I’m not sure whether it was a strange omen or coincidence there was an anti-Brexit march proceeding through Leeds city centre as I walked down to The Grove in Holbeck for the Rescheduled, Regional, Revitalisation Meeting on Saturday (24-03-18)?
One thing, for sure, they’d certainly generated a great deal more interest than CAMRA had. At a guess, the marchers numbered in their thousands, the CAMRA members assembled in the suitably sober brown Grove concert room numbered thirty, exactly. Not including the erudite CAMRA National Director Michael Hardman MBE and Head of Communications Tom Stainer who led the presentation.
Now it’s not my place to tell folk how to vote or what they should think and the presentation followed the same path. The emphasis was firmly on this being a democratic process which will be decided upon by the members.
The key soundbites for me were: ’Don’t believe some of the things you’ve heard.’ ‘It’s not a done deal.’ And ‘There is no intention of campaigning for keg beer’. I’m quoting Mr Hardman here, he was very clear on this, something that several of the delegates would have done well to heed, and which if they had done would have saved a couple hours of my life.
Obviously the well known facts were trotted out; membership uptake is slowing, there are more breweries than ever before, but fewer pubs, and our membership age profile is increasing. You only had to look around the room to see that, at 54 years of age, I appeared to be one of the younger members. Women? Just three, although one of them was a National Exec. candidate on a ‘Pro Dinosaur’ ticket, which was nice to see from a diversity point of view. But, I won’t be voting for her on the basis of her outlook. Sorry, I said I wasn’t gong to try and influence anyone.
The presentation started at 1pm and lasted 25 minutes, which was about right, I thought. So why was I still sat there at something to four? Probably because the Q & A session became dominated by a couple or three people who started off by telling everyone how long they;
a) had been drinking real ale.
b) had been a CAMRA member.
c) where they had their first pint.
d) what it was.
e) who bought it.
f) how much it cost.
g) who else was there.
h) how many branches they had been members of.
i) how many branch positions they had held.
j) how they had influenced the organisation.
k) and generally as much information as possible about themselves but nothing that was germaine to the debate.
Essentially the monologues trotted out by the Dinosaurs were polemic, repetitive and showed themselves to be extremely resistant to change. Although they didn’t seem to be asking specific questions it was clear that the main issue for them was keg beer and the only reason we were discussing the whole issue was; ‘All because some numpty decided that key-keg was real ale.’
Yes someone really said that. They also suggested that CAMRA should be campaigning to promote real ale abroad, in other countries. And these are the same people who keep telling us the battle for real ale isn’t yet won in the UK. I tell you, you couldn’t make it up.
To be honest, as time went on I became quite bored with the same old, same old vitriolic argument. Essentially ‘No Watneys Red Barrel’ versus ‘a more open view’. Mr Hardman was I thought quite impressive with how he dealt with the naysayers, clearly he had encountered some of them many times before. Indeed when one Dinosaur said that if the Special Resolutions (SR) were passed we would find ourselves promoting the modern day equivalent of Watneys, Mr Hardman said he found the remark quite personally insulting.
I’d never met Michael Hardman before but I was quite impressed with his attitude, his eloquence and moreover his passion for what he was responsible for founding. He seems a very genuine character who has done so much for real ale lovers and there’s no way he’s going to let us end up campaigning for John Smith’s Smooth, which is what some people suggested when they said CAMRA shouldn’t be representing all pub goers and drinkers.
Thing is, we’re already representing all pub goers and drinkers. You can’t campaign for excise duty cuts on ‘just real ale’ or incentives and tax breaks for pubs that ‘just sell real ale’. Wake up and smell the coffee Dinosaurs, we’ve been campaigning for all pubs and all drinkers directly and indirectly for years. And guess what, we’re pretty good at it so lets just tidy up the Articles of Associations, make them more modern, relevant and fit for purpose,
I mentioned Pedantic in the title, clearly a lot of folk have spent a lot of time researching the various SR’s and thought (too deeply) about this. Essentially they would be better off trying to see the bigger picture and getting the point rather than had becoming bogged down in the detail and missing the point.
I was heartened by some people (thankfully the majority) who quite simply and succinctly asked relevant questions. And also for those who expressed their appreciation for what CAMRA has done over the last, going on six, decades. There were even some people who voiced support for the SR’s and a good few who just sat and carefully listened. Me? I didn’t say a great deal, although on the quality debate, I did point out that more than a few of the real ales the Dinosaurs champion might not actually be as real as they think they are. Something that Mr H agreed with.
So what’s my view? I said I wouldn’t do it, didn’t I, but everyone else is voicing their opinion at the minute. Maybe I’ll keep mine to myself. What I will say though is, if these SR’s are based on mass consultation (they were) and this is what people are saying they want to see (they have), then this will be a shoo-in.
Or will it? Will the silent majority who didn’t contribute to the consultation come out and vote in numbers against it. Or, is the thirty people that came to this regional meeting, the sum total of those who can be really bothered in the whole of the North East?
Whatever, go out and vote, vote, vote how you want to. But please be a Dynamo, don’t be a Dinosaur, we all know what happened to them.
The Grove Inn is at Back Row, Leeds LS11 5PL. The beer I drank was of the highest quality (NBSS 3.5 – 4, all of them near on 4 to be honest). I tried Moorhouses Black Cat, Ribblesdale Brewery Bitter and Rooster’s Franklin.
Acknowledgement to the Dynamo who is Tim Downes for the ‘Dynamo or Dinosaur’ concept which he first voiced in a private email.