It is the time of the year in CAMRA that is AGM season. Our Dronfield sub-branch has just held theirs and their committee has been appointed for the year ahead with lots of discussion on things they wish to achieve including upgrading to full branch status, publish a local pub guide, put on a beer festival and more. The Sheffield & District branch AGM is coming up on the 7th April and the national AGM & Members Weekend is in Nottingham 17th to 19th April.
It is a time of year that I – and others currently on the committee – think about what we are trying to achieve as a branch of CAMRA – or even as a member of CAMRA.
You may recall my comments in the February issue that we’ve never had it so good in terms of the availability of real ale and good beer in general, there are beers of many different styles out there, lots of pubs and bars serving it and a record number of breweries producing it with more and more opening!
I think CAMRA does still have a role of getting people excited about good beer, celebrating it, helping people understand it and engaging with the brewers producing it – but this now apart from putting on beer festivals should probably be more on a social level.
On the campaigning front the focus has moved on. We need to focus on issues like perfectly viable pubs closing down, looking at behaviour of pub companies and planning law for example, there are also issues on tax to continue campaigning on – things are generally improving on beer tax thanks to very good campaigns jointly with other like minded organisations – however there is a new European tax threat to small Cider producers so we aren’t entirely winning.
There are also the little consumer issues in pubs that still irk some members too – short measures, being served off beer, prices not clearly displayed etc – although of course in most good pubs and bars the customer service is good enough to rectify such things without argument.
With all the above in mind, it still frustrates me that I’m still reading and hearing the whole cask and keg thing and whether CAMRA should embrace keg beer if it is good, tasty beer. Obviously CAMRA’s heritage is campaigning to save and ensure the availability of traditional cask beer – aka real ale – in the days when keg was the threat to real ale because it was cheap, nasty and had a longer shelf life. To be able to campaign for something, you have to be able to define what it is you are campaigning for. Real Ale has a specific definition – Good or Craft beer doesn’t. Tom’s article about defining craft beer this month picks up an element of this, however my view is spending so much time debating such matters is a complete waste of time given that the current campaigning priorities are more about saving pubs rather than beer…..
So for the year ahead in Sheffield CAMRA I think we are looking at a much improved programme of social events, not just brewery visits but getting out and about visiting pubs outside the City Centre and the usual popular circuits like Kelham Island – come with us and try a pub you’ve never visited before. We also need to revitalise the Pub of the Month award – this is another way of helping promoting good pubs across our area. Also we need to repeat the success of last years beer festival at Kelham Island Museum – all the signs are it will be even better this year with more beer and a bigger capacity.
To achieve want we want to we do need new people involved on the committee. Many of the old faces are stepping down due to other commitments – some work, some family. Others remaining on the committee have been doing multiple roles for a few years now and are looking at taking a lower profile. Therefore it is the perfect time for some new volunteers with enthusiasm and ideas to join the committee and start making things happen and get members more engaged and involved! If you think you could do that, please come along to the AGM and put yourself forward! Don’t worry if you don’t know ‘how things work’ – there will be people to help with that!
Finally, April is National Community Pubs Month – celebrate with a pint in your local – Cheers!