I thought I ought to say a few words about CAMRA’s 50th birthday, but frankly Pub Curmudgeon summed it up better than I ever could.
That February post contrasts CAMRA’s success as a mass membership organisation (with good brand awareness among the general public), with a blurring of focus over the years. It also contains this classic line;
“Nudists are another example of a puritan formation that you have to look more closely at to see it.“
I joined CAMRA with Mrs RM in 1994, our life membership giving us priority (and discounted/free) access to the Cambridge Beer Festival and the joys of the Beer Guide, as well as a sense of belonging to an organisation of like-minded souls with an interest in microbreweries and the preservation of the 19th century.
But I quickly realised I don’t like beer festivals, forced to stand in drafty halls and drink thirds, I just want pubs. And I didn’t much care if the pubs had one pump instead of ten. Or whether the beer was one I hadn’t had before.
So I’ve never gone to branch meetings, except to observe GBG selection, which has been an exemplar compared to many meetings in my NHS career.
“They also served who only went to pubs, drank pints, and scored them on WhatPub” as the saying goes.
There’s some very good people in CAMRA, and the work done by volunteers to produce local books, re-opening maps, and Pub Heritage Guides is to be cherished.
Ultimately, it’s the Beer Guide that is the reason we need CAMRA.
Boak and Bailey have noted the importance of getting a printed guide to good pubs out in the early years.
The ongoing debate on Discourse about whether or not we should even publish a GBG in our Covid-hit 50th year highlighted the affection this wonderful, enduring publication holds among members young and old.
And not just among the tickers.
Happy Birthday, CAMRA.