You may or may not have noticed a Twitter spat between me and a guy called Mark Johnson. Who's that then? He writes a blog called Beer Compurgation - no I don't know what the word means either. What's the big deal? Well not a lot in many ways and certainly not as much as has been made out on Twitter. It arose by my response to Matt Curtis and his fulsome praise for a blog piece about the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival for which I am the Deputy Organiser. Now this wasn't an overly critical piece (but see below) and apart from repeating rubbish about being "lied to" at the previous year's festival, was fairly innocuous. Given that the writer actually said some nice things too, why am I bothering with this then?
@totalcurtis @MarkNJohnson Hmm. Not really.
— Tandleman (@tandleman) January 27, 2015
Among other things, it's that thing about being lied to again. Accusing people of being mistaken, or just plain wrong or daft is one thing, accusations of lying are another. It was toned down a little this time to "pretence" - one of the dictionary definitions of which is "lying", but there you go. What was our offence this time you ask? Well it seem that our arrangement with Henshaws Society, a charity for blind people, has caused a red mist to fall once again. It seems that it was suggested to Mr Johnson by those selling the programme, that the money went to charity.
"Secondly, the programmes were being sold to people under the pretence that the money goes to charity. The latter has all the credibility of a BBC phone-in donation.
The actual arrangements were that the charity got 10p per programme for the first 3000 sold and 25p thereafter. This was the deal they negotiated with us. They sold the programmes on our behalf and no doubt wished to maximise numbers sold. From their point of view it was "for charity". Funnily enough, as the person responsible for the foyer, I didn't hear anyone say once that it was all for charity, but there you go. Even though we handed over the responsibility for programme selling to the charity, we will ensure in future that they brief their volunteers correctly. (As an aside, the programme, no less that 64 (high quality paper) pages, was sold for a bargain £1. Hardly a rip off given the effort that went into it and the extensive tasting notes. Its costs were not all covered by adverts by any means as suggested and a fixed amount per programme goes to the publisher too - these are complicated deals.) The cloakrooms were operated by Henshaws again. The Velodrome has only one. We bought or acquired the kit for a second, including the racks and hangars. Out of each pound spent, the charity got 80p. The rest covered our costs. The implication that CAMRA decided to deceive over this is just not true.
It doesn’t sit right with me, sorry. I’m sure Henshaws raised a lot of charity money this year. I bet another organisation earned more"
I don't actually know who made most from these two activities, but since the entire operation was handed over to the charity, we'll have to wait and see. Not that it would actually matter, as long as that was what was negotiated and agreed upon. Even if we did make money from it, that's our aim. No apologies for that. Our expenses are enormous, as is our exposure to risk. The charity was happy with their cut and our aim in involving them was to delegate a task or two and to allow them to make more money for charity than just shaking buckets under noses. They are in their second year with us and are very happy indeed with the relationship.
We weren’t lied to over tannoy systems this year and they actually remembered to sell beer too. I told them at the end of last year’s post to come back and be better and it worked. They listened to many and learnt from all. They can be taught.
There we go again. Last year's comments about lying are slipped in again, even though they were systematically rebutted at the time. Let's make it clear one more time. Firstly Metrolink always closes the Velodrome Tram Stop for an hour after Manchester City's home games. That's what we announced last year. Metrolink did the same this year. It is their Standard Operating Procedure. Secondly, we ran out of beer last year, because more people turned up than we'd expected and budgeted for. This year we didn't run out - at a pretty big cost to us in discarded beer - because we knew we'd need more - a fact we didn't know the year before, never having been there. Mr Johnson was pleased though we had plenty of beer, but it isn't that simple. Judging the amount of perishable cask beer is not an exact science. Nobody wants to run out and nobody wants to send hundreds of gallons of good beer down the sluice, which is what we have to do if we get it wrong. Selling cask beer in volume to an uncertain audience is squeaky bum time for us all. We take it very seriously and certainly try to run that fine line between too little and too much.
Despite his (tongue in cheek I hope) claim of influence, Mr Johnson told us nothing that we hadn't figured out for ourselves. It was better because we used our experience of the first event to make it so, and will use our experience of this event to make it better next time. We will also listen to the large number of constructive comments too - including the charity one above - which when you strip the insinuation out, is actually a lesson learned. Thanks for that at least. We'll know more next time too. Continuous refinement and improvement is the name of the game for us.
Moving on. If you read the article I mildly complained about, you'll see it is full of snide remarks. I for one don't let such things go unanswered when I have had a hand in the event criticised and know how complicated it is. (As a further aside, an event that expects 11,000 people is fiendishly difficult to organise). I am concerned that the few that read Beer Compurgation and didn't attend the event, might be incorrectly influenced by it. That is why I said "Hmm. Not really" and why I am putting the record straight now.
A good example of a snide remark is this:
How was the beer not available at the beginning of the festival? "We haven’t finished setting up yet." Oh for God’s sake…
Finally Mr Johnson's allegation that CAMRA seem to be making money out of the festival is absolutely true. Astonishingly, we do try and make money and any we do make goes straight to CAMRA HQ to, err, campaign for real ale.
Despite this, no less than 360 beers were sold at £3 a pint or less, CAMRA Members had free admission at all times except Friday night and apart from Friday, it was just £3 to get in. (£2 with a Metrolink ticket). Average price of a pint was £3.07, way cheaper than comparable free houses in Manchester. We'll try and fix these over-measures too - thanks for pointing it out.
Two more tweets to think about:
@tandleman don't bother. I only welcome honest opinion and constructive criticism. You offer neither. Dream on
— Mark Johnson (@MarkNJohnson) January 27, 2015
@tandleman @MarkNJohnson Mark's a friend of mine and I trust him, that's good enough for me.
Point one: I hope this is constructive enough and point two: That's good in principle, but sometimes you need to look a little deeper, read between the lines and check the record too.
— Matthew Curtis (@totalcurtis) January 27, 2015