CAMRA's Revitalisation Project is 'wrong for organisation's future'

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

'Wrong way': lifetime CAMRA member hits out at change
'Wrong way': lifetime CAMRA member hits out at change
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) should stick to campaigning for real ale, according to a one lifelong member.

Steve Bury, vice-chairman of the South Hertfordshire CAMRA branch, disagreed with the organisation's ‘special resolution’ of accepting ‘all quality beer, perry and cider’.

He said the organisation should continue to campaign to improve real ale. He added: “We are the campaign for real ale.

“If [other people] want to go and form their own organisation, the campaign for craft beer or something, well please be my guest. Go away and do it.

“Beer sales are reducing and brewers are chasing a larger share of a shrinking market. As prices go up and disposable income goes down, every pint of craft beer, keg or top pressure beer that is drunk, is a pint less of real ale.

“CAMRA says real ale is the pinnacle of the brewer’s craft, if this is the case, why are they accepting anything less?”

He also claimed there were members who had been part of the organisation for a long period of time who would be dismayed if the resolutions were approved.

Special resolutions

  • CAMRA festivals offering a wider range of quality beers, ciders and perries in all formats
  • CAMRA engaging with drinkers of all variants – with the hope of taking them on a ‘journey of discovery’ of why real ale, cider and perry is particularly special
  • CAMRA supporting members in their appreciation of beer, their ability to both recognise quality products and campaign effectively for them to be stocked in pubs and bars
  • CAMRA providing information about all kinds of beer, not just real ale, as well as opportunities for members to learn more about brewing and the different types and styles available to drinkers
  • CAMRA recognising a wider range of drinks and establishments in its local and national competitions

Bury said: “The core of long-standing members are very disillusioned and unhappy and so, quite a lot of those would leave CAMRA.

“If they leave or become inactive, they are the ones that are raising the money that keeps the campaign going so CAMRA is taking a very dangerous gamble here.”

'Does not have any authority'

CAMRA chairman Colin Valentine​ said: “Steve Bury is a valued volunteer in the South Hertfordshire branch, but he can’t claim to speak for any member other than himself and does not have any authority to claim to be representing ‘long-standing members’ – many of whom, including myself, may take umbrage at his presumption to know their views.

“The Revitalisation Project report to CAMRA’s National Executive took into account the views of tens of thousands of members across the country, who filled in a series of online surveys or attended consultation meetings to express their opinions.

“The National Executive – elected democratically by the members to make decisions on their behalf in the best interests of the campaign – is confident the recommendations it has made are reflective of the majority opinion of CAMRA members.

“Unfortunately, Bury has also chosen to misrepresent the special resolutions members are being asked to consider.”

Valentine also emphasised how the recommendations aim to develop CAMRA members’ knowledge​ of beer.

He said: “CAMRA is not moving away from its core of campaigning for real ale, cider, perry, pubs and clubs, and our recommendations do not suggest we would ‘campaign’ for all ‘quality beers’.

“The essence of the recommendations, in regard to other beers, are that CAMRA will seek to develop members’ knowledge and understanding of all other beers in order to be able to make their own judgment about ‘quality’.”

Valentine also responded to Bury’s comments that CAMRA seemed “much less worried about campaigning, improving beer, improving service and quality, stopping short measures – all the issues that we have been chasing over the years have been put on hold”.

The CAMRA chair said: “Neither have we stopped campaigning while this process has been carried out, with activity continuing to try to reduce tax on beer, campaign for business rate relief for pubs, encouraging the Government to enforce the pubs code properly, fighting for planning protection for pubs, celebrating the best of our pubs and beer and much, much more.”

The changing industry

Valentine went on to say that its campaigning would be impacted if the organisation doesn’t evolve with the changing industry.

“What will adversely affect our campaigning ability is if CAMRA does not evolve to reflect the modern pub and beer landscape and, as a result, risks becoming irrelevant and less credible with policy makers,” he added.

The chairman also outlined the rights of its members when it came to agreeing or disagreeing with its policies.

Valentine said: “All CAMRA members have been given the equal right to vote for, or against, the changes to our articles of association.

“All members have an equal right to express their support, or opposition, to the changes on CAMRA’s online forum, by writing letters to our membership publications, or by emailing, phoning or writing to the members of our National Executive.

“All members have had an equal right to attend one of more than a dozen briefing sessions hosted across the country over the past few months, to make their support, or opposition, to the proposals clear.

“Ensuring this was a democratic and inclusive process was a key objective for the National Executive. Allowing arbitrarily selected and unelected members the platform to express their personal views on Revitalisation, in a pretence they represent an ‘opposition’ view would not only go against this objective, but be fundamentally unfair to the rest of our members.

“The National Executive is encouraging members to approve all the special resolutions as we believe they ensure CAMRA will remain relevant and effective in the future.

“However, we would urge every single member to read the full information on revitalisationdecision.camra.org.uk​ or in the AGM booklet sent to all members, to get the facts rather than fiction, and cast their vote in the way they think is best for CAMRA.”

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