In the previous article I referred to “Channel Draught”, the magazine published by Dover, Deal and Sandwich CAMRA Branch. I picked up a copy of this excellent and informative publication, whilst in Dover last week, and in the “National News” there was a snippet about CAMRA and its growing membership.
|West Kent CAMRA members - anyone under 50?|
But is this fixation on numbers necessarily a good thing? Is CAMRA concentrating so much on increasing its membership that it has taken its eye off the ball in other areas? Most importantly, are the people who are rushing to join CAMRA in their droves, the type(s) of people CAMRA wants or indeed needs? Are they the people who will take the organisation forward, and will take up the mantle, and the burden, currently carried by an increasingly aging, and sadly dwindling, group of active members?
I had a conversation along these lines a couple of weeks ago, whilst attending a function in London. I was in a pub, with a group of beer writers, and I was leaning against the bar talking to a person who, like me was a former activist within his local CAMRA branch. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name, but with a similar background we had much in common when it came to discussing the Campaign for Real Ale.
|The new and the old. Tim Page (L), Michael Hardman (R)|
The much vaunted “Revitalisation Campaign” seems to have run out of steam, and kicked into touch. It’s findings, which were not exactly revolutionary, will be debated, and presumably voted on, at the 2018 Member’s Weekend & AGM, which will take place in Derby.
In the meantime, CAMRA seems to be struggling at grass-roots level, despite the large increase in membership. If proof were needed of this, the very same issue of “Channel Draught” contained an advertisement for a new Branch Pubs Officer, to replace the current incumbent who will be standing down at the branch AGM. The ad also advised of a number of other vacant positions on the Branch Committee, including those if Treasurer and Social Secretary. It went on to warn that if these vacancies were not filled, the branch would struggle to operate and the branch might even “become defunct and close.”
|Pensioner's outing? West Kent CAMRA on a day out|
Where are all these other members who CAMRA have recruited recently? Are they just prepared to pay their subs, get their Spoons Vouchers and then flick occasionally through the pages of “What’s Brewing”? We could certainly do with some of them coming forward, although to be fair, we do get all sorts of people turning up to help at our annual beer festival, run in conjunction with the Spa Valley Heritage Railway each October.
So in the end, the Campaign for Real Ale is much more than just a game of numbers, and to draw this piece to an end, I wish to pose a couple of questions:
- “Will the findings of the Revitalisation Exercise offset the alarming decline in active members, due largely to increasing age, by inspiring the large numbers of younger people who have joined in recent years, to become more involved?”
- “If this doesn’t happen, can CAMRA continue purely as an “armchair” organisation?”
I don’t want to pre-empt anything, but I’m fairly certain I already know the answers.