the Big Society in action, you always have to be careful not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Volunteers do what they do for reasons that aren't entirely logical. But they certainly do it to support CAMRA and the festival, not to promote a trade run (or oriented) show and while some of Tony's individual ideas may have merit in themselves, his main one would almost certainly invoke the law of unintended consequences.
The old joke of "what do we want? - Gradual change" - "When do we want it? In due course" fits the GBBF (and to some extent CAMRA itself) like a glove. It evolves and gets better, slowly, year by year. It doesn't need to change its purpose or emphasis to do that. It isn't and should never become a trade exhibition, let alone one with Government involvement. Where would the fun be in that?
No doubt Tony's intentions are good and his kind words about the professionalism of the volunteers is welcome too. He is also right in suggesting fresh ideas, but while continuous improvement is a must, it should never become a trade show. Tony is looking at the GBBF through the wrong end of his telescope.
Moving to the NEC would likely represent a huge financial risk to the Campaign among other negative factors)
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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