Friday, 25 July 2014

Well matured

Earlier this week, I reported that, on a CAMRA pub crawl of Didsbury, at the age of 55 I was the youngest of a party of nine. One commenter expressed concern that his branch of CAMRA was struggling to organise social events that had a wide appeal across age groups.

In a sense, this isn’t really my problem anyway, but, in terms of a single event, I’d say it isn’t much to worry about, as the local branch organises a variety of different types of meetings and socials, and not all will appeal to everyone. And the last thing it should be doing is deliberately organising supposedly youth-oriented activities in an attempt to “get down with the kids”.

However, the experience of many membership organisations has been that young people, although often expressing serious interest in the issues of the day, seem reluctant to actually get involved. It is very noticeable that many of the members of the local beer festival organising committee are the same people who were doing it twenty years ago. When they disappear off the scene, who will be there to take their place?

Might the whole business of attracting young people be accorded too much importance, though? After all, we are an ageing society and people in their 20s and 30s are often far too busy developing their careers, buying houses and raising families to get involved in social and campaigning organisations.

And, as I said eighteen years ago, it’s often the case that the appreciation of the finer things in life is something that only comes with age, and if CAMRA wants to recruit members who are going to take an active part in the organisation it might do better to concentrate on the recently retired.

Possibly another issue is that, now there’s little difficulty in finding a wide range of interesting beer in most major urban areas, it’s far from clear what CAMRA is actually campaigning about, and if it is to become just a drinking club then the tastes of over-50s and under-30s are likely to be widely divergent.


  1. The trick to getting the kids involved is hectoring them about chemical fizz

    I used to love chemical fizz and never paid more than 50p for a can of lout, then I went into a pub and before I could ask for my Fosters and old white bearded gentleman told me the pride was drinking well today. I was intrigued and asked for a Pride.

    The warm pongy brown fluid didn't look like the amber nectar so I was initially concerned but the old chap told me only ignorami drink chemical fizz and I would be as discerning as he if I could stomach this peculiar beverage.

    I can't confess to liking it from the start, it had none of the golden ice cold fizzy wonder I loved, but I didn't want to be ignorami so I stuck with it.

    Now I am an active CAMRA member. I wear sandals, have a beard and carry around a plastic bag with a festival glass in it.

    That's how you recruit the kids.

  2. The overriding problem is that the vast majority of U50s, particularly the ones who have an interest in pubs and beer, vehemently disagree with CAMRA's alarmingly luddite, prescriptive, reactionary, pro-Wetherspoons stance.

    You're unlikely to find many people joining an campaign organisation whose aims and objectives you don't agree with. The crux of the matter is that very few people agree with CAMRA's point of view.

    Christ, most existing CAMRA members think the campaign is horribly misguided, let alone the general public.

  3. This is why I hardly ever go to CAMRA socials. Even as somebody rapidly approaching 40, I usually feel like everybody there is my dad's generation, not mine.

    It's not just about physical age either, it's attitudes and world views and beer preferences. A smorgasbord of stereotypes writ large in the flesh.

  4. @py: The "vast majority" probably couldn't give a toss either way

    @Ben: it's a fact of life that people generally prefer to socialise with those of similar age and outlook.

    It may well be a fact of life that CAMRA is largely dominated by people who use Spoons tokens and like micropubs - but what it does about it isn't for me to say.

  5. True, but CAMRA's problem is that the ones that are sufficiently interested in pubs and beer and hence *might* join, actively disagree with their stance, and rather than trying to modernise and attract future active members, the line I hear is "set up your own fucking campaign them". CAMRA's loss, not mine.

    PS Judging by the majority of CAMRA members I have met, who mainly do so because it works out cheaper than paying entry to the beer festival, they don't really care about so-called "real ale" either. I don't think anyone does apart from the handful of 60yo dinosaurs who have nothing better to do than attend the AGM every year.

  6. I disagree with py.

    The problem for me wasn't agreeing or disagreeing with the principles of CAMRA, which is basically as far as I can see that drinking brown pongy liquid makes you not ignorami.

    It was the bourgeois pointlessness of giving a toss about beer and what people drank. I used to think it didn't matter what people drank so long as they enjoyed it. I could not have been more wrong.

    All that stuff youngsters like me care about and get involved in protesting about like the environment, nuclear arms, capitalist bankers and the fact that f* all people under 30 will ever buy a house matters not one diddly iota.

    What matters is what people sup. Once that became clear, I bought the sandals.

  7. py, I'm under 60 and I care about real ale! Passionately!

    If anything the over 60s at the CAMRA socials care a lot less about it than I do.

  8. For me CAMRA's never been about whether I could find a good pint if I knew where to look - that's always been the case, it's just that I don't have to look as far these days. It's about making real ale the norm, the default version of beer - knowing that, if you walk into the first pub you come to in a strange town, they'll have something drinkable on the bar. I don't think we're anywhere near that yet.

    As for how easy it is to find good beer these days, beer's not going to be fashionable forever (not even craft beer). We'll see whether we still need CAMRA when the tide subsides.

  9. @Ben &Phil

    that's bollocks, you joined for the same reason everyone does.

    You were half cut at a beer festival and some bearded twat asks why you're not a member. You ask why should I join that bunch of beardy bastards? Then he tells you about the free beer.

    Your ears prick up as you listen to him tell you he regularly gets pissed up for nowt through free bars at brewery tours and even a post festival piss up where they all neck whats left after the punter leave.

    So you think, well with the spoons tokens and the free festival entry I'm quids in even if he's talking bollocks about the free beer.

    And you sign up.

  10. Good grief! I thought I was on Curmudgeon's blog, but I've strayed badly into a "My Favourite Stereotype" convention. I'm off!

  11. Later on in life I may stagger to
    a CAMRA "do" and partake in a mind sapping debate on froth density,however at 71 one hopes that day is still distant.

    Leffe Lad

  12. None of us are getting any younger. I know it sounds scary, but I’ll be turning 60 next year! Every month “What’s Brewing” seems to carry another obituary, but where is the young blood which CAMRA so desperately needs?

    When I joined, back in the mid 1970’s, CAMRA was a young persons’ organisation; now it is full of old gits (and that includes me!). In a recent post I wrote about how the Kent Beer Festival organiser is standing down after a 40 year unbroken stint. Fortunately someone has stepped up to replace her, but not all festivals are so fortunate, and many I fear will die with their organisers.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, but if things carry on the way they are, there won’t be many of us left!

  13. sorry Py but thats a bunch of stereotypical old horlicks, I joined CAMRA when I was 30 and Im still well short of being 50 let alone 60,yet been to the past two AGMS because actually I wanted to see what went on at them, rather than just moan about them. and I certainly wasnt the youngest at either event. Most of the CAMRA members I know are in the same age range as me, and there are plenty of CAMRA members under 30, I even know branches where the chairman and most of the branch committee are in their mid thirties. The idea this is just some over 60s drinking club is frankly nonsense.

    and if the youth of today were so vehemently anti CAMRA, why does the membership keep growing, oh thats right its the Wetherspoons vouchers,spend £23 to join an organisation, and receive £20 in free beer, yep total bargain that.

    to answer mudgies point more directly though, the issue isnt necessarily the age range spread of a particular branch, or necessarily the direct reluctance of younger members wanting to be involved, but that branches need to recognise they have members who arent on the local branch committee who maybe very enthusiastic,and connect with them more and then coach and direct it towards something productive for the branch and to have that succession planning in mind, lots of branches do unfortunately give the impression of being closed shops to begin with the same group doing the same things in the same jobs year after year which puts off people getting involved, equally lots of branches are very open and enthusiastic for new members to join in and bring new ideas to the table, thats the point you cant generalise about any organisation like CAMRA because it has a very broad church of members

  14. The youth of today don't believe you can change anything by joining organisations. Who needs change as long as you have friends, a few quid and a bit of free time? If they like beer, then they'll probably join CAMRA for the benefits. But it's doubtful that many of them would want to take it any further.

  15. Stono - I don't think anyone is suggesting CAMRA doesn't have a lot of younger members. The core problem is that they are not getting involved and the age of the active member (the ones who produce the magazine, run the festival, take part in GBG etc) is rapidly going up. It is IMO CAMRA's biggest problem.

  16. @Nev - yes, a few stereotypes have been bandied about, but it is an important point that is worth discussing. How does your own branch do for engaging younger members?

    @M.Lawrenson - I think you do have a point there. It has been widely observed that today's youth are more conformist and less rebellious. The recent figures on declining alcohol, tobacco and drug consumption seem to bear that out. From the point of view of Those In Power, that might be a good thing, but that "we can change the world" mentality seems to have largely evaporated.

  17. 40m years ago 4 young educated men started a beer revolution.

    Is that revolution still relevant? Does the fire still burn?

    The market a young man enters today is quite different and his concerns are quite different.

    Why should he join your revolution? If he has anything about him he will start his own, on his own terms.

    There's nothing wrong with the fire of old revolutions burning out. Usually means they were won. Nothing wrong with celebrating that by continuing on as an amiable and enjoyable drinking club of the likeminded.

  18. "an amiable and enjoyable drinking club of the likeminded"

    To be honest, that's what it's become now.

    How many members really give a toss about campaigning to make the Murderers' Arms an Asset of Community Value so it remains derelict for nine more months before it can be turned into a Tesco Express?

  19. Who wants to join a drinking club though? I've got my own mates to drink with, thanks.


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