CAMRA’s National Members’ Weekend, AGM & Conference is an annual event open to all members, this year it was held in Eastbourne from 8 to 10 April and as a member who has been actively involved in the campaign for many years now decided to make the trip down to attend.
The AGM element is a very small part taking up less than an hour on Saturday morning as it is just fulfilling legally required formalities. The Conference sees a good chunk of the time spent discussing and voting on motions proposing to change CAMRA’s campaigning policy and procedures but there is also more aimed at active volunteers including guest speakers (this year we had Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper and writer Laura Hadland), award presentations and various workshops designed to share experiences and help you run your branch better. We also have reports from the national Chairman and CEO.
Personally when it came to the slot for fringe events on Saturday afternoon my choice wasn’t one of the workshops, I instead bought a ticket to a beer tasting event cantered around the new United Kingdom of Beer book, which was hosted by the author Adrian Tierney-Jones and featured six of the beers from the book.
The Members’ Weekend part of the event title is the more social part, which, lets be honest, was why most members go and after two years of Covid restrictions it was a get together for people across the UK and beyond who hadn’t been together for almost three years! The local branch run a members’ bar in the conference venue which is basically a mini beer and cider festival and all are provided with an information booklet that includes a map and guide to all the real ale pubs in the area and it is always an enjoyable change to have a wander around the pubs in a different town and recognise people from the event drinking in them! There were are also coach trips to local breweries organised.
Back at the conference an interesting little exercise that took place was a presentation and discussion of CAMRA’s five year plan for 2023-2027. Over some time a number of different volunteer committees had fed into this document which in simple terms breaks down what CAMRA is about and needs to achieve into a number of core objective headings with more details under those headings that can develop and evolve over the next five years. The headings are:
- Secure the long term future of real ale/live beer, real cider and real perry by increasing their quality, availability and popularity
- Promote and protect pubs and clubs as social centres and part of the UK’s cultural heritage
- Increase recognition of the health benefits of moderate social drinking
- Play a leading role in the provision of information, education and training to all those with an interest in beer, cider and perry of any type
- To ensure, where possible, that producers and retailers of beer, cider and perry act in the best interests of the customer
- Develop products and services that promote the Campaign as widely as possible, increase and diversify the membership and activist base and generate campaigning funds
- Develop and maintain the necessary ethos, governance, structure and financial resources to deliver CAMRA’s objectives
- Secure the financial future of the organisation and continued campaigning activity by maintaining and increasing membership numbers
- Increase recruitment and retention and increase activism through improving brand perception, inclusivity and diversity performance
- Increase the number of volunteer/active members and ensure stability and sustainability of branch network
- Support volunteer network and enable it to effectively deliver events and campaign objectives
The discussion also mentioned there are some themes that can fit into a number of objectives in the detail such as the wider issue of environmental sustainability – for example we should be ensuring that as an organisation we include such values in how we do things but also highlighting environmental positives in things we campaign for – for example real ale is typically sold from casks that are returned to the brewery and reused and spent grain from the brewing process is often taken away by farmers for animal feed.
CAMRA’s role in providing information and education for members was embraced through the period of lockdowns and restrictions with the launch of much online content including the Learn & Discover platform at camra.org.uk with an extensive library of content; the Pubs, Pints & People podcast which is now several seasons in and the What’s Brewing online members’ newspaper. Of course now most Covid restrictions are lifted and life is able to resume in a more normal fashion we are also able to organise more sociable experiences such as brewery tours and beer festivals again too!
The next annual Members’ Weekend, AGM & Conference takes place 21-23 April 2023 and we are hosting it here in Sheffield, bringing 1,000+ beer tourists to the city who as well as attending the conference at the Octagon will be discovering many of the pubs and breweries around our area!