Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Happy Birthday to Us

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)  is 50 today, and for many, this will be a reason to look back and certainly reflect on what CAMRA has or hasn't done. Either way, making it to 50 years, in an organisation, as much as in life, is an achievement to be celebrated and hopefully in this case admired. We have had our ups and downs, high points and low as a group, but we still have a dog in the fight, and we are (mostly) still out there campaigning for real ale.

I'm a relative newcomer, my tenure in the Campaign being a mere 40 years, but happily my anniversary as a member coincides, more or less, with the fiftieth year of our venerable organisation.  Like many, I'm looking forward to Laura Hadland's book outlining CAMRA’s rich history and to reading the tales of those who have made this epic campaigning journey, both with and before me. Of course, while the organisation is to be congratulated, it is also an excuse for members to raise a glass to themselves, whether they are grey in beard and sandal or - like some of us - still youthful and inspired. Young or old, we are all the Campaign for Real Ale, and we can justifiably bask in our own reflected glory, even if just for a day.

This brief note to mark the occasion won't outline the rights and wrongs, the successes and disappointments, or even the changing face of CAMRA - hopefully Laura will do that. Nor will I try to explain how it was in the early days so long ago, except to say it has been, for the most part, a great pleasure to have been a part of it, from my first meeting, back in my Liverpool days, and for the last 40 years. Hopefully too, while unlikely to have another forty, there might just be a few more years left to do my bit. I certainly look forward to resuming my personal crusade in keeping many more cask pints from going sour.

So raise a glass - even if an ironic one - to those campaigners, past and present, who have helped shape today's beer scene one way or another. I'll leave this blogpost with a brief recommendation to have a look here at what publican and blogger Jeff Bell has to say about the Campaign. He has the right of it on balance and is a fitting and optimistic note on which to finish.

Like many CAMRA members I was persuaded to join by an existing member while on a work course in Blackpool in 1980. One day I'll run across him and thank him properly.

Back to business tonight. We'll be meeting as a Branch Committee on Zoom and planning for the full resumption of local CAMRA activities.  The show goes on.



retiredmartin said...

You can do no more than drink cask (or whatever you fancy) in pubs, Peter, and I'm sure like me you'll be itching to do your part.

Now living in Sheffield, I applaud their work with publicans in publicising their re-opening plans for April and May.

Tandleman said...

Still seems a long time off Martin.

Cooking Lager said...

Has anyone read this book? Is is any good? CAMRA biography or hagiography? I'll treat myself if it's the former, swerve if its the latter.
Though the first action must be to look up Tandleman in the index.

I'll let you guys work out how a campaign can be successful and simultaneously be 50 years old. Succeeding is negating the need for a campaign. That applies to any campaign for anything.

Fred said...

I must admit that the re-opening of pubs is not top of my list of priorities - the re-opening of my local hairdressers is currently keeping it in second place.

ShadowHider said...

Depends on how long you think 50 years is Peter!

According to the CAMRA BEER magazine it's been "half a decade". See the index on page 3 under the heading - 15 Roger Protz.

Methinks a proof reader might be due a slap. :-))

Tandleman said...

Well a quiet word would likely do.

Curmudgeon said...

Entirely agreed, Fred. Was due a haircut at the beginning of January, and by now I make DoC Brown look well-groomed :o

BillS said...

I’ll bet that in your Liverpool days, there were a lot more pubs outside the city centre selling real ale. Probably just the brewery’s bitter but they sold enough for it to usually be drinkable. If the pub tickers are to be believed a good few pubs are selling undrinkable stuff.

Curmudgeon said...

There has been a touch of smug self-congratulation saying "the battle for real ale has been won" which, if you look at large swathes of post-industrial Britain, certainly isn't true.

Take my original home town of Runcorn. Forty years ago, although there wasn't a huge amount of choice, most of the pubs had real ale, and most had mild. Now, 21 of the first 30 entries on WhatPub, including most of the remaining traditional pubs, are "no real ale".

Tandleman said...

Replying to both above. Yes absolutely true, but not only do many of the outlying area pubs not sell real ale, many are no.longer there and the footfall is nothi g like it was in the 80s.

In my Liverpool days real ale in Tetley, Higsons, Bass, and to a lesser extent Greenalls was the norm. John Smith and Whitbread less so, though JS rejoined the party late.

I know many of my old LLiverpool haunts no longer exist or are now keg, but then while everyone drank cask, not so many really knew they did.

Times have changed.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

I must say my secret lockdown haircut did more to improve my mood then anything else I can remember.
How I grew it so long when I were a young 'un is completely beyond me.
Inevitably as the lockdown in Ireland drags on with no roadmap in sight people have had enough.
I tagged along when the missus went to her sister's for their roots to be done and the travelling hairdresser, out of work and virtually penniless because she's self-employed, says the last month has seen a marked change in her illicit fortunes.
Put simply women don't want to be seen outside with grotty hair.
And yesterday, being both Paddy's Day and a nice weather day police had their hands full breaking up social gatherings in parks etc.
If we have a Spring like last year and there's still no sign of any vaccines arriving any time soon for anyone under the age of 50 ( they're currently still jabbing the over 75s )I fear they'll be fighting a losing battle.
Patience has come to an end.
Most people have had enough.

Tandleman said...

Difficult times Prof.

Ryan said...

No proper end in sight, though they may just let us have a slightly longer lead, for a few weeks in the summer, but I won't be banking on it.

Neville Grundy said...

It's an interesting point that Cooking Lager makes that an organisation cannot simultaneously be both a campaign and a success.

Is this true? I don't think so. There has certainly been success in ensuring that real ale is still available, but nothing in society remains static. New challenges and new threats arise that need to be tackled. Pubs are for the most part the only places where you can buy real ale and they are currently under serious threat from:

• Excessive beer duty.
• Excessive business rates.
• Rapacious pub companies.
• Anti-alcohol campaigners.
• And, currently, COVID-19 closures.

If any or all of these close pubs down permanently, then real ale will be under threat again simply because there'll be fewer places to sell it. I suspect that CAMRA's campaigning work will be required for years to come.

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