There is an excellent piece of analysis in Phil's blog about CAMRA's Revitalisation proposals. Phil does a bit of slicing and dicing of the various resolutions put to the members and comes out, on the whole against them. It is a worthwhile read. At the time of writing, there is one lengthy comment which, while not taking an opposing view exactly, does pursue a more optimistic line regarding of the future of the Campaign if change occurs.
Dominic Pinto is the commentator and he cuts through a lot of the arguments with the following observation "In setting out more succinct objects the proposed new Articles [of Association] start
fairly crucially, surely, with securing the long term future of first
real ale, and also real cider and real perry, by increasing their
quality. availability and popularity."
Of course when you read a lot of the words written in support of change, it is clear that no matter how carefully framed - and I suppose there must have been many iterations - there is still an element of Humpty Dumpty about them "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to
mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you
can make words mean so many different things." I rather fancy that there is a deliberate element of (at best) vagueness in what is proposed, as the changes, when you think about them, are backgrounded against two seemingly irreconcilable objectives. On one hand there is the perceived need to move with the times in the face of a rapidly changing beery landscape and on the other a wish to say it is all much the same - except we will not say bad things about keg - and will allow festivals to sell it - though that ship has already sailed. In other words, we don't want to frighten the horses, the horses being those of us in the Campaign who actually put in the time and effort. Will the stalwarts take their bats and balls home in other words? Will they believe Humpty Dumpty or Alice? If Dominic is to be believed though, that in itself may not be a worry. He has a lot of experience of other voluntary organisation and sees a ray of hope there. Comparing CAMRA with organisations such as Oxfam, and the Consumers Association and countering some of Phil's arguments, he concludes (following arguments you should read) "So the idea that these corporate-like entities with (bloated?) head
offices with a passive income generating membership, commercial income
generating arms, and declining local activity is really very far from
the reality you suggest."
Returning to the proposed changes to include non real beers, the crux of the matter to many, what do we find? What are the likely views of members? Now I suspect from observation that most members do mostly drink real ale and lots of active members do drink non real ales from time to time. (I do, but mostly lager not ale). Likely non active members do the same. There are pockets in the country of die hard real ale folks who "up with this they will not put" but in the main most of us, while championing great quality real ale, will drink other things from time to time. The changes in emphasis will not affect what we do one little bit. Most of us will continue with the main objective of drinking and supporting real ale and the idea of mass resignations, or campaigning for "Evil Keg Filth" are to my mind as fanciful as the notion that including non real beer recognition in our objectives will attract lots of new people to becoming active in the Campaign. In reality it won't happen and actually, when you think about it, why would it? As an aside, at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, we have a substantial non real ale presence and while there may have been the odd bit of member unease about it, nobody has refused to work at the festival for that reason. We do have some younger members working as a result of it, but many of them are from the breweries offering the product - so that may not count that much.
What about the armchair CAMRA members who will have a vote on all of this for the first time? Will the tail wag the dog? (I know the small number of activists compared to total members are really the tail, but you see what I mean.) My own experience is that it is almost impossible to get those that are passive members to do anything, whether it is nominating for Pubs of the Year, Good Beer Guide entries, or pretty much anything else at all. So will they turn out in droves to vote for or against the proposed changes? I rather doubt it, but maybe, just maybe, there could be enough to outvote the activists, though I suspect their vote will be split too.
So, what will happen and how will I vote? The outcome is by no means certain is all I can say. Despite my remarks above about armchair voting, that is a big unknown. In fact I just don't know, though my instinct is that if members believe that the future of real ale is threatened or even compromised by the proposals, then they will vote to retain the status quo.
As for me, I like to think I'm a moderniser, but underneath it all, there's a bit of, as Hilaire Belloc said, "always keep a-hold of Nurse for fear of finding something worse."
The pick and mix nature of the resolutions make for a known unknown. Depending on how it is voted on, it could end up a dog's breakfast.
CAMRA does need change though, so likely that's what will swing it for me. But remember the pick and mix warning.
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.
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