I went along to a CAMRA Shaping the Future consultation event in Leeds last weekend and very worth while it was too. I very much enjoyed the stimulating discourse and the opportunity to hear other peoples views on the issues.
What surprised me was the turn out. Okay, the room was quite full, but at my reckoning there were only about thirty people present, which is a bit disappointing for a meeting at the heart of the largest county, in the third largest city in the UK.
As the meeting went on Chief executive Tim Page outlined the process, what’s happened, what comes next and the like. The results of the stage 1 consultation were presented, again something which surprised me very much. In fact I was gob smacked to learn that only 16,000 out of close on 180,000 CAMRA members had been bothered to make their opinions known. Not forgetting the additional 6,000 dinosaurs who have sent paper returns in and cost the organisation a fortune to manually process them. Mind you, I could write what I want about them because they’ll never see it unless someone prints it off for them! A quick calculation tells me the total return is roughly 12% of the national membership, which is woeful. Yet despite all this, I hear loads of people banging on about what should or shouldn’t happen.
When you start to look at the number of people who say they have never been actively engaged in CAMRA activities, 25% at the Leeds meeting, then it’s clear that a substantial part of the membership is represented by Christmas presents and Father’s/Mother’s day membership purchases!
What? You sure? All 180,000 members are totally committed and dedicated, in at least some small way? Well if that’s the case then they need to get off their arses and make themselves heard, don’t they.
Now I don’t want to see drastic changes to CAMRA, far from it, maybe a few tweaks, embrace diverse beer styles (and other drink types) solely through the strategic aim of promoting the pub, yet retain fully all the key aims at the very heart of CAMRA.
Thing is, it’s not people like me who will make a difference, it’s the rank and file membership who can’t afford to be silent and who need to tell people what they think. There is still plenty of opportunity to do this, the survey is still open on the CAMRA Shaping the Future web site and there are plenty more consultation events.
If we don’t do something then a brilliant organisation may end up like the once thriving brewery where the Leeds meeting was held. The remnants of Joshua Tetley’s ivory tower, stranded in the middle of a car park that will eventually become transformed into god only knows (that’s apartments then) by the developers cheque book.