Campaigns for 50 years
We will be sharing ‘behind the scenes’ insights from key moments in CAMRA’s history, to mark our 50th anniversary on 16 March 2021.
Over 50 years of campaigning, CAMRA has made its mark in the industry and in the halls of Westminster, from campaigning for licensing reforms, to establishing the national Pub of the Year competition and helping to form the European Beer Consumers Union.
We’re sharing first-hand accounts from behind the scenes of CAMRA campaigns, told by the people leading the charge at the time.
The testimonials look back on some of CAMRA’s earliest victories, go behind the scenes of key moments in the Campaign’s evolution, and cover right up to the present day – including moments such as fighting against the takeaway beer ban imposed during the latest lockdown.
Read on to learn about our milestone campaigns below!
1. The Birth of the Good Beer Guide – Michael Hardman, CAMRA founding member and former National Chairman
It is amazing that beer, one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in the world, should not have been taken seriously by newspapers, books, radio and television in the United Kingdom, where beer has been the national drink for centuries. Until the 1970s, the media led us to believe that wine was the only thing that anyone drank.
Things changed for the better, however, when up popped two books that were instrumental in changing people’s attitude to beer: The Beer Drinker’s Companion by Frank Baillie and The Death of the English Pub by Christopher Hutt. Both motivated the newly formed CAMRA to press on with one of its earliest goals — a list of pubs serving decent ale. It was to be called the Good Beer Guide.
The first edition, in November 1972, was a modest 18-page affair, produced on a typewriter, with a few illustrations by CAMRA member John Simpson. It sold for 25p.
No sooner had our humble guide sold out than CAMRA saw a surge in the number of members, many of whom had already compiled their own lists of pubs with good beer. A bigger, more professional publication was needed, but the lack of a publisher or money to publish it ourselves was holding us back.
Just as we were on the verge of giving it up as a bad job, I discovered a newspaper story about a businessman in Yorkshire who was complaining about the quality of beer. He was called Berwick Watson, boss of a subsidiary of Waddington’s, of Monopoly fame. I called him when he was in London and he agreed to meet me in the Guinea, a pub off Berkeley Square. As we downed a few pints, he offered to print and publish our guide if we would design and illustrate it.
We now had to assemble a team of volunteers to put the first commercial Good Beer Guide together in time for its launch in the spring of 1974. John Hanscomb, an enthusiast from Hertfordshire, agreed to edit the guide and Trevor Hatchett, a graphic artist from Manchester, took over the design.
The guide was ready on time for the 1974 CAMRA annual meeting in York but Berwick turned up to reveal that his solicitors had advised him not to go ahead after discovering that readers would be told to avoid Watney’s beers like the plague. It was an enormous shock, but in the end we agreed that the offending wording should be changed to ‘avoid at all costs’. The press loved the story and the publicity boosted sales enormously.
All’s well that ends well. The guide is now a best-selling annual of more than 900 pages that tells you all you need to know about beer and where to find it.
2. CAMRA’s role in early licensing reforms– these words are Chris Bruton’s, former CAMRA National Chairman, and have been compiled from previous CAMRA publications by Christine Cryne, former National Executive member
I remember my first pub lock-in. It was in a tiny two room backstreet boozer in Darwen, Lancashire. At the end of the lunchtime last orders bell we were ‘slipped the wink’ and asked if we’d like to go into the rear bar so any noise could not be heard from the street.
This was in the late 1970’s. England’s licensing laws that meant pubs closed in the afternoon. Restrictions date back to the Licensing Act 1872; public houses had to close at midnight in towns and 11 o’clock in country areas and boroughs were given the option of becoming completely ‘dry’ i.e. banning all alcohol. There were a number of near riots when police tried to enforce closing hours.
Further tightening of licensing laws came in 1914 when powers were given to military and naval authorities to close pubs and restrict opening hours; London was now 10pm instead of 12.30am.In 1915, hours were further reduced from 16/17 hours (19.5 hours in London) to just 5.5 hours with an evening closure of 9-9.30pm. Six years later, hours were set at 8-9 hours a day (bar Sunday when it was 5 just hours) with an afternoon closure.
With licensing laws adrift from most of Europe, CAMRA set up ‘Licensing Committee’ just after the Clayson Report on Scottish Licensing Law (1973) and the Errol Report on Liquor Licensing (1972) were issued. The Scots had a more enlightened approach and there was a gradual liberalisation from 1976 with eventual 11am to 11pm opening and Sunday opening (it had previously been dry).
England was not so lucky with efforts to relax hours thwarted. Ken Clarke’s Private Members Bill in 1976 was talked out and another attempt in 1980 was equally unsuccessful.
CAMRA continued to lobby hard. Fortunately, data was now coming out of Scotland that indicated that the changes, rather than being detrimental, had helped civilise the country’s drinking culture. In 1983, CAMRA conducted a survey showing that 87.5% of people were in favour of pubs being open when they liked between 10am and midnight. Subsequently, in 1985, CAMRA’s License for Change Report was launched at the House of Commons. Momentum was building and Allan Stewart put forward a Private Members Bill in 1987 only to fall due to the General Election. But all was not lost; in August 1987, the Government issued proposals for licensing hours reform, reaching Parliament a few months later. After a few amendments, the Bill became law in September 1988.
So after campaigning for over a decade the main aims of more relaxed English licensing hours were achieved but CAMRA didn’t get all that it wanted. It took another seven years until we had all day opening on a Sunday. An unforeseen consequence was clubs (which already had more flexible licensing) suffered a major drop in membership as people could now get access an afternoon drink for free. And I swear the beer I drink nowadays in the afternoon doesn’t taste as good as the forbidden pints I drank in Darwen!
3. The 1974 Food Standards Committee Investigation – Andrew Cunningham, former CAMRA National Executive member
One of the first, if not the very first, major CAMRA submission to a government body was to the Food Standards Committee enquiry into the “Definition, Composition and Labelling of Beer” in June 1974. It was produced by me, Gordon Massey and Cecily Longrigg. This was very much the early days in terms of CAMRA’s experience and knowledge. We made enquiries and did some research into things like ingredients and processes and, to quote the submission, came to “a fair compromise between what the industry can reasonably provide and what the consumer has a right to know”.
Under ‘Definition’, we asked for a definition of “draught” to distinguish it from bright, keg and lager and for dispense systems to be defined as “drawn” or “pressure”. The use of terms like ‘special’ and ‘export’ should be governed by strength. For ‘Composition’, the percentage of malted barley, sugars and other major raw materials should be declared (with tolerances) plus a list of other raw materials, together with constraints on certain adjuncts. For ‘Labelling’, crucially, strengths must be declared and displayed, both as o.g and ABV, at point of dispense and on all containers, along with (as appropriate) the definition, composition, and place of brewing. We planned throughout to set out a reasonable case on all elements of the enquiry. For example, what could brewers reasonably be asked to declare in terms of raw materials and their proportions without it being so restrictive that the slightest change in recipe would entail a fresh label. I am well aware that much of this will now appear distinctly ‘old hat’ but 46 years ago it was all very much ‘on the money’.
After submission, we were asked to give oral evidence to the Committee, and Gordon and I were joined by Chris Hutt. We had a formal meeting with members of the FSC, flanked by two professors of brewing, including the formidable Dr Anna MacLeod who asked most of the questions. We stated out case and fielded questions as best we could, stressing that we were the consumers. Afterwards we were entertained in the House of Commons by Roger Stott MP, sometimes PPS to Harold Wilson, who wanted to become the official CAMRA Labour Party spokesperson, although primarily a cider drinker!
Some days later, I was summoned to the office of the main board technical director of the brewers’ suppliers for whom I was working. I was surprised he even knew of me and feared the worst. To my surprise, he made me welcome and apologised that, as a member of the FSC, he had been unable to attend our hearing due to a board meeting. He told me that the Committee has expected CAMRA’s submission to be idealistic and extreme but he wanted us to know that they had actually found it to be totally realistic and essentially implementable.
In the end, however, whilst most of our recommendations sadly never reached the statute book, the declaration of strength of beer did become law – a major achievement in itself although in the interim, CAMRA has done it’s own work on establishing gravities (I well remember doing some of the sample taking and negotiating with Ruddles to declare original gravity) so that by the time the FSC published its recommendations, the strengths of the beers were no longer a trade secret!
4. CAMRA’s trailblazing campaigns of the 70s and 80s– Roger Protz, Beer Writer and former Good Beer Guide Editor
A major turning point in the fortunes of cask beer came in 1976 when one of Britain’s major brewing groups, Allied Breweries, announced it was launching a real ale called Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale.
I went to the launch at the Ind Coope brewery in Burton-on-Trent with two of the Campaign’s founder members, Michael Hardman and Graham Lees. We were sceptical that a company best known for Skol lager and Double Diamond keg beer could make decent cask ale, but we were bowled over by the beer, a symphony of rich malt and hops, which we sampled in the Roebuck pub across the road from the brewery.
Allied had planned to supply DBA to just a few outlets but when the news leaked out there was a clamour from drinkers and publicans to taste the beer. The problem was that most Allied pubs didn’t have beer engines and handpumps, just keg taps. As a result, the leading maker of beer engines, Gaskell & Chambers in Birmingham, had to put its workers on permanent overtime to churn out sufficient engines to meet the demand.
DBA opened the floodgates for cask from the major brewers. Bass, also based in Burton, which had spent most of its time promoting Carling lager and keg Worthington E, began to boost Draught Bass. Courage turned Directors Bitter from a tiny niche brand in a few pubs into a companion on the bar for its Best Bitter. Whitbread stopped closing breweries for a while to promote such delights as Wethered’s and even the reviled Watney’s, infamous for Red Barrel keg, launched a couple of cask ales. It spoke for volumes for Watney’s priorities that it didn’t have any casks and had to put its real ales into converted kegs.
In Scotland, Scottish & Newcastle, whose major brand was Tartan Special (it wasn’t) started to make such cask beers as McEwan’s 80 Shilling and Younger’s XXXPS more widely available. On a visit to Edinburgh I had to join a queue to get into the famous Athletic Arms pub, known as the Diggers as it was next to a cemetery, in order to sample the joys of 80 Shilling or 80 Bob as it was called.
Ind Coope DBA is the only beer owned by a national brewer to have won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain award. That was in 1990 and it should have encouraged Allied to love and nurture its prize possession. But strange are the ways of giant companies. Allied became first Allied Lyons and then Allied Domecq. It sold its brewing division to Carlsberg, which had no interest in cask beer and stopped production of DBA in 2015.
But the beer lives on. Geoff Mumford and Bruce Wilkinson, who run Burton Bridge Brewery, had worked at Ind Coope when DBA was launched and they have faithfully recreated it. So visit the Burton Bridge Inn for a glass of DBA: what better way to celebrate CAMRA’s 50th.
5. The Pub Heritage Project – Paul Ainsworth, Chair of CAMRA’s Pub Heritage Group
Pub heritage campaigning is almost as old as CAMRA itself – our original Articles of Association include ‘To campaign for the retention and reinstatement of the facilities of the traditional British pub, including the public bar’ (public bars – remember them?).
Nationally, the late 1970s were a period when many threats emerged to historic buildings and the first concerted action was founding of the York Pub Conservation Group in 1978 (two of whose members, Dave Gamston and Andrew Davison remain active heritage pub campaigners). A national Pub Preservation Group followed in 1979, though its remit extended to saving all types of pub. In 1991 what was now Pubs Group published its Trouble Brewing report, highlighting the threat to our historic pub interiors, particularly in the wake of the 1989 Beer Orders and the subsequent mass pub sell-offs.
In March 1992, Dave Gamston, on behalf of the Group, sent a letter far and wide headed ‘Pubs to Save – Emergency Initiative’, appealing for recommendations to compile a list of the most important surviving interiors. The result, in October 1994, was ‘Pub Interiors of Outstanding Architectural or Historic Importance – A National Listing’ – the National Inventory (NI) was born. This was very much a consultative document and it was not until 1997 that the NI made its first public appearance, in the Good Beer Guide, with 179 pubs listed. Of these, 74 no longer make the list, some having closed, others ruined and a few re-evaluated. The NI currently comprises some 280 pubs.
The initial emphasis was on pre-1914 interiors but the importance of inter-war pubs was soon recognised and by 2001 all fully intact pre-World War II interiors were being included. In that year, also, a dedicated Pub Heritage Group (PHG) was set up, chaired initially by Dave Gamston and, since 2003, by myself. At my first meeting, the admittance to the NI of intact interiors dating from 1939 to 1969 was agreed.
Meanwhile, work had started on identifying a next tier of less intact but still notable interiors and these were compiled into our Regional Inventories (RIs). In turn, these formed the basis of our regional pub guides beginning with London in 2004 and not completed until the South East in 2020. A detailed book on NI pubs, Britain’s Best Real Heritage Pubs, first appeared in 2016 and has now sold over 15000 copies. PDFs of the regional guides can be found on the heritage pubs section of the website where you can also find the inventories and a host of other information about historic interiors.
A major strand of PHG’s work is the pursuit of statutory listing for inventory pubs so as to afford them extra protection. 90% of NI pubs are now listed and we continue to work closely with Historic England in a number of areas.
Recent events have had an enormous impact on our heritage pubs as on everything else.
We must hope that these precious survivors will still be with us once normality returns.
6. Evolution of the CAMRA Membership Form – an insight into the origins of a now-familiar sight in pubs and beer festivals – the CAMRA membership form – Dave Goodwin, CAMRA National Executive member for over 15 years and former National Chairman
One of the first committees I became a member of in the mid 1980s was Membership Working Party. Its role was to recruit and retain members. The committee met once every two months on a Monday evening, usually in a pub, often in London. I remember one meeting in a pub in Birmingham when we were tasked with producing a new membership application form. It was not a boozy meeting as many of us had had to drive but for some reason the meeting was particularly lively with ideas and crazy suggestions bouncing around the room. The pub where the meeting was being held was in the midst of redecoration and as we walked in we had to navigate through scaffolding and signs warning of ‘Wet Paint’ and of course we all had the urge to touch. Inspired by this thought we had the idea that the best way to get potential members to pick up a form and read it was to tell them not to. The idea of a membership form with a bold title saying ‘Don’t Read This’ was born. In those days we didn’t do any market research and we certainly didn’t employ marketing or design professionals so we just got the form produced and distributed. It was possibly the most successful and long-lasting membership form in our history. Those who attended the meeting included friends and fellow National Executive members Mark Taylor and Christine Cryne. Mark would often think back to the meeting and say it was the best CAMRA meeting he had ever attended.
At about that time we considered other aspects of the membership application form. It seemed we were making life difficult for potential members. In the days before the internet, after filling in the form, a new member would have to write a cheque, find an envelope, address it and buy a postage stamp before posting it. There were just too many obstacles and for many the process would stall. We decided to include a Direct Debit facility on the application and make it a gum down business reply form so the new member could complete the form and post the application on the way home. The idea had been borrowed from American Express of all people who were using gum down business reply forms for their applications which were displayed at motorway service areas across the country. I recall that the paid staff at the time resisted the idea (I never worked out why) and I remember the committee almost forced the new forms into production.
7. CAMRA’s Report to the Office of Fair Trading on Grand Metropolitan’s Watney Group Beer Supply Monopoly in Norfolk (1986) – Paul Moorhouse, former Regional Director for East Anglia and National Executive member
Norwich, in Norfolk, became East Anglia’s major brewing centre in the Victorian era with four regional breweries and pub operators: Bullards, Steward & Patteson, Youngs Crawshay & Youngs, and Morgans. Between 1958 and 1963, in a remarkable series of catastrophic mergers, all four of them became part of the Watney-Mann brewing empire.
At its nadir in the mid-1970s, Norfolk’s real ale scene dwindled to 20 outlets. Swathes of the county had no pubs other than those operated by the Watney group – by then part of Grand Metropolitan. They offered no draught beer other than national keg brands and regional keg beers produced in their Norwich plant, which they renamed ‘Norwich Brewery’ in 1976.
In 1969, the government’s Monopolies Commission had reported that the tied house system was contrary to the interests of pub-goers. No action had resulted, but in 1976 and 1977 CAMRA submitted reports to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) citing abuses of monopoly by brewers in six large areas of England, including Norfolk.
The big six UK brewers agreed to a thousand pub swaps, limitations in their control of beer supplies, and possible beer swaps.
I moved to Norfolk in 1980. The situation had only improved slightly, and I was astonished by the strength of Grand Metropolitan’s grip on Norfolk pubs and beer.
The 1980 Competition Act strengthened the powers of the OFT, and in 1984 they asked CAMRA to re-survey the beer supply situation in Norfolk.
By then I was CAMRA’s Regional Director for East Anglia. Researching the local licensing records enabled me to rework and extend the 1977 evidence and draft a new report that was submitted in 1986.
This reaffirmed that Grand Metropolitan supplied six of every ten pints of beer sold in Norfolk and were exploiting a dominant position, to the detriment of consumers, by limiting the variety and quality of beers, inflating prices and closing pubs to realise their property values.
Since 1977, Grand Metropolitan had closed 20% of their Norfolk pubs. In 1985, to add insult to injury, they had also closed their Norwich brewery.
CAMRA’s Norwich branch banned Norwich Brewery beers from its 1986 Norfolk beer guide and Norwich beer festival, to draw attention to the monopoly and its adverse impacts. Norwich Brewery responded with a well-publicised ‘fringe festival’. CAMRA’s event revelled in the free publicity, serving an unprecedented 40,000 pints of real ale from 57 breweries, and signing 170 new members.
The OFT continued to focus closely on the brewing industry. In 1988 Grand Metropolitan sold 700 pubs, including 250 in Norfolk, as going concerns, as the Monopolies and Mergers Commission concluded that Britain’s biggest brewers were operating a monopoly worth investigating. Much more radical changes were imposed by the resulting Beer Orders in 1990.
Thirty years on, around forty Norfolk breweries produce real ales. These and many others from outside the area are served in hundreds of pubs, and the county’s pubs are owned and operated by a wide range of concerns that was unimaginable in the 1980s.
8. Establishment of CAMRA’s Tasting Panels – Paul Moorhouse, CAMRA Volunteer, Chair of CAMRA’s Tasting Panels Advisory Group and CAMRA’s Regional Director for East Anglia from 1984 to 1990, a National Executive member and Technical Director from 1988 to 1996
At its 1988 Annual General Meeting (AGM), CAMRA passed a motion, proposed by Roger Protz and Barrie Pepper, to set up tasting panels. These would report annually in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide (GBG) on the calibre of real ales and recommend those for deletion from the guide on grounds of ‘blandness and lack of quality and character’.
At the same AGM, I was elected to CAMRA’s National Executive. I was then appointed chair of Technical Committee, which took on the task of developing tasting panels with considerable input from its members including Pat O’Neill, the late Ivor Clissold and especially Keith Thomas of Brewlab.
The project was aimed at enhancing the public image of real ale by promoting the complexities of its flavours in tasting notes – a concept then largely confined to the wine trade.
After discussions with Roger Protz, we set up training and a tasting system to generate overall scores and profiles of flavour levels in aroma, taste and aftertaste. These would be used to create tasting notes. We also drew up sets of expected flavour profiles for each beer style.
The project was ambitious. Regional Directors hastily appointed tasting panels and Keith Thomas delivered the training. The 1990 GBG published their tasting notes and a top 50 ‘beers of the year’.
The top 50 was based on combined ratings from overall scores and matches-to-style of flavour profiles. It was planned to publish these in future as ‘star ratings’ for all real ales, but CAMRA’s 1990 AGM sounded a cautionary note, maintaining that rating beers by their matches to ideal style profiles could damage the diversity of tastes in beer styles. From then on, the GBG has reported the tasting notes but no ratings.
Crucially, though, the panels’ overall scores have since been used to nominate beers in CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain awards, organised annually since 1978 to promote high quality and distinctiveness in real ales. The introduction of tasting panel nominations improved the credibility of the awards by adding an extra round of multiple assessments by trained tasters.
From 1994, the tasting panels were brigaded into six areas, each nominating finalists for judging. This helped to level the chances of success in the awards for any brewery, irrespective of its location. In 2007, this was extended to nine areas and an intermediate area round was added, judging nominations from an annual members’ vote as well as tasting panel nominations.
A paradoxical but genuinely prickly problem for CAMRA’s tasting panels concerns the massive growth in numbers of cask real ales from a few hundred in 1988 to more than 13000 presently. The task of assessing cask beers is increasingly immense.
More CAMRA members are therefore being actively sought to join and run tasting panels. A network of volunteer accredited trainers provides training. Much of this is available online until restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic are listed. CAMRA members can find more details and regional contacts in the volunteers’ area of the CAMRA website.
9. The Beer Orders: a case of unintended consequences?– Tony Millns, former CAMRA Chairman
In its monumental 501-page report on The Supply of Beer (1989), the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (M&MC) came to firm conclusions.
Judging that the ‘market has become more concentrated’ with the six national brewers producing 75% of UK beer in 1989, up from 68% in 1967, the M&MC ‘unanimously concluded that a monopoly exists in favour of those brewers who own tied houses’ or use loans to force ‘free houses’ to take their beers.
CAMRA had led the case for the prosecution, and the M&MC put our evidence at the heart of its report.
Previous attempts to change the brewing industry had gone nowhere. What would happen this time?
The then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was Lord (David) Young of Graffham. Apocryphally, Margaret Thatcher (then Prime Minister) had said ‘others bring me problems – David brings me solutions’. He said he was ‘minded’ to act on the M&MC report.
After battle royale with the ‘beerage’ (big donors to the Conservative party), the Beer Orders that ensued made major changes to the structure of the brewing industry. With time, these have grown more radical as companies faced the question ‘what business are we really in?’
What have been the main consequences?
First, since 1989, all the ‘Big Six’ national brewers (Allied, Bass, Courage, Scottish & Newcastle, Watney and Whitbread) have exited brewing. Some divested into pub chains – M&B/All Bar One, for example – while Whitbread cut even that link and now runs hotels and coffee shops.
Second, regional brewers like Greene King and Marston’s were able to buy more pubs and improve local choice way outside their traditional areas.
Third, combined with changes to beer duty to favour smaller brewers, a whole new beer scene has developed in the UK, with around 3,000 new small breweries being set up in the last 30 years, offering a huge variety of new beers.
Fourth, new pub-owning companies have grown up, but their dominance comes nowhere near that of the ‘Big Six’. The largest, Ei (formerly Enterprise Inns), owns around 10% of UK pubs. Admiral Taverns, M&B, and Wetherspoons, the next largest, own a further 10% between them. Pub ownership is much more diverse than in 1989.
Fifth, the problems of concentration are now global, not national. The world’s largest brewing conglomerate, AB InBev, produces more beer than the next four biggest brewers combined.
Even within CAMRA, views on the M&MC report and the Beer Orders range from ‘well-intentioned meddling’ to the kickstart of radical change. But major change has at last happened, and on balance, for the better.
10. The formation of the European Beer Consumers Union (EBCU) – John Cryne, former National Chairman
During the late 1980s it had already become apparent that ownership in the brewing world was shifting from purely national operations to one increasingly dominated by global behemoths with global brands. These new challenges for beer consumers, and the organisations representing them, led them to conclude that their impact would be enhanced through collaboration. In May 1990 in Bruges, Belgium’s OBP (now Zythos), the Netherland’s PINT and the UK’s CAMRA met to form the European Beer Consumers Union (“EBCU”). I was CAMRA’s National Chairman at the time.
All three countries were members of the European Community and there were clear advantages of being an umbrella body to speak to the EC with one voice. But membership was not restricted to the EC subsequently EU nor was the lobbying just within the EU. The EBCU sought to foster beer culture in all European countries and, in particular, encouraged consumer groups to be established to speak to, and for, European beer lovers.
In this it acted as a catalyst and the driving force to help establish national beer consumer groups in countries such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Germany amongst others where there had not been such a voice for the beer consumer before. Since its formation, organisations from these countries have joined plus other like-minded groups from Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland.
While CAMRA remains the largest EBCU member, input from all, whatever their size, is encouraged. It acts as an umbrella group for its members and as a resource to make the work of national groups easier and more effective. EBCU has held regular receptions in the European Parliament in Brussels and has developed very good relations with the Brewers of Europe. A very recent initiative has been the production of a definitive guide to European beer styles.
For many years, the EBCU was ably led and chaired by former National Executive Member Terry Lock, supported by CAMRA staffer Iain Loe, as its Secretary. During their tenure and with me acting as Treasurer, EBCU might have looked as if it had a UK bias but its Executive, supported by Christine Cryne, embarked upon a strategy of change, developing a future plan for structure and goals clearly set out as:
To preserve and maintain the diversity of the traditional European beer cultures, with particular regard to local, regional and national brewing and beer styles
To protect the consumer from the imposition of unfair pricing by opposing unreasonable taxation or exploitative business practices
To ensure that the consumer receives the best factual information about any beer on commercial sale.
I am pleased that since those changes were put into place and Terry’s retirement, the organisation has been led by Henri Reuchlin from the Netherlands and now Bo Jensen from Denmark.
In all of the above it can be considered one of the key policy decisions which CAMRA has made in its past 50 years. Beer lovers remain stronger together rather than apart.
11. Membership Recruitment at GBBF, – Dave Goodwin, former National Chairman
I got involved in running membership recruitment at the Great British Beer Festival around 1990. In those days it was a simple counter with standard membership forms and we went all out to recruit as many members as possible. The joining incentives were ridiculously generous with money off the annual subscription, free beer and a free copy of the Good Beer Guide (which was about to go out of date and be pulped). We had also adopted quite an aggressive hard sell, so much so that I once persuaded a Life Member to renew his life membership so that he could take his membership with him to the afterlife – but the rest of the team stopped me before I could process the member’s credit card. With the generous incentives coupled with a ‘hard sell’ we could regularly recruit well in excess of one thousand members each year. The big problem was that the new members returned the following year and claimed to be new members to take all the freebies again. We needed a new approach.
We decided to stop the hard selling tactics as most members who were pressured into joining didn’t value their membership and were more likely to lapse. We also decided to offer incentives for new members in a much more targeted way. Giving away beer may seem to some as giving away surplus beer which would be wasted at the end of the festival and therefore not cost us anything. However, most customers limit their time at the festival or have decided how much beer to consume in advance so by giving away beer it is likely to reduce cash sales – so our real cost is the retail price of the beer we would otherwise have sold. On the other hand, giving away a Good Beer Guide which is destined to be pulped in a few weeks costs us nothing and was likely to be of longer term value to the new member.
Direct Debit is a much more effective way of retaining members and by offering an extra three months membership when someone first joins, it takes the renewal to three months after the following year’s festival.
We made the decision to continue to give every new member a Good Beer Guide but give free beer only to those signing a Direct Debit. For the next two years, numbers recruited reduced significantly because of the reduced incentives and the lack of a hard sell but also those who we recruited on Direct Debit did not have to return to the festival the following year to renew. The volunteers on the stand also had the satisfaction that they were recruiting genuinely new members who were interested in the Campaign rather than just the incentives given.
The membership stand was also evolving into more of an information stand, answering questions about CAMRA, pubs and real ale and distributing educational campaigning literature on subjects including real ale, how beer is brewed and what happens in a pub cellar and information about pub preservation.
12. Pioneering women in the Campaign – Christine Cryne, beer tutor, writer and Master Trainer
“Do you drink pints?” “How many pints do you need to get you drunk?”
These were the sophisticated questions I was asked when I became CAMRA’s first female Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) organiser in 1992. Things may have improved but women and beer seems to still sit uneasily with some despite the fact we have been involved for centuries –the magistrates’ sessions for licensing is called Brewster sessions (the name of a female brewer).
Joining CAMRA in 1977, there were few women around but my first two branches, Reading and North Bedfordshire, did have other women members. So, although in the minority, I didn’t feel out of place.
The first woman I came across at a national level was Margaret Clark-Monks; the first female Regional Organiser and an early female member on CAMRA’s National Executive (1977), serving for seven years. A formidable woman but she needed that to be heard in a very male dominated organisation. It was many years before CAMRA’s National Executive had more than one woman on its Board. However, Margaret was not the first female NE member; this accolade went to Valerie Mason in 1973 who served as Secretary.
It wasn’t until 1988 when CAMRA had its first female Vice Chair (me) and then waiting 16 years until we had the first female Chair, Paula Waters.
Since the early days, women have continued to make their mark on the National Executive. Take Jenny Greenhalgh, a great pub campaigner (and heavily involved with what was CAMRA’s Pub Preservation Group) and Sarah Edmondson, who was the Campaign’s Membership Director, the first female bar manager at the GBBF back in the 1980’s and then its first female GBBF beer orderer.
The GBBF has always been a fertile ground for encouraging women to step forward. In 1995, half my organising team were women with two becoming organisers themselves; Paula Waters and then Alison Bridle (the organiser of CAMRA’s AGM in Bristol, where it celebrated its 21st birthday). And there have now been plenty of female bar managers and assistant bar managers who went on to do other things in the Festival e.g. Pat Waters who set up the Family Room and Denny Cornell who was the first female Technical Manager.
But this is just a brief snapshot of a few of the women involved. There are plenty of other stories both at a national campaign level , e.g. Sara Hallam and the steps she took when a publican refused to serve her a pint, to the thousands of women who have been active at local branches and beer festivals providing role models for those who come after.
In my last year as GBBF Organiser (1995), we concentrated on women and beer saying “No woman at any CAMRA beer festival will get a quip or an odd look if she asks for a pint. We just now have to wait for everyone else to catch up.”
We may not have achieved that yet but is not for the want of trying.
13. Fighting the Neo-prohibitionists! – Kevin Travers, former Cardiff Branch Chair
As an Englishman I never thought I would be campaigning in Wales to keep pubs open on Sundays; but nearly 25-years ago, I found myself doing just that!
The Welsh Sunday prohibition referendums took place from 1961, with the result dictating whether pubs were able to open on a Sunday for the next 7-years. While urban districts ditched the ban at the earliest possible opportunity, many rural counties held on to “dry” Sundays. But by 1996, only in Dwyfor, in north-west Wales, were pubs still closed on Sundays.
Ballots were only held if a petition of at least 500 people requesting a change was raised. In 1996 Government also announced they were abandoning 7-yearly ballots, so results would stand in perpetuity.
A petition was received in Gwynedd offering an opportunity to overturn existing closures, but in the South Wales Valleys a small local temperance movement, led by dry camp’s champion Eirian Williams, saw an opportunity to bring about an unexpected change in the law. So it was that a petition of 500 names was raised and a Prohibition Referendum also announced in Rhondda Cynon Taff.
I sprang into action and with fellow CAMRA members in South Wales spearheaded a campaign to encourage people to vote in favour of retaining Sunday opening. It was before social media and we relied on word of mouth, articles in local newspapers and distributing bilingual leaflets. Beer mats printed in both English and Welsh carried the warning and Kitchener-style posters were produced – an index finger imperiously pointing out a threat to the Sunday pint!
Speaking to people whilst out leafleting it was clear that virtually everyone supported pubs opening on Sundays. The biggest threat was complacency. People just couldn’t believe the existing rules would change so didn’t see the urgency to vote. Our message was therefore a clear one, spend a few minutes going to vote or risk the threat of no more Sunday drinking.
Throughout the day of the vote licensees laid on free transport to get regular to polling stations to defend their lunchtime pints, but heavy rain and gales were a concern, dampening people’s enthusiasm to vote and potentially handing an advantage to the more fervent neo-prohibitionists.
Whilst I couldn’t really believe people would vote for pubs to close, I was nervous when the votes were being counted. There was a reasonably healthy turnout in Gwynedd with 36% of people voting and nearly 3:1 in favour of opening. In Rhondda Cynon Taff the turnout was much lower only 16%. However, just 3,427 voted to reintroduce Sunday closing whilst 24,863 voted against, over 7:1 in favour of the status quo; phew!!.
It had been a campaign by a tiny minority to try and turn the clock back to 1961. A ridiculous exercise that had cost local Councils approximately £100,000. However, we in CAMRA had worked closely with local publicans and breweries to ensure that we could all continue to enjoy our Sunday pints.
14. CAMRA’s Public Transport Advisory Group – fighting drink-driving and promoting safer, more accessible pub-going – Doug Macadam, Chairman PTSG
The Passenger Transport Advisory Group started in 1998 and the main remit for the group was to encourage the use of public transport by drinkers wanting to visit the pub, and hopefully reduce the need for people using cars when visiting their local pub and with a resultant reduction in drink-driving among pub goers. The group’s name was changed to the Passenger Transport Support Group (PTSG) in 2012. The members are mainly employed by, or retired from, the public transport industry, or otherwise have an excellent knowledge of how the industry works.
The main work of the group over the years has been in encouraging branches, local authorities and various transport providers to produce ‘Ale Trail’ leaflets where pub goers are encouraged to use pubs along a bus or rail route, and using those local bus and rail services for moving from pub to pub. This encourages pub goers to go to rural pubs which many people wouldn’t realise are possible to visit by public transport, so bringing more users to the various transport services in those areas and encouraging higher footfall in many rural pubs.
One of the most well known was based on the railway line between Manchester and Huddersfield, which of course included the famous refreshment room at Stalybridge station and the two pubs adjacent to the platforms at Huddersfield station. This trail did get national television coverage and is still very popular today.
As another example, most of the various branch railways in Devon and Cornwall were similarly covered under the umbrella of the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, with advice from the local CAMRA branches in liaison with Rod Davis of Cornwall CAMRA branch.
In Somerset over the years many excellent publications have been completed in partnership with Buses of Somerset, First Bus and Somerset County Council, where pub details have been added to public transport maps and timetables and complete trails for particular bus routes; these have again been produced in liaison with the local CAMRA branches under the leadership of Phil Emond. Stagecoach South West has similarly worked with North Devon Branch in their area.
One PTSG member who has sadly now passed away was Ian Aitchison who worked for Lancashire County Council in their public transport planning department. Under his direction, that council completed many trails for both bus and train services during his time there.
Some trails have been done completely on the bus company’s own initiative, an example of these being the one based on the 555 service from Lancaster to Keswick in the Lake District. This was a part of the summer timetable for Stagecoach services in the central part of the Lake District for many years. A more recent one features a map produced by First Eastern Counties Buses showing all the various pubs adjacent to the bus route.
The future of supporting our pubs and clubs is more important than ever and a lot can be gained by crawls and regular visits where possible by public transport, branches can lead on this as well as back up from Regions. Full details of what this entails can be found on Members Web site.
15. The Hand Pump – making sure that consumers aren’t misled – Dave Goodwin, former National Chairman
In the 1970s and 1980s, most pub bars were adorned with an array of keg fonts dispensing a variety of beers under carbon dioxide pressure. A number of independent brewers and many free houses had resisted the move to keg beers and kept hand pumps on the bars of their pubs to serve cask beers. Through the 1980s, as real ale regained popularity largely through the efforts of CAMRA, it became apparent that many licensees were actively misleading customers by displaying handpumps to serve keg beers, effectively cashing in on the real ale boom without actually serving the product. Sometimes the pumps were linked directly to kegs and other times used to trigger a switch to force the beer to the bar by gas pressure. Although it was often possible to spot the deception, for many customers it was too late as they had already ordered their beer. To complicate the matter, there were also electric pumps, a perfectly acceptable way of serving real ale, triggered by fake hand pump displays. And in Scotland there was the additional complication of the traditional water engine (air pump) dispense. How was the ordinary customer to know what was being served?
It became clear that the only reason many hand pumps had returned to the bar counters of pubs was a deliberate attempt to mislead the customer into believing the product being served was real ale. The misleading practice by this time was also spreading to cider. Something had to be done.
Complaints to licensees and pub companies were firmly rebutted. Complaints to Trading Standards Officers met with a mixed response depending on the part of the country. Sympathetic Trading Standards Officers suggested that to get some consistency I should make a submission to LACOTS (Local Authority Co-ordinating Body on Trading Standards). The research didn’t take me too long and the submission was completed on my basic PC and a dot matrix printer. By this time I had joined the Campaign’s National Executive and my submission therefore had a bit more clout; the result was a positive success. From that time on, a handpump on the bar was an assurance that product being served was real ale or cider and action would be taken against licensees adopting any misleading practice involving a hand pump. The deception didn’t stop overnight of course but in most cases gentle persuasion was all that was needed.
16. The petition to scrap the Beer Duty Escalator – Colin Valentine, former National Chair
In the 2008 Budget, the Chancellor Alistair Darling, who was, by coincidence, my MP, introduced the Beer Duty Escalator whereby duty would increase by two percentage points above the rate of inflation i.e. if inflation was 2.5%, beer duty would go up 4.5%. This came as an incredible kick in the teeth to an industry which produced 90% of the beer drunk in the UK and was, by any definition, a success story. Although UK drinkers consumed approximately 10% of the beer drunk in the European Union, we paid over 40% of the duty.
A few months after I had been elected as chairman, I was buttonholed by John Gilbert of Hopback Brewery, who asked what CAMRA were going to do about the escalator. I decided we must do something and at the 2011 Members Weekend the National Executive signed a letter to the Chancellor demanding he scrapped the escalator. The Campaigns Team, specifically Jonathan Mail, took this rather flimsy suggestion and polished it up until it became the Beer Duty Escalator Petition, with a plan which included getting 100,000 signatures to ensure it was debated in parliament. We aimed to get 10,000 signatures a month from February 2012 to ensure we hit 100,000 by the end of the year. What we didn’t expect was the response to an email that went out from me to all members on the opening day of GBBF. Thousands of members signed that day, many GBBF visitors also signed it, we hit our target by the end of October and it was debated on the floor of the House of Commons.
We worked with those in the industry, specifically Marstons, who encouraged other pub owners to get their customers to sign the petition and sympathetic MPs, specifically Andrew Griffiths, who lobbied the Treasury to scrap the Escalator. The culmination was a mass lobby of parliament when 1,000 CAMRA members descended on Westminster to lobby their MP. Many of the MPs we lobbied were genuinely surprised at the turn out as these events tend to be poorly attended and got on board, no doubt with the encouragement of our cross party group of supportive MPs who quietly lobbied in the background. Our chief executive Mike Benner appeared live on the BBC’s Daily Politics from College Green and we held a rally in the Emanuel Centre around the corner from parliament. Sadly, I had to dash off early for my train home as I wanted to stay and spend some time with the volunteers who had made the day such a success.
I lobbied Alistair Darling, who agreed to write to the Chancellor and sent me his response, which I still have. I thought it was a study in equivocation but, at Jonathan’s suggestion, gave it to a friendly political journalist to look at. His opinion was slightly different and was in no doubt the Chancellor was going to scrap the Escalator which, of course, he did in his Budget on 20 March.
I am proud of many things I have done in CAMRA but there is no doubt this particular day was the proudest of my eight years as National Chairman.
17. The beginnings of WhatPub – Brett Laniosh, former National Director
It seems obvious that a consumer group with pubs at its heart should have its own website dedicated to pubs, but in 2009 CAMRA didn’t have WhatPub or a national pub database.
At that time, many CAMRA branches had developed their own pub databases which had evolved from paper-based records. Some of these were online and a few were even available to the public. If you were on holiday it was not easy to find details of a suitable pub if there were no Good Beer Guide pubs nearby and if you didn’t have the local CAMRA guide.
In Eastbourne on 18th April 2009, I met with five people to agree a strategy for the setting up of an online version of the Good Beer Guide and an online pub guide. We didn’t know it at the time but that meeting of CAMRA staff and volunteers (including the Chief Executive and National Directors) set the foundation of what would become WhatPub and the Good Beer Guide app.
It is now unremarkable for a pub championing organisation to have an online database of every British pub – a tool that we can use for research and campaigning. A place to record and update key information like opening hours, location, beers, ciders, facilities and our own descriptions.
As our flagship publication, the Good Beer Guide provides this information for our best pubs, but we needed every British pub in our dataset that would be available to non-members as well as members. One of the biggest challenges at this time was getting over 40,000 pubs surveyed and recorded. Some doubted if our members would be up for this Herculean task. In 2010, the ambition was to launch PerfectPint.com with 4,500 Good Beer Guide entries plus another 2250 pubs. The reality was that our branches managed to get almost every British pub surveyed and recorded within five years. That number is currently over 55,000 pubs. A fantastic achievement.
Following a consultation, and concerns about the name PerfectPub, a poll of staff, regional and national directors agreed upon WhatPub.com. Other popular names considered were Pubfinder and Offtothepub.
In the years that have passed, staff and volunteers have worked together to resolve issues and conflicts of having a free online pub guide and a paid-for book. Systems now talk to one another so that when pub information is updated in WhatPub, it also updates the Good Beer Guide app. It is possible to submit beer scores from the Good Beer Guide app as well as WhatPub on your desktop or phone. There are far too many people to list everyone involved in this fantastic and ongoing project but my thanks to you all. What will the next 20 years bring? I look forward to our pubs reopening and that journey continuing.
18. Saving pubs through planning– Paul Ainsworth, National Planning Policy Adviser and CAMRA Campaigner of the Year 2021
Pub closures are a sad feature of modern life and the pandemic gives us further cause to worry about the future of our precious locals. Ironically, we had recently turned the closures corner with the Office for National Statistics reporting that in 2019 the number of pubs and bars had actually increased slightly. Ten years ago, though, the picture was decidedly gloomy as an average of 18 pubs a week called time for ever.
A particular problem back then was the lack of protection afforded to pubs by the planning system. National planning policy was weak in this area and the Local Plans of many Councils weren’t much better or even completely silent. To make matters worse, planning permission wasn’t needed to demolish a pub or (except in Scotland) to change its use to a restaurant, shop or most types of office; in the jargon, such actions were ‘permitted development’ (PD).
In 2011, the Government announced work on a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). We were privy to an early draft and it was horrifying! – no mention at all of community facilities and protection. Happily, intensive CAMRA lobbying saw insertion of a strong policy to safeguard against the unnecessary loss of valued community assets like pubs. Local Plans had to be drawn up in line with NPPF policies, which would otherwise take precedence (since then, Local Plans have improved greatly though there is still progress to be made).
The PD problem, however, remained. The Localism Act 2011 introduced Assets of Community Value (ACVs) but initially these had little meaning in planning terms. That all changed in Spring 2015 when, again after much lobbying by CAMRA and others, the Government announced that PD rights would be removed from ACV-listed pubs. CAMRA Branches were then urged to get as many pubs listed as possible and the figure soon reached 2000. The nomination process could, though, be a hassle with many Councils ‘gold-plating’ their requirements so campaigning continued.
In late 2016, an opportunity was spotted in the shape of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. We succeeded in persuading Lord Roy Kennedy to table an amendment to remove PD rights from pubs, following which members sent over 8000 emails to MPs and Peers calling for reform. After a 90 vote majority for change in the House of Lords, the Government conceded defeat and the planning loopholes were finally closed (in England, at least).
Since then, as mentioned earlier, the number of pubs closing permanently has fallen steadily and the greater difficulty in obtaining planning permission for change of use or demolition has certainly been a major factor. Here’s hoping that once normality returns, there will still be plenty of pubs to slake the public thirst for visiting them.
19. Campaigning for cider and perry – Andrea Briers, Chair of APPLE (CAMRA’s original
Cider and Perry Committee) from 2008 – 2019.
In February 2015 the UK Government received a written warning that the duty exemption for small cider producers was an infringement of the EU Directive on Excise Duty for Alcohol. The exemption being referred to is available to cider producers making less the 70hl (12,000 pints) per year. Clearly we were very concerned about this and a petition was quickly organised by the Campaigns Team which secured 26,000 signatures, which was presented to 10 Downing Street by David Warburton MP and representatives from CAMRA.
In July 2015, we had an opportunity, through Anneliese Dodds and Clare Moody (both MEPs at the time), to meet David Boublil, European Commission Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs in Strasbourg. This was an exciting opportunity – not only was it the first time CAMRA had been given the chance of such a meeting at the European Parliament, we were able to put the case to keep the exemption in place directly to the EU. CAMRA representatives were joined by Guy Smith, a small scale producer who also spoke fluent French, for which we were grateful on more than one occasion.
I recall it was extremely hot, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees, and even people used to the heat were finding it uncomfortable, we were even warned not to spend too long outdoors during a break for lunch. Whilst there, we took the opportunity to lobby another 6 MEPs. We were making good progress as we learnt the EU was prepared to launch a review into the EU Directive for Excise Duty with the view of updating it and we also learnt, on our return, the British Government would retain the current duty exemption “until and unless a replacement scheme is established”.
The campaigning continued, including meetings with MEPs in Brussels and at a beer festival in Birmingham, followed by CAMRA submitting our response to the review of the Directive.
In March 2016, a further meeting was secured at Strasbourg. This time we were able to meet with Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who was responsible for taxation issues across the EU at the time and had been unable to attend the meeting the previous year, to discuss our requests in a revised Directive. On this visit we had a gap between meetings and were invited to the viewing gallery to see the European Parliament in action, a very interesting experience. We were also joined again by Guy Smith, who was again able to explain how vital the exemption is to small producers.
The work put in by all those involved, including Katie Wiles, the Campaigns Team and volunteers, was all worthwhile, as in 2018 it was confirmed the revised Directive would allow the exemption for small cider scale producers to continue.
20. Pub Saving Awards – Paul Ainsworth, Paul co-ordinates the Pub Saving Award
The CAMRA Pub Saving Award was set up early in 2016 with two-fold aims:
– to acknowledge and reward groups whose campaigning efforts have successfully led to the saving of a pub or pubs which would otherwise probably have closed;
– to achieve publicity for pub-saving campaigning by showing that pubs can be saved through effective campaigning, thereby encouraging others to undertake such campaigns as and when needed.
The Awards are now in their fifth year and, as it happens, the winners so far have all been community groups that have successfully purchased their local pub. The award could go elsewhere e.g. to a group which had successfully fought off an unwanted planning application, but community purchases are certainly the most visible and high-profile means to rescue a threatened pubs (and the most fruitful – no community-owned pub has yet gone out of business).
The first winners were the Save the Drovers Campaign from Gussage All Saints, Dorset. Once plans to change the pub to a house were announced, the group firstly got the building listed as an Asset of Community Value then persuaded the Council to refuse the planning application. They compiled a business plan, ran a series of fundraising events, obtained assistance from the Plunkett Foundation and secured the purchase. An army of volunteers aged 16-82 refurbished the pub and it re-opened in July 2016.
The 2017 award went to Harrow Community Benefit Society for saving the pub of that name in Stockbury, Kent. 140 locals bought shares and with help from Plunkett and the More Than a Pub scheme, raised the £380k needed to buy the pub. It’s now the social hub of the community, offering social lunches for vulnerable community members, book swaps and an internet café for those with poor access as well as great beer and food.
2018 saw the Save the Packhorse Project take the prize. Residents of South Stoke, near Bath, had toiled for many years to prevent their much-loved 17th century local being turned into a house and were then given just 100 days to raise the £500k plus legal costs needed to secure it. 430 shareholders made this a reality and huge volunteer effort (1000 hours on the gardens alone) brought the long-closed pub back to life.
Friends of Ye Olde Cross were 2019 winners, having persuaded more than 300 locals to invest in buying this splendid pub in Ryton, Tyne & Wear. A team of hard-grafting volunteers then transformed the interior and it’s now at the heart of the community, offering a host of events such as yoga lessons, business networking and a book club.
And so to the 2020 champions, the campaigners who saved the Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, an iconic building fast-falling into dereliction. Crowd funding was launched in 2017 with grants and investment secured from a number of other sources. In December 2019, the pub re-opened after extensive refurbishment – a truly inspiring community effort.
21. Campaigning for the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill [The Bill became law shortly after this piece was written, securing the same rights for tied tenants in Scotland as those in England and Wales]– Ray Turpie, Scottish Branches Campaigns Co-Ordinator
We have come a long way since Neil Bibby MSP launched his Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill at Paisley, early in 2017. Support was forthcoming from other parts of the Drinks Industry in the shape of Paul Waterson from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and Ray Turpie of CAMRA’s Public Affairs Committee, as it then was.
Similar legislation was passed in England and Wales a few years earlier, but the Scottish Government declined to use a Legislative Consent Motion; the procedure which could have passed equivalent legislation to protect tied pubs in Scotland.
Eventually, the campaign to support Scottish tied pubs was taken up by Neil Bibby using a Private Members’ Bill. This involved a lot of work by Neil and his team and lobbying by supporters of the tied pub side of the business. Several of our Scottish beer festivals made a stand available to gather petition signatures in support of the Bill.
It took a lot of persuasion of all parties and electronic lobbying of MSPs by branch members for the Bill to reach Stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament. Fortunately, this was passed without any votes against at the end of 2020 and Stage 2 is due to progress over the next few months.
With the pandemic restrictions hitting hospitality hard over the past year, pubs could do with some good news. Tied pubs would especially benefit from a freeing up of the restrictive practices of PubCos and more freedom to choose guest beers. This would also give more choice to consumers and increase outlets for small brewers.
The appointment of an Adjudicator would also ensure more equitable treatment of landlords regarding competitive market rent options. Currently, PubCos can make it very awkward if publicans wish to pursue this option, never mind the extra expense of their associated legal fees.
With a fair wind and our continuing support, hopefully the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill can become a reality this year. This would truly be a milestone for the campaign in its anniversary year!
22. Getting Social in a Pandemic – Gillian Hough, National Executive member and Chair of Real Ale, Cider and Perry Campaigns Committee
On 9 March 2020, the BBC informed us of a statement from Belfast City Council and the Taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations both North and South on and around 17 March 2020 would be cancelled.
This was big news.
On 20 March 2020, the UK Prime Minister announced all pubs and clubs would be closed at the end of trading that day.
Over the next 12 months, pubs and clubs closed, re-opened with restrictions and were told to shut again. Tens of thousands of businesses were not able to trade. Staff were furloughed. Grants were applied for (where possible). Keyworkers had to continue working. None of us could relax as we used to.
Pre-Covid-19, pubs and clubs were pivotal to our routines – after work, at weekends, meeting friends, before and after live sport etc. Extensive research has proven pubs and clubs are good for our well-being. They are a place we could chat with others, solve problems and swap ideas.
CAMRA’s IT Department reacted to pubs having to close and created a temporary online ‘pub’ called The Red (On)Lion and trialled it internally before launching it to the world on 3 April 2020.
In The Red (On)Lion, CAMRA Members came together from across the UK. We talked about our branches, pubs, and breweries and bonding together in the face of the pandemic. You could even move to a private table if you wanted to have a family get-together online with 49 people able to join you.
After the formal launch, the Red (On)Lion’s creation was picked up and carried by many papers and TV news channels, and suddenly there were lots of people there! People worldwide had logged on wanting to share a beer or cider with others and talk about the strangeness we all found ourselves in.
Over time the global appeal lessened, and usage moved into a core group who liked to see other people and chat about beer and cider. CAMRA hosted tastings and quizzes using the Red (On)Lion. Guidelines re behaviour – just like you would have in a well-run pub or club were gradually introduced.
A separate CAMRA Members bar was created, and there is now a quieter lounge. You can donate money towards the design and costs of the Red (On)Lion. There is an area with Branch Magazines online to browse through.
Over the year later, The Red (On)Lion still exists. The time people can spend there is now limited to one hour, and the fact this had to be introduced shows how much people wanted to be in a pub or club even if it’s virtual! There have been 15,462 unique visits to The Red (On) Lion, with 25,029 drinks logged as being consumed.
It’s been a challenging year, and The Red (On)Lion was a welcome alternative, but nothing could ever replace our physical beloved pubs and clubs, which we all hope to enjoy again soon.
23. Recognising pubs that are Outstanding Conversions and Restorations – Gerry Hahlo, member of CAMRA’s Pub Heritage Group and manager of the project to recognise and protect pubs that are Outstanding Conversions & Restorations.
Over the last fifty years CAMRA has been famed for its support of real ales and ciders but it has also worked tirelessly to identify, support and protect the UK’s most historic pubs through its national inventory of pubs with historic interiors. These are pubs that are wholly or mostly unchanged or retain important historic rooms or features from before 1970.
Since then, huge numbers of pubs have been refurbished or established in buildings previously used for something else. Among these, there are plenty of examples of excellence and a new project celebrates them: Outstanding Conversions and Restorations (OCR). It recognises interiors of outstanding architectural or design quality in pubs that have been converted, restored or newly built and that are great places to enjoy a drink in splendid surroundings.
The variety of pubs on the list is immense, from faithful recreations of Victorian opulence to sleek contemporary stylings. The majority are the work of dedicated individuals and pub companies who know the value of excellent design and are creating places in which people want to drink and socialise. Some do it by sympathetically converting historic buildings such as banks and cinemas to show off their architectural merit while others recreate painstaking replicas of the glories of yesteryear. All pubs have that essential quality of, well, pubbiness.
The project raises awareness and appreciation of the best pub design of the last fifty years, to stimulate interest in visiting and enjoying, as well as to inspire more pub owners to pursue excellence in conversions and restorations. These are the heritage pubs of the future and it is our duty to protect them from unsympathetic changes or development so that these precious examples of outstanding design survive for future generations to enjoy.
You can find the entire list of nearly 200 pubs that are Outstanding Conversions and Restorations here (link https://ocrpubs.camra.org.uk/). There are a few stunning new builds, many magnificent conversions and some glorious restorations from all corners of the UK. We also highlight pubs in museums where you can buy a drink in authentic surroundings.
We all need to support pubs so I implore you to review the OCR listing and to go and savour one or more of the pubs we’ve found. Enjoy!
24. Fighting the takeaway beer ban in England – Nick Boley, National Executive member and Chair of the Campaigns Committee
During the first coronavirus lockdown, in Spring 2020, pubs and bars were allowed to sell takeaway beer in sealed containers for consumption at home. I am sure many of us took full advantage of this – I know I certainly did with two pubs doing this within short walking distance selling decent local beers – but, more importantly, this activity provided a lifeline, albeit a small one, for many pubs, including wet-led pubs. This lifeline enabled them to have some sort of turnover, prevented beer already in cellars from going to waste, and kept some small breweries operating. This was so successful in my local brewpub that the brewer told me he was brewing 3 times his normal volume to keep up! Sure, there were stories of some drinking in the street (I witnessed some myself), against regulations, but these were very much the tip of the iceberg; most licensees behaved impeccably.
So, you can imagine our dismay when the Government announced that for the lockdown to be imposed on 5 November pubs and bars would no longer be able to sell takeaway beers. We needed to challenge this and so CAMRA’s campaigning machine swung into action. A press release condemning this move from the Government was released and then we developed an e-lobby tool to allow members to contact their MPs asking them to make appropriate representations to the minister responsible, Michael Gove.
I, like everyone who thought this was bad policy, and another example of alleged scapegoating of pubs, was, to use a footballing phrase, “over the moon” when the final regulations were published and pubs were now allowed to sell takeaway beer in sealed containers. This was not just a triumph of common sense, but an overwhelming triumph for CAMRA members the length and breadth of the country who, like me, contacted their MPs to try and get this decision reversed. Well done to every single member who did so. I celebrated by going to a nearby pub with my trusty growler for a takeaway of a locally-brewed IPA. The landlady, herself a member, wanted to thank the campaign through me for our support to her and her fellows on this issue. She also told me that on the evening before the final regulations were due to be published, she phoned our MP, who she knows quite well, and gave her a piece of her mind (I can well believe that)! A few hours later she had a message from the MP (herself a minister in the Department of Health & Social Care) that she had spoken to Matt Hancock and was confident that the issue was sorted. Shows what can be done by being clear, logical and passionate.
Sadly, when the latest lockdown was imposed in January 2021 pubs and bars were again barred from selling takeaway beer – only being allowed to deliver – but this time our representations fell on deaf ears. But as long as I am our Campaigns Director, we will never give up.
25. 50 years of the Roscoe Head – Sonia James-Henry, Liverpool and Districts CAMRA
Liverpool has an abundance of great pubs. Since the formation of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) fifty years ago, many pubs have come and gone, some have been altered beyond recognition, others only served real ale sporadically. To have survived all those years and still be serving high quality beer, in a magnificent building unchanged over the years, is an incredible achievement. The sheer number of drinking establishments within the branch makes appearing in even one edition of the Good Beer Guide an accolade for which publicans and licenses are duly proud.
The Roscoe Head has not only survived the past 50 years with its magnificent exterior and interior intact, but it has done so whilst serving top quality beer and appearing in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. It has been a constant presence in an ever-evolving city. Drinkers’ tastes may have changed over the years, beer styles drop in and out of favour, and there is the demand for more choice leading to many pubs adding hand pulls to increase their beer choice. At the Roscoe the emphasis is on quality not quantity, with a well-kept cellar and the right beer choice there is no need for a seemingly endless array of hand pulls. The welcoming sight of a beer board greets you as you walk through the door enabling you to peruse the delights on offer, something sadly lacking in many pubs today.
Stepping into the Roscoe is like stepping back in time, it is a joy to see a pub so untouched by time, elegant, perfectly preserved, and well maintained, with no noisy distractions, it is a place for quiet contemplation or lively discussion with locals over a well-kept pint. The prefect place to escape from the stresses and strains of the world outside, surely this is the very definition of what a pub should be, comfortable welcoming surroundings, good company, and a great beer.
The Roscoe was under threat from developers for many years, yet it not only maintained its place in the Good Beer Guide but was also regularly named as one of the top pubs in the branch in our Pub of the Year competition. This is down to the tenacity and hard work of Carol Ross and her team. Without Carol’s fighting spirit the pub may have been lost to redevelopment. Several times members of the branch and the Campaign have rallied round to support Carol in her attempts to save this historic, well loved pub.
There was much relief when, earlier this year, Carol announced she had finally taken control of her pub. Perhaps this was not at the best time as the pub was closed due to lockdown, but it has since reopened. With the side road outside the pub being closed Carol has been able to offer an outdoor drinking area. If you are planning a visit to Liverpool in the coming months, we urge you to pay a visit to the Roscoe. We guarantee you will not be disappointed.